For some reason, I am not at all in the Christmas spirit this year.  Maybe it’s the lack of snow, since the foot of snow we got around Thanksgiving has long since melted away.  Maybe it’s the lack of sleep from dealing with Cara’s injuries.  Maybe it’s the monetary stress added by her vet bills.  Maybe it’s simply the fact that T and I will be celebrating by ourselves in our new home, instead of joining the Christmas hullabaloo that is generated by my family in Rhode Island.  All I know is, I am not feeling Christmassy this year.

We don’t have a tree yet.  I haven’t decorated the house in any way, shape, or form.  I couldn’t even come up with a good Christmas list this year.  And I just did all of my Christmas shopping online, today, during my lunch break.  It was quick and dirty, and I’m not very excited about the gifts I got for my family.

I am happy with the gift we got for my dad, relatively satisfied with what we got for my sister, feeling like I didn’t do enough for my mom, and still thinking about T’s present.  I have made gifts for my aunts and all my cousins, as is my tradition, but they are small and, I fear, unimpressive this year, even if they are useful.  I did knit a few gifts on request, and I hope that they will go over well.  But I won’t see anyone’s faces when they open my presents, and that is the best part, really.

I have one more gift to knit, and then I can pop everything homemade into prepaid shipping boxes and send them on their way.

family

I can tell you exactly what will happen to my gifts as Christmas Eve nears.  They will join the pile under and around the Christmas tree in the house that was my grandparents’, where my cousin D now lives.  It is an artificial tree, set on top of milk crates to make lots of room below, tied to the ceiling so it doesn’t tip over, with spotlights on it so that its glory can be seen by any and all passers-by through the front window.  The pile underneath it will start building on the 22nd or 23rd, eventually being topped off on the evening of 24th.

There’s a good chance, since everyone knows I make the same gift for the whole family, that my presents will actually end up on the shelf above the couch.  From there, they will have a good view of the long table in the center of the room, set for at least 12 people, and they might even be able to peek into the kitchen to see the extra 5-7 seats there, along with the buffet spread out around the perimeter of the room.  They will see my parents, my aunt, and all my cousins as they begin to gather for a feast of ham, pork pie, pasta with my grandmother’s meat sauce, and all the trimmings, including the requisite relish trays filled with pickles and olives that run down the center of the table.  They will see someone turn the heat down or off as so many bodies and voices fill and heat the room.  My gifts won’t be able to hear themselves think over the din, but they can sit back and listen to any of a half-dozen conversations criss-crossing over the tables.

After dinner is complete, the table will be pushed back so that the far end is against the kitchen wall, making more room in front of the tree.  Some people will have come for dinner in their pajamas, while some will change into them now.  Everyone will take their traditional seats on the couches to either side of the tree, at the table, on chairs, and on the floor.  My dad will go around the room and take bets on the total number of presents under the tree, just like my grandfather used to, and he will keep track on the very same blotter that has been used for almost 20 years, reminding everyone of last years’ total so they can gauge their guess this year.

One person, probably my cousin N, will play Santa, passing out gifts to everyone in turn, and calling out who it is to and from, along with the cry “One more, Uncle J-!” to my father each time.  Each gift will be opened and admired by the whole group before the next one is passed out.  Someone, usually a young male cousin, will be stuck with a trash bag for wrapping paper, which will be lobbed in crinkled balls at his head throughout the night.

Throughout it all, conversations will continue to flow.  At some point, as everyone’s attention starts to wane, my mother will come out of the kitchen with dessert.  There is always monkey bread, and cream sandwiches, made from puff pastry filled with homemade whipped cream and either chocolate pudding or raspberry jam.  After everyone has had the opportunity to eat and stretch, it’s back to your places to finish opening presents.

Throughout the night there will be phone calls, from cousins in Maine and Colorado, my sister in North Carolina and me in Utah, with the phone passed around to say Merry Christmas to everyone.  As the crates supporting the tree become visible and the presents start to run out, someone will reach up onto the shelf and N will pass all my gifts out at once, giving my father a total count to add to his tally.  I hope, for my gifts’ sake, there will be some oohs and aahs when they are opened.  The final few gifts are stashed in the tree itself, and my cousins’ youngest children get to hunt through the branches to find them.

Once the last gift has been passed out, the total number is announced, and the person whose guess came the closest without going over gets a crisp $5 bill.  Then there is more nibbling of cookies and desserts, chatting and laughing, the packing up of gifts into boxes and bags to be carried out to cars, accompanied by the grandfather clock striking 10 pm, 11, maybe even midnight.  And then our family Christmas is over, and the little ones go home to bed, knowing that Santa will come with even more gifts the next day.

That is the Christmas that I am missing this year.  I know that T and I will be making Christmas traditions of our own, and maybe that is what I need to focus on to get my Christmas groove back.  Family is what makes Christmas special, and the two of us are all the family we need for it to be magic.

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