Every year since I can remember, our family Christmases have been about our little traditions. Even after my brother and I moved away we would find our way home sometime before Christmas Eve. We weren’t around to decorate the family tree or try to find secret present stashes while my mom and grandmother were out buying groceries, but Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were familiar. Christmas Eve was always spent buying last minute little trinkets to shove in stockings (which we just pinned to the wall). After the last of the family got off work, we would all gather in the living room for a dinner that usually consisted of our version of hors d'oeuvres: little smokies, pigs in a blanket, chips and dip. Once we managed to choke down enough food to quell our growling stomachs, either my mom or grandma would play Santa’s elf and begin passing out presents. We would then play games like Phase 10, Parcheesi, and Rook with my brother honing our trash-talking skills over the years. On Christmas Day, we would sleep late while my mom and grandma prepared Christmas dinner. This day was all about resting, snacking and watching our favorite Christmas movies (Emmett Otter’s Jug Band Christmas, ya’ll).
This year tradition went out the window. This is the first Christmas since my grandmother went in the nursing home, and things had to be different. Christmas Eve was just that…the day before Christmas. We spent the day at the nursing home keeping my grandma company and waiting for my brother to get off work and drive down from Austin. Once my grandma drifted off to sleep we grabbed a pizza and sat on the couch chatting with Charlie. He played computer guru and made fun of my smelly feet, and I just reveled in the good feelings of seeing him again.
When everyone else went off to the nursing home the next morning, I took over the mantle of cooking Christmas dinner. They even left me to carve the ham myself. My mom was seriously lacking in common sense because she even gave me an electric carving knife. Evidently my Iron Chef butchering of the ham scared my brother because he immediately complained to my mom about my trimming every centimeter of fat off of ‘his’ ham. Haha. After I finished cooking, my mom came back and helped me back the dinner into Tupperware containers and haul it and the presents up to the nursing home. We ate. I played elf. We unwrapped. We made sure my grandma made it back into bed before her pain meds wore completely off. It was simple, nice. And, for the first time ever, I felt like I spent Christmas as an adult. I was no longer the child sitting on the living room floor anxiously awaiting the next present handed to me.
The only tradition that really mattered was spending time with family.