Just got back from Aunt Kelly’s house. These are the good times. Most of the people I love are still alive and were with me tonight. It’s our Christmas tradition. On Christmas day, we all get together at my sister’s house to have a big dinner she prepares. Tonight was usual fare: honey baked ham; Bunky’s green bean casserole; Mom’s cake and whipped cream ‘trifle’; stuffing and cocktails. A good time.
Uncle Rick, Kelly’s husband, invites his folks to join us for this Christmas day meal and they usually drive over from Ormond Beach where they live. This year Rick’s mom Marge was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The last time I saw her was for Easter. She seemed a little off, but otherwise looked fine. Tonight she was a different person. Seemingly happy but gone. A blunt reminder of how transient everything is and how quickly it can all change.
Last night, was Christmas eve. We went to the children’s mass, and got to sit in the front row with a neighbor family because we won the seats in the kids’ school auction. Watched the children come up to the altar and listen to Father John’s kid-friendly sermon. Watched the neighbor kids — who are much younger than ours — squirm in the pew, and looked knowingly at Bunky since we are somewhat happily past the squirmy stage.
Religion for me is a squeaky balloon kind of thing. I know that I don’t buy the pablum dogma I was taught growing up. I also know that we know so very little about the universe that anything is possible, and that some of the possible answers are as big as the universe. Like a goldfish in the bowl, we look out and can’t even begin to fathom the complexity and beauty of our world. So like the goldfish, sitting in the front of the church during mass, surrounded by my children and wife, close friends and community of St. James where they go to school, I am content. And happy. And loved. Which at the end of the day is all that matters.
After mass we go to my brother’s house with Mom and Dad, my brother’s wife and four kids, and my sister Kelly and her family. Bunky makes eggnog with Gentleman Jack’s bourbon. She uses her own recipe which kind of pisses my Dad off, which I think is funny. Plus I like her egg nog better anyway.
My brother is grumpy because they just got back from Montana where they went skiing for a week. With four kids and a day-long trip I’d be tired and grumpy too.
My old man made a standing rib roast which is another part of our tradition. Was awesome. I drank too much egg nog so couldn’t eat as much as I would have liked.
During dinner the kids jittered around in anticipation of opening presents. They each get to open a few gifts after the grown ups finish eating. Our family’s tradition which I remember well from my days groing up in Gainesville, and having Christmas eve dinner at my grand parent’s two bedroom bungalow on 10th avenue.
They finally are allowed to open their gifts, and have to start with their PJs which were made by my mother. She makes them PJs every year, and got her feelings hurt when Diddy — my almost 15 year old daughter — didn’t want to put on her PJ pants. Right of passage. They sit down on the stairs and pictures were taken. And then they are allowed to dig into the other gifts.
Miffy got a ‘Password Journal’, Mac, my son, got a remote control boat from Pa, and Diddy got a ‘Pink’ gift card. Then home to bed.
Christmas morning, today, Bunky and I were woken up by Mac and Miff. We made them wait until 7 am… “I have butterflies in my tummy” I heard Miffy say, as I half heartedly tried to doze for a few more minutes. Finally I gave them the green light, “Fine” I said; “Go get Diddy up and you can go see what Santa brought you.”
They then loudly bounded upstairs where we could hear the yelps from their teenage sister, as they pulled the sheets and blankets off of her bed after she initially tried to refuse their requests that she join them downstairs. After several minutes of wrangling, they all come downstairs and are pissy when I try to videotape them. I do it anyway.
Good christmas loot: Mac got a quadricopter, a Kinect gaming console for the XBox, and some roller blades. Miffy got a Razr scooter, a Barbi and some blades as well. Diddy got some Dre ear buds, some Ug boots, and a long board. Everyone was happy.
Bunky’s folks came over around 8 like they do every year, bringing a breakfast casserole and cinnomen rolls. Yum.
We then went outside to watch Mac fly his quad copter, which he proceeded to fly straight up in the air out of range of my iPhone which controlled the thing. His eyes got incredibly wide and his mouth formed a perfect ‘O’ as he watched his main Christmas swag fly up around 100 feet before it lost power and crashed down into the top of one of the oak trees in our back yard.
Not to let an oak tree stop the fun, Van and I taped together two pool skimmer poles, and balancing on top of Grace’s play house, I was able to jostle the copter out of the top of the tree. All was well and Christmas was saved.
Tonight everyone is now in bed and tomorrow will be a clean up and pack day. We’re leaving for Montana in two days for a week of skiing in Big Sky.
It really doesn’t get better than this. This was certainly one of our best Christmases ever. Good memories and the best of times.