Saturday, December 27, 2008

Bertram Family Christmas Eve

Bertram Family Christmas Eve

We cook until we can’t stand up, making Lasagna and vegan Lasagna, pumpkin pies and vegan pumpkin pies, relish trays with four kinds of dip, apple crumble, cheese cake, cheese and olive plates, we have five kinds of chips and grape-cranberry juice which has been made festive with the addition of ginger ale. It begins as soon as my feet hit the floor—well, as soon as the caffeine in the tea I drink nowadays hits my feet on the floor. I make a list and tick things off as we go. We listen to Carols, try to come up with interesting things for the anxious little ones to do on this longest day of the year. It seems to drag on forever, as each piping hot dish is brought from the oven and laid on a side-board. The entire house is scrumptious. My girls have finally gotten old enough to help and this year I not only have my culinary-talented and kitchen-enthusiastic future daughter-in-law but also my mother-in-law, a fine cook herself, who is visiting from England. We laugh as we cook and occasionally curse, as when I forget to set the timer and toast the top of two pies, and we utilize all of our joint skills to make another Christmas Eve special.

The kids harass us incessantly about opening an early present. I say no, but we all know I’m lying. We open the kid’s gifts to each other early each year because the future daughter-in-law is in the drawing; she will go to her parent’s house for all of tomorrow. We have to open the kid’s gifts now or we won’t have the chance to share with her in the gift-opening. We all know this, but I like the look of worried suspense on the two little ones faces. They think I’m not being entirely honest, but they're not completely sure. When we finally say, “yes,” there’s cheering.

As night falls in a heavy blanket of black, we lay all the food we’ve cooked out on the table. The lights twinkle on the tree, and the pride and joy of our lives all tromp up the stairs to sit down to feast. It’s a Bertram Family tradition to lay out this meal for the kids and then to let them eat their fill. They laugh and joke, eat, drink, and are merry.

“When are we going to open the presents?” He’s only asked that a hundred times today, “You said after we’re done eating. We’re done eating!” He’s very smart for a seven year old. But before we begin, this inquiring young gentleman has to use the bathroom, which he announces. So as not to be offensive to this mixed-bag of relatives, he spells out that he has to go ‘p..o...o..p.’ We erupt into horrified laughter. Who in this room, where everyone is older than him, did he think he was sparing this news through spelling?

It takes an hour to rip the paper off the presents, and 'ohhh' and 'ahhh 'over their perfection. Everyone is pleased with their gifts: Piranha Panic, A Giant model horse, An i-pod arm band for the runner who won’t be running until her compression fracture is healed, a PS 2 anime game, a dragon kite, a fantasy book series, and a lovely red tea pot with four cups. They all bought gifts for each other with no influence from Mom or Dad. As it goes, they’re good gift-givers.

Winding down towards bedtime, four youngsters vie for room in the bathroom to brush teeth. I know I’ve still got a bit of the night ahead and make another cup of tea. When the children are nestled all snug in their beds, I go down and read “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” which, after 20 years of reading, I know by heart.

“Mom doesn’t even have to look at the pages,” The twelve year old says. She shrugs herself comfortable, and snuggles into bed.

I read the story, easily showing the pictures as I don't have to follow the words. It brings a tingle of joy to my toes and that swelling of warmth in my chest. I kiss each soft head, bless them with good sleep, and pause just a moment longer than maybe I would have in years past, when we hadn’t recently crashed head-on into a tree. I shut the door softly. They all sleep in the same room,

“No none leaves without asking me.” The fifteen year old says. She’s cleverly sleeping in front of the door; they’d have to step on her on their way out.

I’m bone tired as the house finally settles into deep silence. I’m still a long way from done tonight, but this moment, in this year, even with my cramping whip-lashed back, my creaking, unstable spine, I wouldn’t change a thing. Everyone I love most was smiling and happy today. Little spats, a regular feature of such a large family, lacked their usual rancor. There were more hugs, more apologies, more willingness to overlook the imperfections of a sibling, more easiness in forgiving.

Tomorrow will be the whirlwind of presents, and more family and friends, a frantic, joyous busyness from dawn till dusk. I won’t have time to pause and ponder, but this Christmas Eve in the silence of my sleeping house, I know how very certainly I am blessed.

“Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night…”

Peace and Blessings,


John Saunders said...

Thank you, La, for allowing
me to participate in Christmas
Eve at your house. Here we had
a brother who had not been with us
at Christmas for years. Today son
Tom and his wife Tonya come before
he returns to his x-country
trucking: Texas/California/
Seattle and back. Your poem
needs to be published. Plain
is excellent! Will Luis have a
look at it? What does he think?
Steve Wingate of Cabin 20 has
a short story: "Me And Paul" in
his collection "Wifeshopping".
So well done! And your Plain
poem is also most deserving.
I'll tell Isis. She's in
Louisiana --- former stomping
ground of the Urrea family.
May you remain still within.
Hugs from John Saunders

Jennelle said...

La, this is beyond beautiful. Knowing your beautiful children and the setting of your amazing home, I could easily place myself right in the story. I miss all of you. I am relieved to know that you are all fine after the crash. Your family [all of the Bertram's, and all of the extended Metro's are a blessing in my life.] You write as if it were an angel typing in the words. I'm so proud. I love it all. I'll be sure to keep reading.


lakshmi said...

Hi Jennelle!

Neil's parents are here from England and we were looking at the pics of our last trip to the Thousand Islands, so I've been thinking of you! I'm glad you liked this. Yes, I'm sure it was easy for you to picture them all. We had tons of food and stuffed ourselves for three days! Your big move is coming up--feel free to post things on here about your new life. I would love to read about it!

Love you,