Christmas is where your family is, not your own tree

This year is the first year in 29 years that I’m not home in Maine, celebrating Christmas with my family, my extended family, and then with Chris’ family in CT.  I thought it would be nice to spend a holiday in Germany, just the two of us, making new traditions and relaxing.  But now, at 3pm on Christmas, when the rest of our family is just tearing into stockings, well, the lack of dysfunction and noise and chaos is a bit uncomfortable.  And so here it is.  Having your first adult Christmas alone, without your own kids or extended family around, is just not the same.  I’m not saying the excessive guilt or tantrums thrown our way as a means to protest our absence we encountered this year were necessary, as we felt the same way as our siblings and parents that would be without us this year, but I’ve had a few moments today where I could really use a hug from my parents and I just know my sister has no one to share the classic, Where the hell would I wear this to? glance with. 

Not that I’m going to cry in my eggnog.  I like the quiet, a little, and this morning I was surprised to open my new mac mini, which I plan on playing with for the rest of the day.  And, as a tribute to Chris’ mother, Lady Di, we made her quiche recipe, and it was fantastic.   And so we keep some things the same, and we start new traditions this year.  That’s how it goes, I guess, getting older and growing up.  For the most part, it’s a pretty good deal, this adult thing.  But when it come to Christmas, it’s bullshit.  Here are a few things I miss about being home this season.

1.  Christmas Eve at my Dad and Judy’s house.  It’s been a long time since I’ve done that, but I really miss the exessive amounts of fried rice, duck sauce, G&Ts (accurately nicknamed Christmas Trees), and good old fashioned board game competition.  And my Dad.  He loved Christmas so much.  He even played Santa for the local kids at Judy’s school each December (he actually did get more jolly looking as the years went on).  He had his own suit and everything.  This year Judy donated that suit to the school when they needed it in a Santa-less emergency.  I can hear him Ho ho hoing loudly when I close my eyes today and it makes me smile, makes me really sad and really nostalgic at the same time. 

2. The night of drunken wrapping at Katie and Derek’s.  Every year, there is one night, sometimes Christmas Eve, sometimes another night, where we come back from dinner at my mom’s and just tie one on.  We spread all of our wrapping paper, tape, bows and gifts all around the floor, making a huge mess, and getting all that is wrapping accomplished in three hours.  In years past (I fondly refer to them as Katie’s unemployment/student years) it was easy to bully Katie into wrapping all of the presents, as I paid for them.  That was the trade off.  And so she wrapped, we drank and then we’d perform an akward, overly excited holiday dance whenever Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas” came on.  It usually involved jumping on and off couches, and prancing around, looking like we were riding ponies made of roles of wrapping paper.  She told me last night that it’s not the same without me when she hears the song and I agree.  Derek can’t do the Christmas ride your wrapping paper pony dance like I can.  Clearly. 

3. My tequila/whiskey/bourbon loving brother.  David is great around the holidays.  He loves to tie one on and I hope he provided some sort of entertainment for the family in my absence.  He’s typically the last to show up Christmas morning, looking like he really celebrated Christmas Eve with the best of the wise men, or us, which is usually the case.  He’s the first to find something to spike our coffee with Christmas morning and he’s the first to find an excuse to open his gifts, box up his loot and go home to spend the rest of his afternoon eating and drinking and video game playing on his own couch.  All you have to do is give Bec and Dave the nod toward the door and they’re out and I love it.  So much for holiday guilt—they couldn’t be guilted to stay if Jesus himself tried. 

4.  Andy’s holiday attire.  It’s not so much what he’s actually wearing on his body.  That’s typically normal.  It’s what “the hat of the season is”.  For the past 9 months-a year it’s this khaki safari hat.  We can’t get it off his damned head and I’m the only one that seems to keep fighting this fight.  The others get such a kick out of that hat.  He actually wore it to my brother’s wedding and I would place bets it’s on his head this morning.  That is until he opens my gift.  Then he better get that safari hat off and I expect a picture…I’ll have to explain more later.  Anyway, the hat is great entertainment, and Andy’s really great at trying to surprise and impress at Christmas so I hope someone pulls through and gets him some toy that occupies him for the rest of the day.

5.  My mom cries a lot on Christmas, for various reasons, and I get a kick out of it.  I’m not being a jerk…she’s not crying for any terrible reason.  It’s just that someone is usually the kiss ass that goes and gets her something sentimental and once we all know what she’s getting, we all wait and place bets on how long it’s going to take her to cry.  Katie and I are pretty good at guessing, Andy’s good at providing said gift and David doesn’t care. haha.  It’s fun to watch someone get so excited and have such a meltdown over a gift.  It’s what makes gift shopping and gift giving worth all the hassle.

6.  The fireplace relaxation at the home of the Hopkins’..  My other family, my newer family, they really know how to celebrate the holidays…with enough food to feed a small country, enough wine to kill a horse, and enough wood in the fire to melt the North Pole.   While my family is great for Christmas morning coffee in your pjs, muffins and laughs, their family does a great Christmas dinner and I’ll really miss them in a few hours, when I know they’re all sitting around the table, catching up and harassing each other.  Nick is great fun to rag on, you have to be quick with the comebacks to get Allison, and Chris’ parents are always just really happy to have everyone home at the same time.  It’s their tight knit, traditional celebrations that get me.  I’ve never seen a family so genuinely happy to be around each other for long periods of time.  I kinda get a kick out of it.  It’s so bizarre, compared to my house, where one of us usually gets hammered by the end of dinner, a sibling pong tourney ensues, two of us gang up on the third, someone cries, someone rips someone’s shirt off, we all fight it out in the front lawn and then toast to baby Jesus to make amends.  Now that, is a normal Christmas. 

And so family, all of them, loud, crazy, younger, older, dramatic, funny or annoying–they are what makes the memories.  I can’t tell you more than a few things I’ve received in the past few years, but I can tell you a million stories about my crazy family and our holidays together (and I’m sure they could tell you a million about me).  Also, home is where you’ll always be welcome and some things never change.    I didn’t realize until this morning that coffee doesn’t make itself Christmas morning and it’s no fun to put your toys back under the tree to get up and make breakfast instead of play.  It’s nice to have somewhere to return to and people around that know just how to make your holiday.  That may sound juvenile and lazy, and it’s both, but oh well, it’s fine to act like a kid, spoiled or not, on Christmas.

All this missing my family and snow and cold weather and Maine is ok.  We have an all day moviefest going on and we’re about to fire up another snack (of about 50 we have ready) and then it’s probably Christmas naptime.  Then we’ll snack some more, make websites on our new computer, and then make our world famous blue cheese steaks. 

 It’s really nice having a new life in Germany to celebrate together, and I thought I’d never say this, but Christmas just isn’t Christmas unless we’re all together.