This year we broke with more than 50 years of tradition. We didn’t gather at my mother’s house for Christmas dinner. Instead, everyone came to my house.
When we discussed the change, my mother said, “You’re going to have to move Christmas dinner to your house after I cork off. We might as well do it now and not wait for a funeral. I don’t want my death to cast a pall over Christmas festivities.” (For the record, she and my father are still in good health.)
So Christmas morning, I coerced my sons into cleaning the downstairs of the house. My husband set up several card tables in the living room. My daughter covered them with white tablecloths and added beeswax candles. They searched through the kitchen cupboard and managed to come up with 20 china plates and 20 sets of silverware. I made an apple cinnamon version of squash soup, barbecue baked beans, oven-roasted potatoes, tortellini salad with artichoke hearts, chickpea salad with cucumber and red onion, green peas, and dinner rolls. Blond Brother-in-law arrived carrying a fully-cooked ham, while Schoolteacher Niece made macaroni and cheese. Urban Sophisticate brought wine.
We did the same things we always do at my mother’s: we talked and ate, and then played games. One group gathered in front of the fire to play Clue, while another group played Boggle at the kitchen table. The rest of us just sat around talking, with mugs of hot tea.
The nicest part about having everyone at our house is that we could all play the piano. I played the Christmas song I’ve been practicing over and over again (“Away in the Manager”), and With-a-Why played some of the classical pieces he does so beautifully. Then my father pulled out his clarinet, and he and Shaggy Hair Boy settled down to jam while the rest of us drank more tea and ate more chocolate cupcakes.