“We survived another year!” said the Bossman as he walked through the office door. “Just barely,” I replied as my fingers pounded over the keyboard of my computer.
Our Christmas was a blessed one, but for all the greatness of the celebration of the birth of the Savior, I can’t help but feel a little forlorn after the holidays.
I still miss the good ole days, and sometimes this lady feels like she’s lacking some of that grace everyone but me seems to possess.
Let me explain.
I remember when I was a child, we would flock to some relative or another’s home for Christmas. There was never a holiday spent grazing and lazy in our own living room in my young life, except the year my sister was born. Her birthday is Dec. 6 so that should give you some idea as to why we chose not to travel that particular Christmas.
My grandmother Vertie was always a sight for sore eyes and lived a good stretch away in Lake View, S.C. Her “Hey Pun’kin!” could bring a smile to your face the minute you walked in the door. Her kitchen was always filled with the smells of homemade biscuits or a 12-layer chocolate cake just waiting for little fingers to skim through the ganache that pooled at the bottom.
She would spend days at the time cleaning her farmhouse and making meals to fill our bellies on Christmas afternoon. There was joy and laughter, and family would come from near and far to just to sit around her table. We would consume all those goodies that Grandma had smacked hands away from and threatened grown men over.
The cousins would pile up in the living room with the toys she stashed away in some corner or the other meant for just the grandchildren. We would open presents and compare gifts as Grandma looked on with a smile on her face.
She had fought cancer so many times that we didn’t know if that year would be her last or if she still had a few more left in her.
When the day was through, adults would set to work in the kitchen to wash the dishes and put away the food. Grandma had gone through all trouble to cook for her crowd so it was only right for them to clean up the mess.
The little ones would gather the toys and return them to their rightful place while the older boys ran outside to retrieve bicycles and ball bats left abandoned before the meal call. Men would gather the trash, take plates of leftovers to the car, and pack up the gifts to haul home. Mothers would grab coats and hats, smack bottoms, give hugs and kisses to longlost relatives, and usher their unruly bunches out of the door.
It was a combined effort to return the farmhouse back to its original cozy homely state. These manners were ingrained by Southern hospitality.
This was not the case for us over the holiday weekend. Let’s skip ahead about 30 years later.
Christmas Eve was spent cooking and cleaning like we were expecting the Queen of England. The chaos began at 9:14 a.m. and carried over into Christmas Day. The kids were bored and anxious, and for the life of us, nothing seemed to want to come together.
The bird was still frozen despite thawing in the fridge for a week, and an impromptu trip to the grocery store was required to finish food provisions. The floor was swept twice and mopped three times, and we had to take turns keeping our littlest guy out of his own self-made messes.
Exhaustion had set in by this time, and Santa had to deal with a piece of pecan pie instead of the cookies that this mama totally forgot to bake. If an empty plate was any indication of the matter, I would have to say he didn’t mind the absence of those cookies not one bit.
The boys were up early the next morning despite the fact that their parents (us) had not gotten to bed until midnight. Someone had to let Santa in!
Presents were opened and the wrapping paper gathered as I flew to the kitchen to chunk the bird in the oven. The guests arrived two hours later, and that dang meat was still half raw. Into the roaster it was plopped, and I thought that we had finally reached the point of smooth sailing.
I was wrong.
It was cooked through and browned an hour and a half later, and we rushed through a quick meal in an effort to return our youngest to the other half of his family to have Christmas yet again.
As I was walking back in door, I pondered about how exactly our elders could pull these events off so efficiently and still come out clean on the other side. The dishes piled high in the sink produced a heavy sigh on my part. Instead of getting upset, I counted my blessings, and threw a dish towel over the stack. I even ignored the toys scattered about in the living room.
I had survived, but just barely. We cleaned up everything the next day when I was finally able to roll myself out of bed. Two days of running wide open had taken its toll on me.
Next year, I’m throwing something in the crock pot served with a side of white rice. Duncan Hines will be the extent of my Southern hospitality.