Every year on Christmas Eve, mom would make goodies while Evie’s Christmas Memories played on the graphanola. She went all out: she made no bake fudgies and fudge and stained glass windows and homemade candies. Us kids would help her in the kitchen and then dust and vacuum and scrub the toilets for the company we were going to have that night. I remember watching out the window for them to get to our house, anxiously wondering if each set of headlights belonged to their car.
We didn’t see my dad’s family at all really, except on Christmas Eve. I have four cousins on my dad’s side, all older than us by quite a ways – they were adults before I wore a bra. It was always awkward when they first came in, and I remember looking forward to the hour or so into the evening when things loosened up and we brought out the marble board or Deanna would color with my sister and me in our room.
I would round the kitchen table time after time, gorging myself on the salty chips and sugary desserts. Mom would have a pot of apple cider with cinnamon sticks in it simmering on the stove and I would ladle myself some of that, too. Evie was still playing on the graphanola when everyone left. Then, each of us got to pick out one present we could open. We dove right for the selected presents – we had each plotted which one it would be over the past two weeks by rattling and shaking boxes and rearranging tissue paper.
When it was time to bed, my sister and I would pull out our sleeping bags and lie with our heads near the closed door. Mom and dad would peek in and we’d pretend to be asleep. Then we listened to them setting up downstairs for the next morning. We’d listen to Christmas music on the clock radio and eventually, although we didn’t think we could, we would fall asleep.
I have a family of my own now and the only traditions my kids will know are the ones Steve and I create. I want them to remember fondly the hominess of the Christmas season spent with family. So this year I decided to do a small scale version of my childhood Christmas Eve on the Sunday before Christmas. I emailed my mom for the recipe to the stained glass windows I love so much. I bought all the ingredients and kept her email open on my Kindle next to the stove while the butter and chocolate chips melted.
I’m not a domestic type of woman. But yesterday, I was determined to give it a whirl. I reread my mom’s instructions about a hundred times. I poured over every word as if they were instructions to land a plane and I was the pilot. I studied and analyzed each preposition (does it mean sprinkle on or should it be in?). I measured and double checked. Then, while they were hardening, I baked batch after batch of sugar cookies. The stained glass windows turned out just like my mom’s.
Steve’s family came over and we grazed on food and the kids played with each other. They chased each other and shrieked and giggled. They didn’t want to leave. When Kylie was walking out the door, I’m nearly positive I heard her say, “this was the best day ever.” I smiled, while shoving yet another stained glass window into my mouth. Just what I had hoped for: Christmas memories children will blog about someday.