For the first eleven years of my life, my mom threw the Christmas Eve party. My memories of those parties include the 'Happy Birthday Jesus' cake she baked, chairs pulled from the dining room into the living room, and a chorus of "Thank you!"s over the endless chatter and laughter. There was always a pot of my dad's special beans, which I've never really liked but eat anyway, and the fire always burned- and has eaten a couple of money envelopes over the years. Now, I'm sure there was some animosity, also, but I've etiher blocked that out or they hid it well enough that I never had a clue. The year after my mom died, my sister and dad threw the same party. I don't remember much about it, but I remember that we tried our best to act normal. It just wasn't possible. Over the last few years, we forgot the party completely once, my stepmother threw it once (but she served brie as opposed to my mom's velveeta, and as you can imagine, that didn't really go with my family), and Chris and Lori did the other times, except for last year. Last year we did it on Sunday, a few days before Christmas, and it was just my dad's side of the family that came over.
Last year's "party" differs so much from my memories of the earlier ones. Of course, the obvious thing is that my mom isn't there. But it's more than that. I rmeember us being a family- sharing and loving each other. Now, we don't resemble a family at all. We're more like groups of related people who are divided by events and circumstances and feelings that we can't overcome. There is forced small talk. It is quiet. We separate into our little cliques, staring at our watches and counting down how many minutes until we can check this off our to-do list and get ready to celebrate with the ones we really want to. This year, we're doing it earlier in the day so that we can go to church at night. There's been confusion and disagreement about it. I'm dreading it.
I always feel like I'm cheating when my dad comes over. It's weird to refer to this house as my home to him- even though it is. It's weird to ask Lori if I can do something instead of him- even though she's my parent, really. It's weird to stay when they leav- although when they leave, it's not weird anymore, because this is my home.
I guess you can say I'm ready to get the dang thing over.