On the way east from Collegeville, Minnesota, the last stop we made before turning south was at Landis Homes,

the retirement community where my mother lives.

There 40 descendants of Richard and Barbara Ann Hess Hershey gathered to celebrate Christmas.

In the middle of our circle sat the grande dame, the matriarch, the dowager empress.

Or, as we know her, just plain Mother.

The shirt reads, "When you are an excellent grandma, you get promoted to Great Grandma.

Owen and Julia presented this gift to their great grandma Barbara Ann.

My sister, “Aunt Doris,” was in charge of our party this year.

As always, we sang Christmas carols and read the Christmas story. Oldest great grandson Seth played the piano and the guitar.

Mother-in-waiting Kate read the first half of the story.

And little Owen told the Christmas story from the place where Mary and Joseph arrive in Bethlehem.

Watching great grandma open her presents.

Watching great grandma open her presents.

The Hersheys always enjoy getting together. We enjoy stories, music, and laughter.

We don’t all think exactly alike about politics or religion, but we respect and love each other.

In that way, we honor our father and mother.

If we quarreled, as children, Mother would start singing “Love at Home.”

“There is beauty all around
When there’s love at home;
There is joy in ev’ry sound
When there’s love at home.”

Then she would “invite” us to sing it with her.

As teenagers, we rolled our eyes, but it was hard to hang on to anger while singing these words.

Now we children have parented teenagers.

We may even have sung this song to our own children.

Our matriarch knew what she was doing.

Some day we will sing this song with tears in our eyes.

Grand daughter Joyous Snyder, photographer, encouraged us to ham it up last summer. We had a blast.

Grand daughter Joyous Snyder, photographer, encouraged us to ham it up. Were we singing?

Do you have a matriarch or patriarch still living? Do you remember three and four generational gatherings? Did your mother try to sing her values into you?

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