Merry Christmas to everyone at Redroom! This, for my family, has been a thoroughly modern Christmas, with people here, there, and everywhere. Jessica Barksdale Inclan wrote about dinner with blended families and I knew just what she meant. This Christmas, KidOne and I are going down to visit my parents, with KidOne bringing the dinner to cook. KidTwo is in South America with her father and his family, and KidThree is spending the day with her bio-family across the causeway. You see, KidThree's aunts and uncles have told her that this is her last Christmas with gifts (as she turns 18 in March) and she wants to maximize her loot. I send presents to my ex-husband's little boy in every box of goodies I send to KidTwo; my parents send gifts to him, too. KidThree's bio-mother gave me a Christmas gift and I gave her KidThree for most of the week. We are a truly modern family, with these ties going off in all directions and relationships for which we have no name.
We aren't having a Christmas celebration at home this year because of financial issues, but things are really getting better for us out here. I'm only behind now on one bill, and have every expectation of some sort of solvency next year.
***Except that Schwarzenegger wants to balance the state budget on our backs. Arnold, I'm sorry to be living off the public titty at the moment, but what did you expect me to do? I volunteered and mentored, just like we're supposed to do, and I took one of those kids home. Then she got shot and paralyzed and needed me more than ever. What else was I supposed to do? Send her back to the loving arms of the state foster care system? Let her go in a group home, without love and with inconsistent care? So I took her home from the hospital and left my job to care for her and there was nothing else for us except state programs. We won't be on them forever, just until KidThree is done with school and I can return to the workforce, and then we'll both be happy taxpayers, doing our share again. But why oh why do you want to fix the state budget problems on our backs? KidThree didn't ask to be shot, she didn't deserve to be disabled, and she still needs me for the better part of the day. My former employer is not only not hiring, they are cutting staff and programs, so returning to work there is looking less and less likely. Please, Arnold, understand we are down at poverty level already, and don't take things out on us.
But, if Scharzenegger can avoid sending us to live under a bridge for having the temerity to depend on public programs, 2009 will be better for KidThree and me out here. We will have a tree and all the trimmings next Christmas and, if we're lucky, we'll have KidOne and can put KidTwo on speakerphone. For this year, we have the essentials--a warm home and family to share the day with.
Memories of Christmases past revolve around my siblings and food. Mom used to keep track of how many Christmas gifts she had for each of the six of us, as we took turns in age order opening our gifts and she didn't want any one to run out of gifts before the others. After we opened the gifts under the tree, Dad would take down our stockings so we could see what Santa had left in them. That was always my favorite part. When we went to bed on Christmas Eve, the stockings would be lying against the chimney as flat as could be, but then on Christmas morning they bulged mysteriously, tantalizing us with their odd shapes. It was hard waiting until all the other gifts were opened before we could see what was in those stockings. (Santa was always generous with the chocolate & marshmallow candies.) We used to leave cookies and milk out for Santa and carrots for the reindeer, then in the morning would find a note from Santa in the fireplace. He usually said something about reminding our father to clean out the fireplace, as his boots were getting dirty and Mrs. Santa didn't like him tracking in soot.
Christmas dinner was the usual turkey with all the trimmings, and then there were desserts. When Grandma was alive, we had to have a cocoa chiffon cake, as she loved them, and what Grandma wanted, Grandma got. Dad liked to experiment with pumpkin pies, something to which the purists among us objected, so we would have the traditional pumpkin pie along with whatever his experiment was that year. We had mince pie and sometimes cherry cream cheese pie, as that was SisterL's favorite. We had fruitcake, too, brought it from the garage cupboard where it had sat wrapped in brandy-soaked paper towels. (Yes, I admit it, I LIKE fruitcake--at least the homemade kind we had!) SisterD was allergic to chocolate, so there would be a non-chocolate cake of one sort of another.
Clearing up meant putting the leftover pies out in the garage to spend the night on the washer or dryer. I remember meeting BrotherS down there in the wee hours, as we both snuck down for treats. BrotherS loved the mince pie, which he always smothered in hard sauce. I can still hear Dad laughing, "have some pie to go with that hard sauce, S," even though it's been thirty years since BrotherS died. Everytime I have mince pie with hard sauce now, in my mind, I'm sharing it with him, grinning at him in our parents' garage at three in the morning.
I do love Christmas. The sense of sharing traditions with beloved people is what Christmas means to me--the pretty presents and wonderful food are just the mechanisms we use to show our love for one another.
To all at Redroom, a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays and Family and Good Friends to spend time with.