I began my Christmas with a phone call. It was from Mom, wishing me the best of the day. We had a nice long chat. I told her about the party the night before and the pair of boots I'd picked on Amazon (another pair of Bearclaw winter boots like the old ones - I miss them). She told me about spending the night before with Anny and Dad and J.J and the kids. We talked about Christmases past, and I told her how much better I've felt this year than last year.
After I read some stories and sung some carols from Collier's Book of Holidays, I went into the living area to unwrap presents from Linda and James Young. The "stocking stuffer" was a metal Three Stooges sign. The big one was a book on Thanksgiving and Roller Skates, about a little girl in 1890's New York who spends a year exploring the city on her skates.
But by far my favorite title Linda and James gave me was Strippers, Showgirls, and Sharks, on musicals that lost the Best Musical Tony, despite being as beloved as Gypsy or as popular as Wicked. I've almost bought that one from Barnes & Noble a hundred times, but I either didn't have the money, or I would see something else I wanted even more. They couldn't have made a better choice.
Headed out to Dad's house for their brunch around quarter of 11. It was still pretty decent out at that point, despite it still being incredibly humid and warm for late December. Jodie made her famous French Toast Casserole and toasted English muffins. A friend had made Egg and Bacon Muffins, scrambled eggs wrapped with bacon and cooked in a muffin tin at a party the week before, and Jodie had decided to try them herself. They were delicious, just salty-cheesy enough. There was a fruit tray and a tree-shaped fruit tart Rose brought, along with leftover cupcakes and cake pops and cookies and pumpkin mousse pie from the day before. Dad had the A Christmas Story marathon on PBS running all morning.
After Rose and her boys, Jessa and Joe, and Dana and Jesse arrived, we all opened gifts. Dad and Jodie gave me 300 dollars. Rose and her gentlemen gave me a CVS gift card. I got an adorable mini stuffed Fozzie Bear and a green bear angel Beanie Baby named Gift (to go with my white sparkly one named Herald) from Jess and Joe. Dana and Jesse gave me a small but elegant box of gourmet Belgian truffles.
But Rose and Craig and Dana and Jesse got the best - and certainly the largest - gifts of all. After all the other presents were opened, Dad and Jodie lead us to the garage, where we found two huge white boxes topped with red and white tinsel garland and bows. They were new mobile dishwashers for Dana and Jesse's recently-remodeled apartment and the house Rose and Craig are still trying to furnish.
Jessa and Joe invited me to go to a record store with them and see The Force Awakens sometime next week. We'll see when I work next week. I do want to get to one of the malls. I might be able to tie that in.
The neighbors arrived later with more gifts. Chloe, so cute in her new Queen Elsa outfit, played Scrabble Junior with Khai while the rest of us helped Rose and Craig get their dishwasher into the car and Dana and Jesse get theirs into their place. (I also got to see a little of their tiny apartment.)
I finally headed out a little after 1, shortly before Rose and her crew did. I thought I'd see if CVS was open and use that gift card. They were open, but I never saw anything I really wanted or needed, and I was too full for a treat. I just headed home.
Spent the rest of the afternoon messing around online and working on my story. The kids have escaped Barnaby and his men. Mr. Eldridge simply disappeared. They trick the trolls chasing them into the garbage chute, then go to the basement to free the others.
It started pouring somewhere around 4 PM. It was still raining hard when my cousin Mark picked me up to go to dinner at 6:30. It was just me, Mark, Vanessa, and Vanessa's 20-something daughter Brittany. That was fine. There was plenty of sausage stuffing, macaroni and cheese, turkey breast, collard greens, mashed potatoes, and sweet pop-can biscuits to go around. We had a Marie Callendar pumpkin pie afterwards that wasn't bad. I had everything but the mashed potatoes (I'm not a fan of white potatoes). I especially loved Brittany's extra-cheesy macaroni and cheese. There were so many leftovers, I took a big container-full home.
When I got home, I finished out the night with The House Without a Christmas Tree. This one has a lot in common with A Christmas Story - a kid in the Midwest in the 40's just wants one special gift for the holidays. Here, the kid is a girl, Addie Mills (Lisa Lucas), who lives with her sweet but eccentric grandmother (Mildred Natwick) and her taciturn father (Jason Robards). Addie's father has never had a Christmas tree. It reminds him too much of his late wife...as does Addie, which is why the two often don't see eye to eye. When Addie wins a tree at school, it causes an explosion between her and her father. It's Grandma who finally reminds the two that charity begins at home...and it's never too late for a heart to start to heal.
And...yeah, I had a far more enjoyable Christmas this year than I did last year. It's not presents or weather that make a holiday. It's doing things you love with the people you love...and being able to do what you enjoy again. I hope all of you had holidays that were just as much fun!