First, the two teenagers dropped out. The trade-off was that Shannon, Daniel and Lilia would stay overnight.
So, I planned food. I bought brisket for Christmas Eve and ham for Christmas Day. I bought rolls for sandwiches. I bought everybody's favorite potato, a container of fried onion rings (it's been enough years that I thought they still came in cans). I bought green beans. Mushroom soup. And I baked a pound cake.
At 4:00 on Christmas Eve, Daniel and Lilia arrived. Shannon stayed home to work on her house. It was probably a very good idea, but I felt depressed over it. Call it despair. I was thinking about the food. I took a deep breath, made room for gratitude, and adjusted my vision of a big(ger) family meal. [Remember our Thanksgiving?]
Besides, Lilia would stay on after Christmas for Grandma and Grandpa time. There's nothing better than spending the holidays with a spunky little girl! And when we took her home on the 28th we would be there for Daniel's show--his bluegrass band, Squid's Beard, was playing on the evening of his thirty-sixth birthday. Oh, what fun!
Plan B: Daniel and I had brisket sandwiches on Christmas Eve. Jack didn't feel like eating. Lilia's not much of a meat eater, she likes to tell me. Daniel took a nap. (He wasn't feeling well.) We opened gifts, and talked about the prospect of Santa coming.
Santa did come!
And some of us had a late, leisurely bacon-and-egg breakfast. Daniel left at noon, so I put the ham in the freezer. Jack and I ate brisket. Lilia's not much of a meat eater, remember. . .and the ham is tucked away, snug, in the freezer. . .isn't there a song that goes something like that?
On Christmas Night, Grandpa and Grandma and Lilia got in the car and drove around in search of beauty. We admired the snow and the lights. We sang our joy in Jingle Bells, over and over again. We laughed when one person started the song with "J__" and another picked it with "ingle B__" and the third finished with "__ells."
Wednesday came. Lilia and I shopped for her dad's birthday gift, and one for cousin Ella, too, who turns six today. When we got home, she played in the snow. Perhaps for a little too long.
Thursday morning, Lilia awoke with fever. By then we knew we weren't going to hear Squid's Beard, too.
We took care of Lilia until she felt well enough to go home. And now Jack isn't feeling well. But it's still Christmas. The ham is tucked, snug, in the freezer. And we've switched to broth and tea.
And when I talked to younger daughter Sarah this morning, I told her all about it. She laughed and reminded me that for years and years I managed a family of eight, feeding six kids a homecooked meal nearly every night of the week, with big holidays and demanding schedules. "This is your break, Mom," she said.
And she reminded me that this is what our family is: a collection of steps and halves and wholes, of exes and misfits and inlaws, and even outlaws. (Though somehow we're all wholes, and even the misfits fit. ) It's been defined and redefined for us more than once.
And what. Are we going to pretend we're something we're not? That there's no pain? No past?
She's so wise.
So we spoke of all our loose but vital connections, and the love that holds us together. And she hinted that ALWAYS the best holidays are when I come to HER house!