Christmas at the Bell home. There's nothing quite like it. We are an unusual family and the longer I am part of it, the more I look around and wonder just how the heck I ended up here.
Christmas Eve fell on a Sunday this year and that meant we each went our separate ways to worship and then move through the day before gathering together by the fireplace (it is empty, by the way. I don't want you to conjure a picture of cozyness. It is rather chilly by the fire place. Which is still painted pink on the inside) and ripping into Christmas presents.
Dinner at Christmastime is not a big deal. Usually because family members are straggling in... the older brother pulling a fast one on his wife, who was sent out earlier... the younger brother still shopping, because he prides himself on shopping on Christmas Eve. I was coming from my part-time what-was-I-thinking-about-working-at-the-mall job and had huge anxiety that I would be the one holding up the festivities!
"Don't wait on me to eat."
"Don't worry. We won't"
Dinner is typically a honey-baked ham, some side dishes, etc. Light fare in comparison to the turkey we get for Thanksgiving. Mom had intended for it to be a simpler time this year than usual, but somewhere during the week, that just didn't pan out. We had meat and cheese trays with breads to make sandwiches, pasta salad, potatoe salad... and then somehow we also ended up with shrimp cocktail, three-bean dip and nachos, salsa, corn, mac & cheese and a pan of dumplings (for my younger brother requested it and therefore, it was)
We cleared the beautifully decorated dinner table of its impressive opulance and ate on red paper plates, coming and going as we pleased and enjoying each other's company tremendously. The annual event of making the children remove themselves from the room while "Santa" arrived continued as the 18, two 16 and 10 year old grumbled their way down the hall to wait for the Ho-Ho-Ho that would allow them to return to the carnage and begin passing out gifts.
We ho-ho-ho'ed and they staged a sit down strike. Apparently, it was beneath them now to be shifted from one spot to the other, and so we did what any family in the 21st century would do. We all pulled out our cell phones and sent them text messages on their phones saying "ho-ho-ho" and they laughed, skipped and frolicked their way back to the living room.
Okay, maybe not. But they passed out the gifts that were stashed under both trees (because in the redecorating scheme our house has taken, it was fun and easy to stash gifts that way) and began ripping into the presents with great enthusiasm.
Much joy was erupting in the Bell home and laughter filled the air. Mom, who thanks to the youngest of her children, has become an addict of The Amazing Race, set out to send her children on a race of their own for treasures galore... and left out the "this may be our last Christmas together" speech, for which we were all grateful, until we noticed the fine writing on the bottom of our instruction sheet, which reminded us it may be our Last. Christmas. Ever.
After Kim put a beating on the rest of us, and after John attempted to appeal a bad ruling, the kids headed out one way and the adults sat around visiting, arguing the outcome of the Amazing Race and generally ribbing each other with not-so-good-intent. John's present to Earl (which I am not at all upset over. Really) was tickets to the Music City Bowl where Kentucky will play Clemson on December 29. They will leave their beloved and only sister behind and bond together as men apparently do at a football game (while I will pray for bitter cold temps and rain) and eat hot dogs and gripe about referrees and coaching calls.
John will have his hands full, though, so I am not certain I will be too upset to miss this game. You see, Earl is not getting any younger. He recently celebrated his third year into his 50s (giggle) and we have advised him to begin filling out his AARP forms. He is not as observant as he once was.
Case in point: while sitting next to his only brother John (and I meaning sitting next to him on the couch. Not on the other end of the couch... but right next to him) Earl looked up and spoke the immortal Christmas 2006 words "Where is my brother?"
You could almost hear the Silent Night as we all looked at John. Then at Earl. Then looked at John look at Earl. And then see the light bulb flash over Earl's head as he looked at John. Silence was shattered by the uproar of laughter and hysterical tears flowed as we began to picture the two of them in a large football stadium... one stepping right behind the other asking passersby where his brother was.
Go Kats. Ho. Ho. Ho.