Julia asked me how long I’d been spending Christmas at their house. We figured out this was the seventh year, cause I have pictures of Ginger from 2005, before she died. I can’t say I remember each Christmas distinctly, aside from a few extra faces and occasional makeouts that cause some to stand out more than others. It’s strange to think that I’ve known Braiden for more than half his life. I perpetually think of him as being seven.
The kids are getting older, no longer up at 5am and anxiously waiting by the presents until they’re allowed to wake up the parents. The idea of Santa has long been dispelled. Braiden’s given up being a centre for goalie, lost his post-season scruff cut, and at 13 is only an inch shorter than me. Nicole’s done most of her growing and will be legal in four months, but at the age where she’s still someone’s daughter instead of her own woman. Julia’s sporting a new voice and piercing, but has kept all the sass that comes with being the middle child.
It’s a hectic household without airs or formalities. You’ll see someone draped on a sofa in every room, or hear something happening on every floor. One person is often done eating before everyone has finished serving themselves, yet you’ll never feel the need to do more than find an appropriate blanket. With such an unconcerned atmosphere, I always feel right at home.
This is the only day of the year that I follow any kind of tradition. Here it’s never for the sake of tradition itself, but rather because so many things take more time than can be afforded until the holidays. Every year these traditions include:
- Seafood chowder for dinner on Christmas Eve.
- The making of gumdrop cake, blueberry pie, and a gingerbread house.
- One big gift (usually electronics or sports equipment) and lots of small gifts (usually clothes) for each person.
- Me cooking breakfast on Christmas morning, which consists of 2 pounds of bacon and seven eggs over-medium.
- The annual game of Monopoly.
- Shirley asking each child if they’re happy, individually and in the spare moments they find together through the day.
- Watching reality TV marathons and providing plenty of catty comments about anyone unfortunate enough to be on screen. This year it was Storage Wars and Duck Dynasty and the confirmation that I don’t miss TV at all.
- Spending time with kids who are always outwordly thankful and appreciative and make me believe in the idea of a family of my own.
- Shirley taking the whole day to cook her massive turkey dinner.
- Me taking home all the dark meat, cause it’d otherwise be thrown away by a family who only eats white (followed by a week of turkey meals for me and the kitties before I get sick of it and have to freeze the rest)
Even Snoopy gets a dollop of cream cheese and occasional slice of bacon, but now he’s so spoiled that he turns his nose up at the turkey.
Shirley went all out and bought me $60 worth of assorted green and herbal teas, which is insanity from a person I see only once a year. One of these is a lime gelato blend that includes apple pieces, pineapple, lemongrass, lime yogurt, and sencha green tea, and with a little honey it’s like a delightful holiday stereotype in a mug.
She’s the only person I see at Christmas, and so the only person with whom I do any sort of gift exchange. Every year she asks me what I want, which means admitting that she doesn’t know me well enough to know what to get me, but is also saying that she’d never let something like that stop her from being kind.
It only takes us a few minutes to catch up on a whole year. Lots of things have happened, but little has changed. It’s the same old conflict, the same old love story, the same old drama, the same old lives. We are who we are already, and we don’t need to go any deeper than that to enjoy each other’s company when we only get to see each other once a year.