O Happy Day!
No. The house has not sold. That would truthfully mean an ecstatic day.
What’s the deal then? Of course: It’s Christmas Day! And, once again, I’m lucky to spend it, with my sister and her family.
I’ll admit to a bit of trepidation to making the eleven-hour drive. We did the same last Christmas and it turned out to be an unbearably sad and difficult visit. Add to that, this is the first Christmas without mother. As difficult as life with her often was, I miss her presence on this Christmas Day. I miss the phone call (Okay…me making the call to wish a Merry Christmas). I miss the story of what’s cooking–or not cooking– on the stove. I miss sharing the fact that I pulled out the hand-crank pasta machine for tortellini-making and I stuffed them with leek instead of meat. Unbelievably, I miss mom’s tirade against Obama and his policies as well as her “…now be good girl or else I’ll give you a big bop on la tua testa.” Yes, this is our first Christmas without this force of nature. There hasn’t been a day since she has passed that I haven’t thought about her.
With that in mind how on earth did it happen that on this Christmas we didn’t make tortellini? It’s a first after many years! Perhaps it’s because we are still reeling. Mom’s passing and the drama and heartache that has characterized the last five years or so has left a deep imprint on our lives. We are exhausted from trying to make everything just right… for so many…from every angle, for so damned long. Perhaps we simply need to take a pause….a step back…along with an impossibly long, healing breath as we reflect on the good, bad and ugly. Then, and only then, can we truly move forward with a renewed gusto for life and all its wonderful possibilities. Sis and I realize that the little traditions that mom inspired and required through the years will soon be extinguished if we don’t do our best to keep some of them alive now that she is gone. Indeed, it is a necessary mission to pass along to young Alexandre-the-Greatest and…if she is willing…my daughter and her husband-to-be.
So, we make a promise to press on though perhaps, when necessary –as in tortellini-making–on a different timetable. True, this particular Christmas Eve was not about midnight mass, tortellini, fish for dinner, opening presents, or watching Lawrence Welk Christmas show re-runs–or Andrea Bocelli–on PBS. Traditions cast aside, but certainly not forgotten, we mixed things up considerably this year. Instead this holiday found us making jalapeño poppers wrapped in bacon and slathered with barbecue sauce. Bro-in-law happily toiled over a goose gumbo and sis prepared a pot of hearty chili. Alexandre-the-greatest, five months from turning nine, the youngest chef among us, made trays of Christmas cookies… from scratch! Opa Kurt had to have been smiling from above too. He would have been tickled with delight over the gastronomic delights being made in my sister’s cozy kitchen.
With dogs and cats underfoot, we cooked, we drank, we toasted, we danced and we filled the kitchen with laughter over Amazon’s Alexa as we peppered her with a host of silly questions and requests. We talked and sang, embraced and tickled. Simply put, there was joy where there once was heart-wrenching melancholy. Sis invited folks over for Christmas cheer and we filled our bellies with seconds and thirds of everything. This all the while keeping our mother uppermost in our hearts; wishing things had been better…different…but above all, wishing she was healthy and still with for one more Christmas.
Oh what a merry day it is when spent in the arms of love and acceptance with family and friends.
It was a day of Merry Christmas bliss. I sincerely hope yours was filled with comfort and joy too.