Skip to main content
This post is part of my 2022 Word Project. You can read what that’s about here.

Monday, December 25, 2023

Santa hit Tennessee around 11PM last night, then continued on to Alabama, Louisiana, and Amarillo, Texas, where hopefully he dropped off a few deadbolts for people to put on their hotel room doors, and maybe a clean blanket or two.

He left me a little magical sleeping powder because I didn’t get out of bed until 11 this morning, at which point I ate cookies, made breakfast and tea, then sat in my couch crater. All that’s left to do is wait for cocktail time.

It is still 65 degrees.

Soon, or maybe already, my mother will be serving stuffed mushrooms and baked brie, mashed potatoes and chateaubriand. Later I’m going to stir up some cheesy taco orzo.

Earlier, my nephew opened his mountain of gifts. His mother texted me the photos. For a kid who alternately glowers and scoffs at the camera, he was all smiles. As the only child in the family right now, all the loot is his.

For most of my life I had to share that pile of presents with at least one, and up to five other kids.

For as many of those years as I can remember, my mother always started the day the same way. She’d hand us each a gift and then entreat us to slow down, to open our presents one at a time, so she could enjoy it as we uncovered our treasures.

For as many years as I can remember, we tore into every box, all of us at once, until nothing was left but an explosion of paper and ribbons and someone asking for batteries.

Inevitably she would askā€¦ whatever happened to the [insert gift here that was supposed to be special, which she had completely missed us opening as we reduced the living room to a pile of rubble]?

My father was the King of Batteries. He always whipped out the super duper pack so we could clang and pound and whir and chime and waddle and roll and spin our way to whatever came next.

He was also the Chief Trash Bag Holder, and would sit amidst the mayhem, as my mother desperately and futilely tried to rein in three or six whirling dervishes, with a big plastic bag open, waiting to catch the remnants of the anarchy that was unleashed each Christmas morning.

We’d crumple up the paper and launch it across the room toward the bag with the intent of landing a slam dunk, but really with the intent of missing and whacking him in the head instead.

Ralph and I don’t exchange gifts. We’re together 24/7. We eat, live, and breathe a collective existence. We have the same Amazon Prime account, the same credit card. Neither of us is going to leave the house and go to the mall. It’s not like I’m going to get him a sweater, and he’s not going to buy me a bracelet. So if we do buy gifts, it’s a Present To Selves, like a good bottle of whiskey, or a nice dinner. The best part about those things is they don’t require me to figure out where to put anything.

I miss the big, boisterous family Christmases, but there will be more. I also appreciate my quiet, simple, sit-at-home-in-a-couch-crater Christmases. It’s nice to have a day of Absolutely Nothing, when even the stores close and there are no options to do much of anything even if you wanted to. When life is a chaotic mess of unorganized closets and uncertain tomorrows, a day of peace is gift enough.

I wouldn’t call myself motivated this year. Getting a tree was a bridge too far, and I still have a box full of gifts on my bedroom floor that I never mailed to anyone. But I did spend some time thinking about the future, and maybe this is for the New Year post, but one of the things I was thinking about is what I want for Christmas Future.

Besides joining the Big Boisterous Family Christmas, I want to spend one Christmas at the Salish Lodge in Washington state. It’s stunningly beautiful there, with its waterfalls and snow-capped mountains, pine boughs and wood brining fireplaces. They have all sorts of activities for the holidays, and so many delicious things on the menu. We were there in the fall, and it was beautiful then. I wished I could have stayed right through the holidays but I didn’t have another house to sell, so we’ll have to go back.

It calls to me.

For today, I will enjoy half a dozen candles and some string lights in jars, boxes of my mother’s cookies and some cheesy taco orzo. Maybe I’ll really go off the reservation and make guacamole.

Then I’ll sit down and make lists. Of what I want to do with a new year, and all the things that seem very possible from this side of the calendar.

All I know is it’s almost 3pm and that sounds like the exactly right time for a cocktail. Merry Christmas to all, and to all… see you tomorrow.

Photo: cookies left out for Santa. He always leaves a little Thank You note.