Is there a sense of a relief that Christmas is over?
For me, YES. Hallelujah. Let’s move on.
Christmas is about inviting relatives over for white rice, chicken adobo or ham, and strawberry cheesecake from Costco.
It’s about brotherly love and peace. And celebrating Baby Jesus’ birthday. Right? Not quite at least for my side of the family.
They all come over to dinner on December 24 to celebrate.
Our condo is small. So my husband gets uneasy. He is a germ-a-phobe who is allergic to pet hair and big family gatherings.
We did talk about having my family over. We do this every year.
He quietly says “yes” with a sour face.
So, I know there will be nothing but discord in our relationship from December 23 until December 26. I had moments this year when I thought of of canceling dinner. But why I should I? I’m going to his mother’s on Christmas Day!
About ten minutes before everyone comes over, my cell rings.
It’s my brother, Harold.
“Lola, is it OK to bring two friends for dinner?
“Alright, we are outside your door. Buzz us in.”
On Christmas Eve, I live by this rule of etiquette: when others have no place to go, I open my door.
That’s because I always think: What if my boys don’t have a place to go for the holidays? I would want their friends’ families to welcome them in.
Everyone arrives and the turkey is done. My husband is in the kitchen with his arms crossed. “When do I carve the turkey?” he demands.
“According to Good Housekeeping magazine, you have to let it sit for 30 minutes.”
I pour myself a glass of Merlot.
With eyes closed, I wish I was in Manila playing catch with my one-year-old Napoleon and listening to his giggle.
My nose inhales the scent of dark wood and I can taste a trace of cherry in my wine. It goes down soft.
Like a symphony, all my senses are in sync–just for a second.
Brewing in my head is : Why did he marry a Filipino? We have big families! I take another sip.
Sitting in front of me is my sweet sister-in-law Alice. She has animals at her home. I can spot a few dog hairs on her lovely gray sweater. Her five-year-old Arthur, who has blonde spikey hair, is running around with a red nose and shaking his water bottle filled with apple juice.
Randy, my brother’s friend, is sitting on our couch. He is under the weather. I tell myself to relax.
After dinner we open presents. Thank you God for my brother Earl’s sense of humor. My husband gave him a poster-sized gift for Christmas.
“Is this a blown up selfie of you in a yellow thong?” Earl asks.
Finally, my husband’s frozen jaw thaws.
“A thong and a halter top,” he replies. I see a smile.
After opening presents, we devour the strawberry cheesecake.
When everyone has gone home, I want to scream at my husband, “Was that so bad?” Nah . . . I give him the silent treatment instead. It’s more powerful.
I retreat to the kitchen with my wine. Rinsing dirty dishes relaxes me. The condo is silent, but the talk and laughter of my family lingers in my head.
Was it worth having my family over? I think as I nibble on chicken and rice. Yes, but it is always complicated because my husband had a different kind of Christmas when he was younger.
With ten years of therapy, I have come to understand my husband.
He loves his space; he is not a big family kind of guy. And to add to that, our boys are not with us so we are both suffering in our own ways.
However, it’s important for me to speak up and say that I love having my family over–once a year–for three hours.
So where do I go from here? I count my positives in life. Doing that restores my breathing to a relaxed rhythm.
I sip the last drop of wine and I close my eyes and dream of wonderful Christmases to come.
Help us be who you want us to be in the coming
new year. Shape us, guide us, renew our
our thoughts, and our perceptions.
“I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,
“Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to
give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29v11.