Every year it baffles me how weeks of shopping, cooking, planning, and scheming explode in a few short hours. On Christmas morning our living room transforms from a tidy, shiny, idyllic paradise into something reminiscent of a war zone. New socks, hoodies, books, and gadgets lay strewn in haphazard piles. Rogue pieces of scotch tape stick to our new slippers as we wander about, stuffing wrapping paper into big black garbage bags. From anticipation and jubilation to appreciation and exasperation, we feel all the feels in a few short hours.
Our tree now looks lonely without her packages, and she’s raining needles something fierce. Christmas 2020 is coming to a close, but despite Covid we maintained many of our traditions this year.
We always host Christmas Eve with friends. It’s casual: the menu is soup and appetizers so people can come and go as they need. We track Santa, decorate cookies, and exchange white elephant gifts. This year we kept it to our tiny bubble, and celebrated a few days early since Nancy and Lia were visiting Steve’s parents over the holiday.
Our group is still adjusting to this new dynamic, with Steve gone. We constantly feel both his absence and his presence, if that makes sense? He’s not physically here, but we know exactly what he would say in most every moment and it feels right to reminisce about all the memories we share.
Steve would have shaken his head in smily awe at Keri’s edible meat and cheese cabin, which was filled with spinach and artichoke dip and was equal parts beautiful and delicious. Nancy made a perfectly simple wreath salad, and brought the shrimp platter that gets devoured every year. As usual, I made taco dip in the shape of a Christmas tree. Traditions run deep with our crew, no matter how old the kids get!
And kids are never too old to decorate sugar cookies!
This early celebration made the real Christmas Eve feel strange, but we still had a great day. Maggie and I spent the entire afternoon cooking while the boys were at work. She made over 90 cookies, and delivered them to friends all over town. I whipped out a pumpkin pie, a quadruple batch of loaded breakfast burritos (for Christmas morning + the rest of winter break), pizza dough (for that night’s dinner) and a butterscotch four-layer dessert. Maggie was in charge of Christmas music, and after a few marathon days of last-minute shopping it felt good to relax and cook with my girl!
On Christmas Eve I’m usually up half the night wrapping gifts and stuffing stockings, but this year I was on top of things.
Or so I thought.
A few weeks ago Clark took the kids on a shopping spree for a few necessities, and he told them the purchases were early holiday gifts. Little did I know he still intended to wrap these items that had already been gifted. I hoped he was kidding, but when he hauled in the emergency tool kit from Sam’s trunk at midnight I knew he was serious. And that Carhartt coat Maggie has been wearing to the barn 4-5 days per week? It may smell like pigs and horses, but under the tree it went.
Unfortunately, I was unaware of his plan and didn’t have enough wrapping paper so we had to get creative. I taped scraps of paper together, and even resorted to using ads from Carrs (where Sam works) for these last minute already-gifted-gifts.
Apparently he planned to wrap the new Vermont Castings stove as well, but the lack of paper foiled that plan. (That, and I reminded him I was the one who paid for it! He resorted to putting bows on the hearth instead!)
Eventually everything got done, as it always does. Santa had no problem making it down our new stove pipe to fill stockings and leave special surprises for all. I always savor these last, quiet moments of Christmas Eve, when I can sit by the light of the tree and take it all in. We are truly blessed.
I’ve spent the past semester of online school dragging the kids out of bed for 8 AM classes, but of course Maggie was up at 6:30 and let the rest of us know it. Apparently she literally dragged Sam out of bed at 7:30, so we all put on our dorky Christmas t-shirts and followed her downstairs.
Stocking stuffers were a hit this year: the kids got their own thermometers, which will come in handy for the mandatory health screenings before x-country ski practice. (Clark and I were supposed to get thermometers in our stockings too, but that package blew off our porch during last week’s wind storm! Hopefully it turns up eventually.) The kids also got Mountain House meals, new camping utensils, and fun candies.
Santa brought Maggie a longboard and Sam a computer monitor. They were both thrilled (and luckily Maggie knows how to run power tools so she could open hers!). Clark has always wanted a piece of baleen, and was shocked when we gifted him this 8 1/2 foot piece from a bowhead whale. He’s been researching the best method and place to hang it ever since. Maggie got socks with the dogs’ faces on them, which will look mighty stylish with her Birkenstocks. Oh, and speaking of Birks, I got a new pair to replace the ones Riley chewed up! I must have been extra good this year, because Maggie shocked me with a rocking patio bench, which she procured for free and has spent the past month secretly restoring in our crawl space. It’s perfect! Clark is about 1/3 of the way finished with his Camaro puzzle, but Sam hasn’t even started the SAT prep book we gave him yet. I’m sure he’s looking forward to diving in soon?
The surprise hit was a gift for the dogs: we splurged on an automated tennis ball launcher. Riley is one of those dogs who drops a tennis ball on any available lap 24/7, and we are hoping she can learn to use this. It has provided us with hours of entertainment already – they LOVE it, even if they don’t know how to use it solo just yet!
Christmas afternoon we were able to Zoom with both sides of the family, and took a quintessential 2020 family photo:
We ate like royalty all day: Clark’s homemade cinnamon rolls and my breakfast burritos for breakfast, a king crab appetizer, and a special dinner that included perfectly grilled steaks, zucchini, garlic mashed potatoes, and a Caesar salad. It’s been two days since Christmas and I’m still full!
I’m hoping the tree can last for another week or so. I enjoy sitting in its light so much, and dread the night I have to clap it off for the last time. (Yes, the Clapper is still working after all these years!)
Most of us are more than ready to close the chapter on 2020, but this past holiday weekend was a reminder that there were still plenty of gifts to be had this year. Wishing all our family and friends the gifts of health and happiness, and hoping we can finally travel to see each other once again in 2021!