When I think of a Christmas that is most fun, I would have to point to the last one I had with my mom before she died.
We started off Christmas eve morning with a big pot of coffee which we spiked with Bailey’s Irish Cream, because duh, and my mom sets to cooking while I took a hammer to all the little bells she puts on her shoes, clothes and earrings during the holiday season. I sat back with relief I wouldn’t be hearing those little fuckers anymore that year, and my mom casually passes by with an entire bag of the damn things and just chuckles as she gives me a single finger salute on the way to replace the ones I’ve killed. She is such a kid during the holidays that no matter how much I might embrace the holiday, I would always look like a Grinch compared to her.
By lunch, we’ve slowly migrated to beer. I think we stayed pretty much in a perpetual state of tipsy. I also don’t think the stove or the oven have been off for even a little while. As we are now one divorce, many years and over two thousand miles away from our hometown, Grand calls and asks if we got the boxes they sent us with collards and gifts. We are excited about the collards and they are already cooking so we could freeze some, eat some. We’re southern and haven’t had any in years by this point. The gifts… still tightly sealed and untouched in their boxes in a corner, awaiting a new home. We spent much of the time chuckling drunkenly on the phone with grand until they give up and realized they wouldn’t get much of anything sensible from either of us.
The day wears on, we watch A Christmas Story, an X-Files marathon, we talk, we drink, we eat. For now, its just us, but we both have the occasional friend stop by and see how we are. Yes, even my friends know to check my mom’s house to find me. Some linger, some rush off.
That year, I had a friend and co-worker who was without family during the holidays at the last minute, so I brought them over later to be adopted for the day, I guess. They became the home for Grand’s gifts…which we found out later were items such as a… silver-plated, three-tiered candy tray… you know, in case we have high tea with the Queen, I guess? We told our adoptee they were being routed Grand’s presents already, so they were both amused and curious. Thankfully, some of them were items they actually liked and could use. We figured the rest would make good re-gifting fodder. We also had to make a mental note to thank grand for the (insert items here).
When Grand visits and they ask where the items they have given you are… and they will ask… you ALWAYS, ALWAYS say “I have that put up for safe-keeping.” For Grand, that was usually enough. By then, Grand was suffering from macular degeneration bad enough that something roughly the same size and color was enough unless they wanted to touch it. I found out the same thing worked with people when I didn’t feel like introducing someone new to them.
As the day turns to night, we migrate to dinner and wine. You will probably find it weird, but my mom and I fought over brussel sprouts. Seriously. She had to count them out for each of us so we both got the same. What she didn’t know is I got really good at stabbing at them as I passed by the pot and popping them in my mouth before she could see it, that I generally had already had a half dozen or so before she ever got them served. I don’t remember much else about dinner, other than we eventually passed out around and under the tree.
The next morning, our hungover asses started off with the Bailey’s spiked-coffee again. Stockings have been planted nearby, I have no clue when my mom must have had the coherence or motivation to do that, but I have to admit… stockings are still my favorite part.
My mom’s stocking…. her stocking was over 12 inches wide and about 5 feet long with the words “I Believe” on it. I was told in short order that it better be full come Christmas morning. When I ran out candy, I believe I put several cans of beer (read: an entire case) and a bottle of wine in it to top it off.
None of us were really hungry from the night before, so we had what essentially become known between my mom and I as a “carpet picnic.” Which is what I dubbed dinner once to make it sound fancier, when I was too damn lazy to actually cook or dirty a pot and we had a ton of little bits of leftovers and vast quantities of condiments. Back then, it seemed to be standard practice that the sausage gift set was one step up from fruitcake, but my mom and I LOVED those things.
A carpet picnic is pretty much a fridge cleaning on crackers. Summer sausage, sharp cheddar, hot mustard, and strawberry preserves on triscuits are friggin’ awesome! Go try it.
No, now. I’ll wait…
I don’t remember the presents (of course… you will catch on that you could give me an empty box and just let me unwrap it, I’m good). I know I gave my mom an office chair that year. I only remember since I had to test every one in the store and the one that allowed me to dangle my feet was the one I bought (my mom and I were similar in height, but she was very high waisted. I hated when she borrowed my car). The sales guy gave me a lot of weird looks when I told him this was the stipulation and then watched as I acted like a hyper kid in each of them. Yes, I did spins…for testing purposes… it was important!
What I do remember is the nerf dart gun I found in my stocking. My very first action with it was to shoot my mom smack in the forehead with it. I promptly got my assed handed to me. Who knew she still had moves?
I remember feeling warm, safe, content. It was crazy, chaotic, sometimes loud, sometimes silent, complete with interesting hair olympics and sleep drool and comfy pj’s, paper, trash, laughter and of course, love. It was the first time I’d felt what I felt once when I was very small and we all still acted like family. Even though we were just two, three with adoptee, we managed to make it complete.
I often wondered, and still wonder now, on those many, many Christmases when my mom was on her own, how in the world she managed to maintain the wonder and excitement she always had? I admire and envy that in her. She just loved the holidays. It was as though she was blessed with a special vision that allowed her to see amazing things.