Merry Christmas! Happy (belated) Hanukkah! Joyus Festivus! Fantastic Athiest Non-Belief But Here Are A Bunch Of Presents Day! Blessed Yule! Have a whatever the hell the proper sentiment to wish for Kwanzaa and Eid are!
OK, I think I have everything out of the way.
Christmas, to me, was always an exciting time of the year. I know, y’all are probably SHOCKED to hear that. Still, I always counted down the days.
When I was a kid, we had a very set routine for Christmas:
My brother and I each got a present on Christmas Eve. We went to bed, euphoric at the Giftstravaganza about to happen downstairs.
We’d wait for Mom and Dad to get up. Christmas doesn’t start without the Parental Units, and they will get up at whatever time they damn well please (generally 9 or 10 on Christmas). Of course, being that I love my sleep, they’d often be the ones waking ME up.
We’d all file downstairs. Dad would throw in some Christmas Music (generally Mannheim Steamroller) and it would be PRESENT TIME. For many years, Mom and Dad didn’t wrap presents- “a waste of paper” is what Mom would always say. Instead, we’d take turns pulling stuff out from under the tree and show it off, inspect it, et cetera. Later, we did a more traditional wrapped gift… thing. Pictures would often be taken, and sometimes video. Somewhere in Las Vegas exists far too many VHS-C tapes and Super-8 film of a briefs-clad young fatty beaming with delight as he holds up the latest book, video game, or whatever else.
After gift giving was done, we’d eat breakfast, prepared by Dad. Usually pancakes, sometimes waffles or French toast. It wouldn’t be a huge breakfast, because we’d then have to put on whatever new clothes we got for Christmas, get ready, and then it was on to…
Grammy and Grampy’s place! My aunts and uncles on that side of the family (and the cousins) would generally all be there. We’d gather in the front room, get the traditional gift from Grammy and Grampy (A box or two of Brach’s Chocolate Raspberry or Chocolate Orange fingers and $20), and sit around listening to the grown-ups shoot the breeze with one another. A particular highlight was listening to my uncle Philip… that man is a master storyteller. Hearing his tales of work, or stuff that they did as kids, or whatever was always a treat. After a few hours there, we’d then hop in the car heading north to…
Salt Lake, and Mom’s family’s places! We’d often see her former stepmother (if you know my family, you’ll know that keeping track of Mom’s relations is not easy… not due to the number, but because my Grandpa got married seven times) and/or Mom’s stepsisters, which would make their kids… my step-cousins or something? I don’t know. They were just… them. This was generally kinda boring.
Next on our list was my Great Grandma Norman’s house. I loved Grandma and Grandpa Norman. Still do, and I still miss them. They were the kindest, nicest… I’m starting to tear up. We’d visit them. I really wish I knew what their address was so I could drive by their old house next time I visit Utah. I know that I don’t have a shot at going inside, and I’m sure that the interior has been changed time and time again, but the memories of that house hopefully won’t fade from my mind. Grandpa passed away when I was five or six, and Grandma when I was 11 or 12.
We’d leave from there to go to her Dad’s place. We’d often eat something at Grandpa’s, some years having a Christmas dinner, some not. My uncle (at least once he moved back to Utah) would show up with his kids, we’d get our gifts from Grandpa, relax, and do more talking. The final stop was not far away…
My Great Grandma Adams’ house. She didn’t live too far away from Grandpa. All of the relatives on that side of the family would meet up there, and… you guessed it, sit and talk. I’d often go to the back bedroom to sit on the old twin bed for some peace and quiet or play with the (original!) Lincoln Logs back there. There was always food there- Ruffles and clam dip in a red blown glass chip/dip tray (it sat in a metal holder, the dip was suspended in a smaller tray above the chips), cuts of a Christmas ham eaten on rolls with mustard, whatever soda was on hand (generally Coke or some variant therof, Grandma herself favored Tab), and occasional other things. We’d stay until my little brother and I started to get tired, then climb into the car and head home.
This was the pattern until the Fam moved to Vegas, and I tried to continue that pattern as best I could after I moved back. By the time I was living in Grampy’s basement, I was the one putting up his tree (throwing a few of my own ornaments on it for good measure), entertaining my uncle Jimmy’s kids (after all, I had video games in the basement!) and eating lunch with the adults. I’d then head to Salt Lake, visit Grandpa, and then Grandma Adams.
All of this changed once I moved to Georgia.
My first year here was, easily, the worst Christmas I’ve ever had. Including those where I was sick. Since I didn’t really have many friends (and those that I DID have were busy doing other things), I basically got up, opened the presents that Mom and Dad had mailed to me, and then… I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t feel like putting on Christmas music. I was already incredibly depressed (having no family and few friends at Christmas will do that to you). I basically threw on some clothes, went to the shitty Chinese buffet in Roswell, ate too much food that had been sitting out for too long, drove back home, threw up, screwed around on the Internet for a while, drank two glasses of Vodka straight-up, then fell asleep at four PM and didn’t wake up until the next day.
Luckily, I had KLynne in my life by the time the next Christmas rolled around. In that year, I managed to get a dog, meet a girl, have said girl become my girlfriend, tell that girlfriend I loved her after a few months of dating, ditch the apartment, and get a rental house with said girlfriend. Clearly, the next step was to spend Christmas visiting her Mom and he’s-technically-her-stepdad-but-it-feels-weird-to-call-him-that, Frank. We went to her old house, I stayed in her old room, and… I felt like I was accepted by the family. We opened presents, I gave KLynne a pearl necklace that I really need to get the chain replaced on now that I think of it, we ate, we laughed, and I felt… peaceful. it was one of the best Christmases I had in a long time.
We continued that tradition until last year, when her Mom moved to Minnesota. I was worried about Christmas, but my fears were unfounded. Friends of ours celebrated with us, and her Dad came up from Alabama to visit shortly before. We’re looking at a repeat of at least one of those two things this year, and I couldn’t be more excited.