Another Holiday in Hindsight

Due to a completely foreseeable trip back to Ohio for the holidays, I have been vacant, haven’t I? I could have pre-planned a couple clever blog entries. But I didn’t. Currently, I sit in the Detroit airport, waiting for my flight back to Charleston. I’ve been here in the freezing tundra of the Midwest since last Tuesday. I’m exhausted. I have a terrible cold. My dry, warm climate skin is peeling off. So I apologize for my blogosphere absence. And my Twitter absence. And my Facebook absence. Well…you get the idea.

So. Christmas is over. And this holiday season was new and unfamiliar. Granted, we still did the exact same stuff. On Christmas Eve, we go to our church for the rock show we call a Christmas service. Our service (the ROCK SHOW) involves soaring electric guitars, light shows, and even fake falling snow right before the sermon. Still, it’s our church, and we attend the 3:30 PM service every year on Christmas Eve. Then, we go to my Aunt Susie’s house. I’m in charge of the drinks, ranging in flavor and alcohol content from Cosmopolitans to Labatt Blue. We feast at Susie’s house. We listen to the Muppet’s Christmas album, featuring John Denver. Then, when we have sunk into sufficient holiday comas, we head to Papa and Grandma Schwind’s house for PRESENTS.

And we all settled down for a long winter's nap...
Since I was old enough to tear paper, we have retained an identical seating chart for Christmas Eve present opening. My brother and me sit by the fireplace. My parents sit on the pink couch. My Grandpa Schwind…see, I could list everyone, but there’s no need. It never changes, since I was four years old. We go around in a circle opening our presents one by one. We hug. We kiss. We say thank you, thank you, thank you. Then, it’s time to clean up the living room and head on home, because Santa comes in the morning.

Christmas morning, my parents, my bro, and me wake up at 8 AM. Mom makes the Chocolate Raspberry coffee, and in our PJs, we open MORE presents. MORE presents. More hugs, kisses, and thank you, thank you, then, there is another feast. A Christmas brunch. The whole family comes back together. Papa and Grandma are always dressed to impress, having come from Christmas morning mass at St. Rose. The rest of us wear our flannel and show off our additional Christmas gifts. Then, when the family is gone, my brother and me drink Bloody Mary’s and watch our new movies, care of Santa Clause, until we pass out Christmas night and wake for another day of fat happy winter in Ohio the following morning.

So if we’ve done the same thing every year since I was FOUR, why was this year so new and unfamiliar? Well, a couple things…
1) My Aunt Robin, Uncle Steve, and Cousin Pearl flew in from Washington for Christmas (and they have never done this, since I was born, 27 years ago).
2) My Papa and Grandma did not go to Christmas mass at St. Rose together this year, because time has finally begun to catch up with them—mentally and physically.
3) For the first time EVER, I brought a stranger into the house…otherwise known as my boyfriend, Jake, from Charleston…to meet the family and wallow in Dobie Christmas decadence.

I will say it was an adventure. It was strange prepping for vegetarians in the house (Robin, Steve, and Pearl). It was scary talking to my Grandpa Schwind and having to tell the same stories several times before anything registered. Scary seeing my Grandma Schwind in so much pain after her shoulder surgery and being able to do nothing about it. And yet how miraculous, watching Jake in his rarely worn glasses, University of Florida ball cap, and pajamas, opening presents from my parents Christmas morning.

And when it was all over—now, as I sit in this airport—how strange to think it all flew by. Another Christmas, come and gone. I could blame it on living in Charleston. For the entirety of December, it was sunny, 60 degrees, and they decorated palm trees with Christmas lights. It didn’t FEEL like Christmas, because I wasn’t freezing my “grommets” off (as Grandpa Schwind would say). Maybe I’m getting older and Christmas is losing its luster. Santa really doesn’t exist, and like the kid in The Polar Express, I can no longer hear the bell from Santa’s sleigh.

However. I think I’m wrong. I don’t think the holiday flew by because of my current warm climate habitation. I don’t think I’m too old for Christmas. Perhaps it flew by as every Christmas has always flown by—because good times ALWAYS fly by. Because every year, I build up the idea of Christmas for weeks and weeks beforehand. I buy presents and listen to Frank Sinatra sing “The Christmas Song.” The day arrives, and I can’t believe it’s snowing inside my church on Christmas Eve. I can’t believe Papa Schwind still drinks cheap gin and tonic at Susie’s house before dinner. I can’t believe I still get all giggly at the sound and smell of Mom and Dad’s coffee machine, brewing that Chocolate Raspberry java Christmas morning.

And this year, it was even better, because we added to the tradition. We added the Washington people, and we added my Jake. The holiday happened. It expanded. It’s still magical, and I can’t believe how immature I get for those mystical, miraculous 48 hours, from the morning of December 24th to the evening of the 25th. Like in Bill Murray’s “Scrooged” tirade at the movie’s conclusion, for this one time of year, we all laugh a little easier, smile a little faster, and want to do nice things for the people we love.

I’m about to board the plane. I’m high on DayQuil, and my suitcase is ten pounds heavier than when I flew up here last week. Let’s hope, as I return to the hustle and bustle of work, bills, and adult responsibilities in Charleston, I take home a little bit of the warm fuzzies I’ve enjoyed for the past week. I hope you, dear reader, wherever you may be, do the same. So in conclusion, Merry Christmas to all…and congrats for making it through another holiday season without a family homicide.

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