Last Saturday I hopped in my car and made the one-hour drive to my parents’ home in east Baltimore County. This marks the 21st Christmas that we have celebrated together in this house. Christmas is a time of traditions, and it’s remarkable just how similar this Christmas seems to the first 20 here.
Saturday night was the family Christmas party, the only time all year that my mother’s extended family rubs elbows with my father’s extended family. Today will undoubtedly include a visit to Christmas Eve mass, while the rest of the evening will be spent awash in the nostalgia of tried and true holiday specials on the same weary VHS tapes of long ago: Garfield, the Muppets, and maybe even my father’s favorite, Mr. Magoo.
On Christmas morning it’s likely that I’ll be the first one out of bed, the only time all year this phenomenon occurs. After some cajoling and a few minutes to gather their faculties, the rest of the family will join me in the living room to exchange gifts.
But that’s where our Christmas this year will deviate from history.
My maternal grandmother lived with us for our first 17 years at this house. Christmas mornings meant that much more because she was there to share in it all. We’d give her a one- or two-hour grace period to get some extra rest, but in due time she’d come upstairs to share in the joy of the holiday.
In late 2004, Grandma Boots had a series of strokes that affected her mobility. She spent two years in a nursing care center before passing away in August 2006. During those difficult final years, she was rarely without visitors; we had a couple of makeshift Christmases with the entire extended family wedged into her small room.
This is the time of year that I miss Boots the most. Still, I have a feeling that she’ll be watching us open gifts tomorrow morning.
We just won’t have to wake her up first.