When I was a kid, we had epic Christmases.
I am talking about a room full of presents and a house full of people, literally. My dad’s side of the family is big and everyone gathered at my great-grandmother’s every year. Granny was the matriarch of the family, for sure. Great uncles and third cousins from Indiana, Pennsylvania, California, Kentucky, New York, and who knows where would make the journey home for the holiday.
Christmas, for me, always started with the packing of the car. My sister and I would sit, each of us on our separate row in the minivan, between black trash bags full of presents. We would poke those bags for the entire 600 mile drive, trying to figure out what was inside. We would eat at Cracker Barrel (which I called Crackle Barrel for years) to commence our adventure South. I always ate popcorn shrimp and played checkers by the fire with my dad. If you can imagine, this was very exciting at the time since the chain hadn’t yet made it across the Mason-Dixon line, and my poor mother only got her fried okra a few times a year.
Once we made it to Tennessee, probably after listening to The Bogart on tape, the celebrations began. We celebrated with three full days of feasting: On the 23rd it was dinner at my great aunt’s house, then a Christmas Eve lunch at my grandmother’s and THEN Christmas breakfast at my great-grandmother’s house. There is no Christmas dinner in this family, it is biscuits and gravy all the way. Affectionately, this meal is still called the “festival of cholesterol” and it takes place at approximately 8 am every year.
The absurdly early meal has not changed, but a lot has. Branches of the family have planted roots in different states and many of the pivotal family members have passed on. Time has shown me how precious my relationships are in my family and each year there is something or someone new to celebrate. This year is Louisa’s first Christmas and I can’t wait!
One day, I am sure I will feel nostalgic for 2014, but for now I’ll just be sopping it all up.
This 90s flashback is a pretty accurate visual for ya:
(If you don’t know who these people are we cannot be friends.)