Monday, December 26, 2011

We Had A Merry Christmas

Though we lack of a love for tinsel, everything else was hung over mantles, on Christmas trees and dancing in our dreams. The town was painted green and red for the new holiday season.

"Last year it snowed. Yesterday it was 70-degrees!" We were confused.

I received messages wishing me a "Merry Christmas Eve Eve," and part of me grimaced. The holiday spirit is not lost on me, but that was overkill. We all gathered around the living room as the matriarch and patriarch of the family sat in the center, with one large Bible in hand. They read the verses welcoming the newborn King in Bethlehem together, and we all reveled in the proclamation: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will toward men." Such a tradition will always hold a dear place in my heart.

Then the game called "Dirty Santa." Ornaments were brought and each person drew a number--we could either open a wrapped ornament or steal a previously chosen ornament on our turn. Papa held his head in his hands and fake-cried when his ornament was stolen from him. The youngest, Bethany, lit up when she saw the Frosty the Snowman ornament, and I managed to walk away with a Star Wars ornament from "Episode IV" when Han Solo talks to Greedo. All good things come to those who wait, and being number 16 out of 20 meant I had to wait awhile.

Later that night, the food soothed me to sleep, only to wake up the next day and do it again with another side of the family. The night before I gorged myself on "redneck caviar" dip, smoked turkey, green beans, cookies and other side dishes of which swiftly found its way to my stomach before I could recognize them. This time it was homemade coleslaw, potato salad, crescent rolls, ham and deviled eggs.

Odd presents and stories were swapped. I spent the most of it with grandparents I had not seen in a long time, while the night before I spent most of it entertaining Bethany. Every time I see Bethany I cannot believe how much she has grown. I suppose my grandparents on the other side say the same thing about me, though I managed to level-out at 5'4" by the age of 14--an unimaginable 7 years prior.

Every Christmas, the only thing reminding me that I am aging, is the gifts I receive from year-to-year. I used to be surrounded by Legos, silly putty and fun games. This year: gift cards. Gift cards for the broke college student. Obviously I am incredibly grateful to still be able to get anything--though my plans for giving are going to be late this year.

I was squished on the couch between three grandparents. Granddaddy opened his gift first, revealing a drill. Power tools always easily entertained him. He has been hard at work on a boat for years; perhaps this will speed the process along. The others received iPods and iPhones, which is always entertaining to witness being operated. My cousins and I exchanged looks of humor across the room, and too many pictures were taken to savor the moment.

In the morning I gathered around our own familiar Christmas tree with my family, and opened presents and pulled the goodies from my stocking as if I were a child again. We said a prayer before we ate a delicious breakfast casserole, and we spent the rest of the day in relaxation and peace.

We may not have gotten snow, and the weather was dreadfully gloomy, but we still had a merry Christmas. Because we were together.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Wrinkled hands and stooped posture, the gray woman slumped slowly to the store. She gasped each time her foot took a new step. From here, she seems stunned to have made contact with the parking lot pavement. I watch her slowly, and smile each time we make eye-contact--it is not just an act of southern hospitality. This gray woman is blood, though hers is much thinner than mine these days.

"Are you okay?" I ask occasionally, unsure from the start. She reassures me she is ready to grocery shop, and at this point, I have to believe her.

Some time before the long crawl to the grocery store doors, I spoke to my father, worried of her health.
"I don't see how she'll make it, and quite frankly, I'm scared to have to face the worst," I said.
"Just call 911 like everyone else," he said abrasively.
His words were just as gray as she.

Her final huff through the doors signaled the beginning of a long few hours, possibly in and out of the same few aisles--she operates in circles. She talks in circles; she walks in circles; she rolls her hair at night, looking like stacked circles atop her head. This may not work for me, but it works for her, somehow. Just like her years, her system is all a gray area of confusion for me.

When the shopping was complete, bags packed tightly in the cart and the receipt folded neatly in a wallet, we crawled across the pavement once more, in the same routine as before. She said I was her moral support as I packed the trunk of her car. If "moral support" means asking "Are you okay?" twenty times a day, then I can manage being the moral support she needs for now.

"I remember when you were little, I used to hold your hand and take you through the store..." the gray woman reminisced. "Now, you have to hold my hand. It's funny how things work out."
"Circle of life," I said.

Yet another thing about her that works in circles.