Merry, Happy, Joy, Joy! Christmas is here and I hope you’re immersing yourself in all of the many traditions you’ve built over the years.
When I was growing up my Christmases were awesome. There was always one gift to open on Christmas eve, which inevitably turned out to be new PJ’s and a nice warm bathrobe. Then off to bed the kids would go, too filled with anticipation to fall asleep.
My mom and dad would hustle us into their bedroom early on Christmas morning so we couldn’t sneak out and catch my dad putting presents ‘from Santa’ under the tree. (I think one year he was still putting my brother’s bike together at 5 a.m.)
My mother would then call both sets of grandparents while my sisters and brother and I would all have to stay there in her room until the elders showed up. They always came, bundled in their winter coats and boots, no matter how much snow there was or how freezing the temperature. I guess they just loved watching the joy we all felt opening our presents.
Mom would get hot chocolate and cookies for everyone and the mayhem would commence! The sound of colorful paper shredding and shouts of “just what I wanted!” all blended together in a sort of manic roar. One time my dad waited until the worst of it was over and told everyone to sit quietly while he gathered up one last present.
It was so weird. I remember the next thing I heard was the clip clop of horse’s hooves and I thought my father was playing Ahab, the Arab or something by Ray Stevens. You remember that song? I think it starts with camels clomping through the desert.
But that wasn’t it at all. Nine sets of eyes turned toward the back of the house and in walks my dad leading a shiny black pony – right through the kitchen! My mom slapped her hands over her mouth and laughed, then tried to get him to take it back outside to our postage stamp back yard.
Of course, he didn’t listen. We were all on our feet, gathering around Nicholas, the newest member of our family. It still makes me smile to think about that particular Christmas.
Anyway, back to traditions. Once the chaos was concluded and the colossal pile of wrapping paper all stuffed into garbage bags, my grandparents would head back to their respective homes to get ready for the holiday feast. It was pretty much a given that dinner would be held at my mother’s parents since Grandma insisted the food would be better (it was) if it came from her kitchen. And nobody wanted to argue with Grandma.
I remember there were never fewer than twenty people at the table, and one time the turkey was so big that Grandaddy had to cut the wings off to make it fit in the roasting pan. That roaster had been passed down through the family and, to this day, is still the biggest pan I’ve ever seen. So, you can imagine how big the turkey was!
Yes, we always had the exact same meal at Christmas and Thanksgiving, but I never heard a single complaint. Aunts and uncles and cousins and friends were all welcome, and no one ever went away hungry. It was always fascinating to me to watch how everyone interacted, sharing their opinions as well as their affection, whether or not they agreed.
The holidays have changed so much for me over the past ten or fifteen years, and for a long time I would get really melancholy during the holiday season. My grandparents have, naturally, since passed away, and we’ve all kind of spread out across the country. Well, the western half of it anyway.
My holiday gatherings are much smaller now, but anyone without a place to go is still welcome to join my little family for the traditional festivities I've tried to foster.
I think maybe that’s why I include so many characters in the books I write. You can meet a lot of them here.
I love people. I love all kinds of people. I love cranky people and lonely people and happy people and frightened people. I like great grandmas who wear matching outfits and too much makeup and old men with tufts of hair growing out of their ears. Really, I do.
I like handsome young men (who doesn’t?) and beautiful young women and nerdy kids and bad boys.
I like people and seeing how their relationships unfold. And I’ll keep writing about all the people who capture my imagination every day.
Now that I’ve told you all about me and what I love, I’m wondering if you have any big family traditions you want to share, and if there has been anyone special or unique in your life that you can imagine being written into a story? What kind of story would it be?
If you’ve had a chance to read the books I sent, and I hope you have, maybe you could pick out some of the characters in those books who may have actually come from people I’ve known in my life. It would be fun to hear what you think.
As always, I'll be here, ever grateful for you during this holiday season.