OK, I whined about how things were not as I was used to, but we had some extra-special gifts this year. The very best was that Kaylin, my beautiful grand-niece, was able to come for the day, and she introduced her new little brother to my sons and my cousin. My nephew's divorce gave me the opportunity to spend a whole day with my wonderful new grand-nephew RT3, and he decided he likes me.
For those of you who haven't seen me in action many years, I have a special talent- babies. Babies love me, and there isn't one I cannot get to sleep in 5 minutes when fussy or sick (except Buck who was nearly 4 years old before he slept thru the night. That's another story!)
Needless to say, once I was done cooking, with the tremendous help of Buck and Dan (who also did all the cleaning for the cat-allergic sector which is 90% of the family including me and Dan!), I had my baby buddy on my lap. He smiled and charmed the lot of us, and all my boys had a turn with him. The Elf hat was especially winsome.
Kaylie danced about in her velvet dress and all the boys played games and dolls with her. She wasn't shy and skipped about giving orders- boy, she is like a Kate clone!
Sue put her in charge of the Yankee Grab- everyone picks a number, chooses an anonymous gift, and can choose to swap with any opened gift; number 1 gets to choose from all the previous gifts at the end. She saved the last slip for her boyfriend Dan- and yes, it was #1. Rigged! We had a lot of laughs.
Buck's girlfriend came unexpectedly, so we were delighted to add her to the company.
The gift-opening was hectic, crazy and fun. Joe gave me a floating frame with four pictures of Ireland, all of them places I had been, and I swore they were pictures I took, but they were ones HE took, from the exact same angles. Dan agreed, it was so eerie that he had exactly the same views- it was so beautiful and I cannot wait to hang it.
Kate called and we passed the phone to every person before hanging up.
Since we ate so early, we had the place cleared up by 9 pm, so I finished wrapping. I was too tired for midnight Mass, I would have had to drive several towns to reach one. I rose early and went to church, and drank two pots of Kona coffee with Brendan while we waited for the others to wake. When they did, Dan started cooking bacon immediately, so we ended up eating our big breakfast first, and opening gifts after- another first! They all liked their gifts, and I liked mine very much. It just seemed that a great deal of thought was put into everyone's selections this year. For example, I got a NAPLEX study guide from Dan, the first three Lemony Snickets from Bren, and a grill from Buck! They loved their Hawaii shirts- Bren got one dyed from hemp, the others from volcanic ash, and all of them got a Kauai red dirt shirt. Lots of coffee, macadamia nuts, and useful things like socks, jeans, workwear for Bren, and Dan got a leather jacket. It was great happiness and relaxation.
The stuff is incidental and fun, but stuff is stuff. Spending the time creating our holiday meant the most. Buck took the time to get his grandmother discharged from hospital, and spent a whole day shopping with me, trying on coats, finding groceries, and a marathon vacuum job. Dan picked up Bren, peeled mountains of vegetables, cooked, cleaned, and came to my mom's follow-up appointment after the holiday. Bren pulled it all together, mopped floors, made coffee, and was there when I needed him, and popped in for turkey next day so we could re-hash the holiday. Joe and Elaine drove, drove and drove, sent lots of supportive emails, brought excellent desserts, and praised the lumpy mashed potatoes. Auntie served as the family matriarch, regally despite all the driving.
Rich drove a long way with an infant and a very excited child, and still had everything organized. And Sue and Ted visited my parents before coming up to our house, did a million errands, baked gluten-free meringues, bought wine, cheese, gluten-free crackers, and touched base every step of the way.
I was surrounded by people who loved me on Christmas, and this is what I needed most, and what I love best about Christmas.
Shona Nollaig Duit!