Christmas was always kind of a big deal in my family. As such, my entire extended family (on my mom’s side) would gather at my grandmother’s house in San Luis Obispo (otherwise known as SLO) in the days surrounding Christmas. And every year, we would carry out our christmas morning procedure. Here’s how it went down:
My family (mom, dad, Erin) would all stay at a hotel three minutes from Gram’s house. I would wake first christmas morning at 5:30 AM. I would wake my sister. I would get an angry “mmmmmm.” I would wake my parents. They would say “Sar, go back to sleep.” I wouldn’t go back to bed, but would sit in my bed staring at them until they actually got up at 7. Around 8, we would leave for Gram’s house.
Upon arrival, I would break strict orders to not approach the living room and I would run straight into the present section to try to count how many presents I had. My cousin Steve would run after me and scoop me up and carry me into the kitchen and try to entertain me until the rest of my cousins were out of bed and ready to go. His entertainment routine included taking the Santa mask off the wall, putting it on and pretending to be Santa. An eternity would pass. Finally everyone would be ready.
The cameras would start rolling and the cousins would line up in age order. The line up started with me, the youngest and went up to Steve, the oldest present cousin. We would parade in and the excruciatingly wonderful three hour present opening session would start. We each opened one present at a time. Starting with me, going in age order and ending with Gram. We would each open the gift, thank the person for the gift, pass around the gift, and hear the origin story and explanation for the gift. Then move on to the next person. On and on. Gram, who was right before me would talk the longest, telling the story of her life after opening each gift. They were wonderful stories that would try my patience to the last straw. After three hours, we would pause for brunch which Uncle Jim would make. Eggs and beefsteak DIVINE.
Then we would resume. Eventually it would end, and we would all split into little pairs, talking to different members of the family. At 5:45, we would start dinner. We were separated into the adult table and kids table. Guess who was always at the kid’s table? Then the fours sisters would clean the kitchen. Gram would have her coffee, and we would open our stockings. The night would wear on and Erin and I would change into our PJ’s. I would then curl up and fall asleep against my cousin, Tim. Eventually, Dad would carry us girls out to the car and we would fall asleep straight away at the hotel.
Each year was the same. My wonderful family united under one roof. But the cousins grew up. Got married. And we stopped having Christmases in SLO. Losing that tradition was rough. Being the youngest meant always feeling left behind. But it’s the memories I cherish. The stories, the dancing, the homemade chocolate sauce. And those bonds will never be broken.