Last night, wrapped tightly in a woven Christmas blanket I stole from Mama B over Thanksgiving, I looked around the living room and smiled. I’d spent all of Sunday furiously cleaning my entire apartment so I could put up my meager decorations: a string of lights and garland over the back windows, DIY paper triangle strings along the blue wall above the TV, and a tiny fake tree I bought at Duane Reade in 2011 for $20. It’s not much by way of decorating, but I’ve had them since my days in the Upper East Side, and despite being old and cheap looking, they bring a little bit of holiday into my apartment, even if the only ones who get to enjoy them are little miss and me. I wrapped my hands around the warm mug of cider and whiskey I’d poured earlier and pressed “Play” on my Rudolph claymation DVD, the classic Christmas movie with all my favorite songs, the same one my family watched together every single year growing up, and prepared to recite and sing along to all the words. “Don’t you just love Christmas?” I said aloud to little miss, and she just nudged my hand for another pet before promptly biting one of my fingers. I think that means yes.
My family adores Christmas, and Mama B loves it the most. I mean, she L-O-V-E-S it. She would happily start listening to Christmas music on November 1 if we hadn’t imposed a rule around 15 years ago that she’s not allowed to play it in the house until after Thanksgiving. Even now, it’s practically tradition that the house is blasting her favorite Vanessa Williams album by 7:30 a.m. on Black Friday. Since children aren’t allowed to like things parents like until you grow up and realize how cool your parents are, I tried turning my nose up at all things holiday, scoffing at Mama B’s Christmas-themed wreath pin and Papa B’s ridiculous snowman tie, but even in my most sullen teenage years I couldn’t ever resist the soft glow of the white lights around the trees. I have such wonderful memories our little family traditions, like how my siblings and I would wait at the top of the stairs as children so my parents could “check that Santa came” (/make coffee because it was probably at or before 5 a.m.), or how we wouldn’t open stockings until after church, a tradition that carries into today. Many traditions have stayed the same, like Mama B getting everyone new pajamas on Christmas Eve, but we’ve made some fantastic new ones too, like making sure by 11 a.m., everyone is in possession of holiday spirits.
Not a typo. Spirits, plural. As in, my new favorite thing to do on baby Jesus’s birthday is mix drinks with my family.
It’s hard being home as an adult sometimes. Outside of that house, you’ve got an independent life, where you’re paying bills and working in the real world, and yet somehow the second you’re back sleeping in the no-longer-comfortable twin bed of your childhood, you’re still being scolded for leaving towels on the bathroom floor or sleeping in too late. The holidays can exacerbate this already semi-stressful situation, and we’ve certainly had our share of familial blow-ups over the years. And yet here we are, however many years into adult holidays, and I can’t remember a single one. But I do remember sitting near decanted wine six years ago, a special bottle for the holidays I’d brought back from my time in Argentina, and feeling the tannins coat my tongue, bringing sweet memories of those six months. And I remember my brother and Mama B accidentally spilling Harpoon Christmas Ale everywhere three years ago, after our dog jumped on the big armchair they were sharing and demanded a cuddle. And I remember waking up last year to mugs of D&D’s special slow cooker spiked cider, sipped slowly throughout the morning, aromatic and warming, while we laughed at the familiar jokes in A Christmas Story over and over.
This Christmas season is going to be a little different for my family, as Mama and papa B prepare to spend most of the month in Europe, galavanting across multiple countries, and arriving back home with just enough time to obtain and decorate a tree, and welcome us all for a long holiday break. It’s probably why I’m clinging to cups of warm cider and whiskey in my almost-decorated apartment, and forcing little miss into a Christmas collar that she absolutely hates (pics to follow). So much of my holidays have changed over the years, from feelings on carols to the people I thought I’d be spending it with at this point in my life. But with my family’s track record, we can at least hold on to a few steady pieces of the holiday season: we know Mama will start playing music the moment she can. We know we’ll all be together in matching pajamas on Christmas Eve. And we know we’ll all be toasting our wacky Christmases that are full of surprises with a drink in our hands and lots of love in our hearts.