Every so often we get one of those moments. You know the ones, where everything seems to click into place. Things are different than they were before. Many times, you might look around questioning if you’re the only one feeling this. Odds are if you feel something more positive, someone else does too. Christmas was good this year. It’s funny how the same traditions can bring about better emotions. We all live our separate lives most of the year. Working our careers, hanging out with our friends, watching over our immediate families. Maybe we gather together a couple times during the year. But, there’s always something unique about the holiday season. Unlike any other time of year, some years are more challenging than others. It can bring on loneliness, as we miss someone we’ve lost, or struggle with distance keeping us from people we love. Amidst all the turmoil that may come with the holiday season, we can still stumble upon magic. We can be pulled in a direction we didn’t even see coming. Those moments that pop up unexpectedly, somehow closing the distance between us and those people we cherish.
Some catch a flight to be home for Christmas. They drive from miles away, just as they did the year before. Shopping is completed before the celebration begins. Rushing home after getting the final stocking stuffers and Christmas cards. It’s time to pack some things and head to mom’s house. The family will gather for Christmas Eve dinner, like each year before. There’s other news, we could get snow. There hasn’t been a white Christmas in probably ten years. And even that was just a dusting. It’s been chilly lately and there’s a weather system bearing down on our little corner of the world. The system could miss us to the north or south. But, if it hits, we could get some good snow. Weather information coming from my brother is reliable, still my emotions remain calm. A white Christmas would be pretty cool. The only down side would be dinner cutting short. Family had to drive home an hour after we celebrate and more time together seems better than less.
Arriving at my childhood home, one set of relatives had beat us there. The home town Seahawks were playing on this Christmas Eve. My uncle decided to take my mother’s invitation of coming over early for the football game. After walking in and greeting everyone already there, we grabbed something to drink. Sitting in the family room, we watched our beloved Hawks complete their victory. The rest of our Turner clan appeared while the football game drew to its conclusion. Coats were hung in the closet and drinks were produce for new arrivals. We delighted in our traditions of catching up with one another. Parents mingled around an island in the kitchen and the cousins within an arm’s length around the nook table. Each group poking at hors d’oeuvres sprawled across the table. We converse about the happenings in life, getting reacquainted after time apart. My mom still bustling around the kitchen making final preparations. Conversations move back into the comfy family room, with aromas of delicious food filling the air. Someone points out, the snow has begun to fall.
We find ourselves peering out windows, watching the yard turn sparkling white. Causing the Christmas lights to shine a little brighter. Bringing calm across the Christmas Eve night. Before long our meat appears from the oven. Time has come to carve the prime rib and gathering around the table for another year. Everyone is equipped with a wine glass and water glass. The water glass also in the shape of a wine glass. Except my place at the table has regular glasses. Cerebral palsy causing the use of wine glass almost impossible, mom sets out drinking glasses that work. At my place water if simply filled half way up the cup, making it easier for me to handle. We all perform our normal dance around the table, trying to figure out where everyone will sit. My place of course being graciously predetermined by drinking glasses. Mom has also placed me at the end of one side, providing more maneuverability. The more space I’m afforded, the easier dinner will be. Thankful for the thoughtful placement, I take the seat.
Having my seat predetermined made it easy to sit. The seat to my right remained unoccupied as family found their chairs. Like any family table, people debate who will sit where for a few moments. Nervousness has often hit during these debates, while anticipating who might occupy seats next to mine. In this instance, there would just be one neighbor to my right. Its occupant wouldn’t remain a mystery for long. As everyone began sitting, my uncle grabbed the seat next to me with seeming intent. Usually my brother would take the seat adjacent mine, but my uncle wanted the chair. He would be the person leaned upon to help with the passing of food. My hope was he could also help dish things onto my plate when the task became challenging. With any new person sitting next to me, it’s always a mystery to see how things play out. Will the test of cerebral palsy cause anxious moments or will it all work out? Sitting next to someone who has been there before is more comfortable, because we both know what to expect. But, as dinner began, it was clear my uncle knew just what he was getting into.
My brother is the best at sitting next to me for a large dinner. There truly is no comparison, having been around me his entire life. He has the unique ability to know when help is needed sometimes before I do. My mom also has an amazing ability to help. They both have taken the time to learn when it’s needed and I’m blessed to have their patience. Other people have been good too, and my uncle did awesome helping me at Christmas Eve. Maybe he has been watching over the years to understand where help might be needed. Because, he seemed to have an innate understanding to put me at ease. My uncle seemed to know when more help was needed and when I could handle the task. He took charge in dishing things onto my plate when necessary. There was always the feeling of allowing me to take charge if it felt comfortable. It became surprising as the most difficult part of dinner moved on, the passing and dishing of food, how well we did work together. Dinner began with ease.
With the most challenging part of cerebral palsy put behind us, time had come to enjoy dinner. We took time to enjoy the meal, chit chatting and joking around more than normal. Good conversations seemed to be taking place all over the table. Twelve family members broke into small topics with those seated near, then came together, enjoying something funny from our youngest member, my 3-year-old second cousin. Her personality and smile have lit up Christmas Eve each year. This year she met our family dog for the first time. Her and Bogie shared an entertaining connection. Memories that will last, as Bogie gets older and may not be here next year. As dinner wore on the snow outside continued to fall. Mom turned on the deck light and we could all enjoy white flakes peacefully pile onto each other. Making our family aware of the challenging trip home. Maybe they wanted to cut things short and get on the road. It didn’t show signs of stopping, but nobody seemed to move. Mom kept the light on and the lively conversations continued. That’s when you knew, we weren’t ready to go anywhere.
Dessert was finished and we continued enjoying the company. The snow fell into the night, while more stories kept us laughing. We cleared the long dinner table, moving our fun back into the kitchen. Dishes were cleaned and food was packed to be nibbled later. The final cookie or two were picked over from the nook table. It was time for the night to close, as we slowly moved toward the door. Coats reappeared from a hall closet and goodbye hugs followed. Everyone thanking each other for taking the time. Our Christmas Eve snow hadn’t relented, it would be a touchy drive home. The family bundled up, walking out to fill the newly white cars. They gently maneuvered through the fresh few inches on the drive. Making it down the light lined driveway, the four cars drove our family off into the Christmas Eve night. One of the best nights spent as a family suddenly came to a close. We made our way back into the kitchen and finished the process of cleaning.
There was something special about this Christmas Eve. So many of them having felt rushed. Like a family obligation, where we gather to have dinner and go our separate directions. This year, under the first Christmas Eve snowfall in memory, we took our time. Enjoying the conversations, soaking in the evening. It was a bummer when the time came for everyone to venture out into the storm. Our entire family made it home safely that magical night. The evening ending, sitting in the living room of my childhood home. Enjoying the tree, we decorated to light mom’s home for another holiday season. Looking from that sparkling tree out onto the snow-covered Christmas lights, brought that feeling of Christmas peace. We rose the following morning to a white Christmas, opened gifts, and hung out with the people closest. Thankful for the memorable holiday season.