Our home was filled last night, with family, mostly, and extra kids, and some friends we've known for years. I made the same food I make every year, big pots of chili, with rice to go with it, with healthy finger foods like cut-up veggies, hummus and pita bread, cheese and crackers. Since we remove the chairs from the kitchen area for the party, I serve only food that can be eaten standing up. We have this party on the Saturday before Christmas each year, and when it falls close to Christmas, as it did this year, the whole extended family is often able to attend, even those coming in from out of town.
Luckily, family and friends are used to the tradition of being crowded together. No one seems to mind eating while standing in the hallway, or sitting on the staircase. I saw Monking Friend and Nurse Friend happily talking and eating while standing in the laundry room, next to hampers of clothes and piles of boots. Since it's hard to maneuver in a crowded home, I give family members jobs to do: my father is in charge of putting logs on the fire, and my mother's job is to keep making new batches of rice.
Spouse, as is his tradition, gathered a group of people to practice some Christmas Carols, put on some Santa hats, and then head outside to go door-to-door singing carols. Tie-dye Brother-in-law nudged me. "Hey, that's what you need for your blog. Naked carollers!" He himself was quite willing to strip off his clothes, but his Jewish heritage and his own beliefs about religion prevent him from singing Christmas Carols, or wearing a Santa hat while posting naked for a blog photo.
We had other music in addition to the singing. In order to make space in the living room, Boy in Black had moved the drum set, amps, and guitars to a bedroom upstairs, where a group of teenagers jammed most of the night, despite being ridiculously cramped. The piano stayed downstairs, of course, so we had piano music in the living room. With-a-Why's version of Vince Guaraldi's Linus and Lucy was in demand, of course. My brother played the piano for a while and then With-a-Why, Shaggy Hair, and Quick all jammed onto the piano bench to try a few numbers together. As the evening grew later, my father, my brother, and Boy in Black played together (clarinet, guitar, and piano) and we persuaded Drama Niece, who has a fantastic voice, to sing a few songs.
By midnight, the older folks had said their goodbyes and the traditional "post-party" was in full swing. Teenagers and young people finally got the comfy couch and chair by the fire, where they could talk and eat leftover food. Spouse began piling plates and bowls into the dishwasher, while I put away any perishable food. When we went to bed, the kids were clearing the table for some kind of card game. This morning, every room is filled with bodies wrapped in blankets and quilts, sleeping soundly.
The musicians in the photo are my father, my brother, and my oldest son, Boy-in-Black.