This Christmas was outstanding. It was such a shock to me considering I've been struggling all month to find the excitement I once had. So when Christmas finally got here, I was unprepared in every way. I didn't even plan out the menu like I usually do. And gifts were made in between working and sleeping. All the sisters volunteered to make something (another shocker) to add to the meal. We even decided to add more nontraditional foods since this year seemed like it needed a change. So what made the day so great? Well, let me lay it out for you.
The husband, puppies and I left town Friday morning and the trip was pretty good. It was gray and cold but we missed all the rain. Four and a half hours later we pulled into my hometown and was so very tired that we hugged my Dad, niece and nephew and lay down for a nap. My little sister and her husband (and 5 dogs) arrived an hour after we did. While her dogs slept on the screened porch, mine were stuck inside due to my Sofie being a nervous dogs. I swear they could smell her 'fear' through the door. We didn't really do any cooking that day and just hung around catching up.
The following day the other two sisters showed up with significant others. Then wonder of all wonders, my oldest brother and his kids actually showed up. Anyone that knows my family knows he is notorious for being a day or so late for everything. Everyone was so happy to see he made it because he's been so sick since Thanksgiving. There were hugs and smiles (and some tears) as everyone greeted each other. It was so great for all of us to be together again. I anticipated there would be quite a few people come in so I had made a large pot of chili in advance for the hungry ones. Who knew teenagers could eat so much! And who ever said teenage girls were food picking, salad eating folk lied. My nieces competed with the boys and won! There was chili with crackers, Frito pie and chili dogs. It was gone in a matter of minutes.
We kicked off the holiday cooking by firing up the barbecue pit. No Christmas is complete without ribs, chicken and whatever other meat is brought over. I did my part by baking pies and icing my cakes. One sister decided to make the dressing. We were all leery about it but I convinced her come over and we would do it together. I just had to make sure it would be edible. She's not the best cook around but she did OK. Then another sister made potato salad. The oldest sister took her traditional spot of watching and doing nothing until it was decided that this year she would at least do prep work. She grumbled but did it. Later the kids decided to order pizza. There was a bit of drama with a bro-in-law who felt he was entitled to eat this pizza without putting in. Ever try to dip when teenagers spent their hard earned money on the food? It's a no-no...
The drama was minimal and only lasted a few minutes. No hurt feelings except the bro-in-law. He now knows the rules. The kids handled it well and moved on very quickly. We began a game of Phase 10 that lasted a couple of hours. I was new to the game but we had a good time. My oldest brother entertained us by telling us stories of his 'unfortunate' hospital stay. He was hilarious and we were all happy to see that he seemed to be back to his old self. At about midnight, we all finally decided we were exhausted enough from travel and laughing to lay it down.
Christmas morning started early. Me, my Dad and husband rose early and started cooking. I made my Mom's gumbo and the husband did a french dish of some sort. My Dad sat and watched and talked with us. It wasn't long before everyone else was awake to get breakfast started. We didn't open gifts until about 2 that afternoon. There was a lot of handmade gifts and nothing extravagant but everything was well thought out and appreciated. My family's good about it being about the thought.
After the gifting was done, everyone made their way to the kitchen/dining area. My Dad took his position in the middle of the room and gave thanks by prayer. There was oohs and ahhs and several types of hot sauce came out when the dishes were revealed. My 15 year-old niece carries a bottle in her purse. Smh....In any case, the food was a huge success. We ate our fill and then the table was cleared for the greatly anticipated game of marathon Phase 10. Eight people, tons of trash talk and 3 hours later, my oldest sister was declared the winner. We ended the visit with a family picture that turned out wonderfully.
So it rained for 2 days and the trip back to Austin was full of muddy windshields,crazy traffic congestion, and dreams of being home, but it was definitely a Christmas I won't soon forget. Last year was a bit different as it was our first Christmas without my Mom. This year was a little better as we realized it was really about celebrating the memories and not focusing on the loss. I believe she would have been proud to see us enjoying each other and how we've once again found that closeness we once had.
Hope you had a Merry Christmas and have good memories that will last as well.