We were never first, but we were never last either.
As soon as we arrived, my brothers and I would join the cousins in ooo-ing and ah-ing at the Christmas tree and at our stockings that “somehow” ended up at Grandma’s house.
We would dance back into the kitchen where the chairs had been taken from the table so that we could access the feast of delicious from all sides. There was always crab dip (auntie Barbie made that) and shrimp cocktail (thank to auntie Lois) and lots of yummy treats (auntie Sandy spent loads of time baking) and then there was a giant cheese ball (my mom is famous for it). And so much more.
On the counter one of the uncles (or all of them) would be carving the turkey. I can still hear the electric knife sawing away at the bird. Like a good Dutch family we had buns that someone had cut to put our turkey on. Further on the counter near the door was a selection of boozes and of course, homemade whiskey slush.
It was so loud in that tiny kitchen as we waited for the last of our cousins to arrive. Whenever someone new came through the door shouts of “heeeyyyy!!! MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!” would ring through the house and hugs and presents and winter coats and wet boots would fly around my short head.
It was unavoidable that our stocking feet would step in a puddle of melted snow from the boots of our dads and uncles who were bringing in piles of gifts to be added under the tree.
At this point we were under all the adults feet yelling, “now? now? NOW?!!!???”
And they would give in and we would tear into our stockings.
Lifesaver books, pens, crayons, jammies, large plastic candy canes filled with green and red m&ms, small dolls, and matchbox cars. And always, ALWAYS an orange in the toe.
We would fill up our brown paper bags with our names on them comparing with each other as our parents shoo-ed us into the TV room to stash our things until after dinner.
Dinner was a plate of snacks and some turkey and a soda. The only time it quieted down was when someone would say Grace. And even then there was usually a fussy toddler in the background.
After dinner it was time for the Christmas tree. Every single one of us would cram into Grandma’s small formal living room. There was barely enough room for us let alone the multitude of gifts flowing out from around the tree.
The grandkids went first: oldest to youngest which meant I was always third. I was third after my cousin, Jenise. Whatever she got, I hoped I would get something similar. She was the epitome of cool to me. And more than likely? She and I would get the same thing from my Grandma and we would talk about it and tease our younger cousins for the rest of the night.
It was magical.
We always brought our jammies to Grandma’s house on Christmas Eve because it was loooong past our bedtime when we left.
It was the perfect start to Christmas.
Grandma isn’t around anymore. She has been gone for almost a decade.
My family has kept the Christmas Eve tradition alive in our own way, but since getting married, I have had to split that time between them and my new family.
This year will be the first year we only go to Cort’s mom’s house. This is important to me.
I want Eddie to have the wonderful memories of racing into his Granny’s house on Christmas Eve, being surrounded by his aunts and uncles and cousins (someday…hopefully next year!) and bursting with excitement for the joy of Christmas and the magic it brings.
I will surely miss my extended family on Christmas Eve, but we will be building lasting traditions and magic of the season for Eddie.
Merry Christmas to you all. And to all a good night.