If there was a season that could be year-round I would choose Christmas. Christmas has always been the time for laughter and joy, love and compassion, comfort and kindness. Christmas brings out the best in people. We share our belongings and ourselves with our family and strangers. It puts a twinkle in your eye, a brighter smile on your face, and warmth in your body. I tend to start my Christmas the first week of November and follow it through till the end of January. I would force my parents to play every Christmas CD in our house, and begged for everyone to congregate in the living room to watch Christmas movies until the day of. My father’s side of the family would all pile into my Aunt Mae’s house and have the traditional Christmas Eve party. Drinks, food, and presents were the theme and, of course, football.
That Christmas was different.
It all changed during my junior year of college. It was a little more than a walk in the park. My uncle committed suicide in the summer from a drug overdose; I was starting my junior year; my mother was diagnosed with bipolar disorder; my grandparents on my mother’s side moved from their house in Avalon, New Jersey to King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. A constant flow of events passed through my life, which seemed to interrupt and disturb my rhythm of things. Junior year seemed to fly by and only about half my school year had passed by. My uncle was very close to my mother and his death seemed to upset her a lot. Her bipolar disorder only made her a rollercoaster of emotions that we all had to make ourselves immune to.
On my eight-hour train ride (which normally turns out to be twelve) for Christmas break, from North Carolina to Pennsylvania all I could think about was being home with my family. I couldn’t wait to decorate the tree and do puzzles with my mom (she is constantly doing them) who was in a continuous struggle with her emotions but somehow still kept her ground, and my pops (my special nickname for him). I couldn’t wait to get together with my sister and have our annual sister sleepover. Watching movies, and gossiping about everything possible till the late hours of the night and seeing my brother, who is incapable of accepting the fact of being in a white family. But he’s probably the biggest and proudest black man I have ever seen, which is his best trait. He’s amazingly sensitive to all his sisters and seems like a body guard to us all. I couldn’t wait to make sugar cookies, snicker doodles, chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal raisin cookies, and every other kind of cookie possible with my Grandmother, Nana. She was my father’s mother. She was the grandmother who spoiled you whenever she could with gifts and sweets. This was Christmas tradition and you can’t mess with that. We must not forget the little ones, though. Mary and Mytia, who were six and seven at the time, are still the babies of the family. They teach me how to play video games and tell me the latest news about Barbie.com. I count down the hours on that train till I can rush them over to the mall to spoil them rotten, and go to the theater to see the newest kids’ movie out.
I guess that is one of the things I love about my family and Christmas. I realize how diverse we are, and yet we can come together and enjoy each other’s differences and companionship. It’s a time where all of our traditions—some of which have been around forever, some have been made up by each child—are brought together and are used by the whole family.
My parents always waited until everyone returned home before we would get a tree. I was always the last one to come back, but I did. I made the long trek back home because family stays with you when the world walks out. Even through the ups and downs, the ins and outs, family is the constant guiding light that helps you through the crazy path of life. The day after I would arrive home we would go out and pick a tree, most of the time we let the youngest ones pick the tree. This was a grand adventure for Mytia and Mary. Sometimes they would pick a nice looking tree for our house, but a few times they would insist on the Charlie Brown tree. The most homely and pitiful looking thing you have ever seen, but that’s what they wanted and at their age this was a big decision. As a family we would decorate the tree together. My grandmother would come down from her room and sit on the couch and watch us, and tell us stories of her childhood and Christmas in Ireland. She would start to talk in Gaelic, and then she realized we had no idea what she was saying. There was something mystical and alluring about Ireland and her way of talking. If you ever get to hear an old Irish woman talk, it’s so powerful and entertaining. This year she turned ninety-six, for her there were many Christmases previous to this one. The little ones would put the ornaments all in one section; there was something magical about it. My father didn’t find anything humorous about it at first, but as years have gone on he’s gotten accustomed to it. Every year we would make snowmen, go sledding, drink hot chocolate, watch as many Disney movies we could fit in, and my sister Casey and I would have sleepovers with my little sisters. I could picture their faces all warm and bubbly with big grins that are missing a couple teeth. It reminds me of the song, “All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth.”
That Christmas was different.
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