When I was little, my grandmother lived two doors down. When I was a bit bigger, she lived ten minutes away. Even so, she always stayed the night on Christmas Eve, arriving in the late afternoon, her car as laden as Santa’s sleigh with a multitude of jumbo trash bags filled with presents. She would cart this enticing jackpot into the house, plop it all behind the tree, and then settle in to wait out the long night with us. And even though my grandfather had died on Christmas Eve when I wasn’t yet three, she never showed anything but her usual gruff good nature. Even when I was older and we were good friends, I never asked how many nights she had cried herself to sleep in my narrow twin bed while I tossed in gleeful anticipation on our basement couch, and she never told.
One year in the eighties (when home computers were just emerging on the scene, and my entire family sported Ogilve home perm, brillo-pad-heads) my grandmother brought out an enticing package. After much speculation, my brother and I decided the monitor-shaped item could only be a Commodore 64 (kids really can’t grasp the concept of items coming in packing boxes and other superfluous nonsense, you know). Cementing our certainty was my grandmother’s cryptic comment, “This is for the whole family.” So, of course, our disappointment was palpable when we opened the package to discover Trivial Pursuit and its companion, the Genius Edition, bundled together. Yet, in retrospect that gift was far better than a computer ever could have been. First off, it was more fun than typing C:Run over and over again, and, more importantly, it provided a tradition of Christmas Eve trivia that lasted for many years.
I’m no longer a kid. Thankfully, all traces of my fried poodle head have vanished. My grandmother is gone, and long before her went our family’s ritualistic pursuit of trivia. Time continues forward and, willingly or unwillingly, we must follow along. As I’ve grown, new Christmas Eve traditions have bloomed where old ones died: helping Mom fill the nieces’ and nephew’s stockings, watching movies until way after midnight (and praising all the powers in the universe when none of them involve Chuck Norris), and–my personal favorite–getting a good buzz on with Dad.
Speaking of new traditions, I have three dozen truffles to finish coating, and a crazy amount of packing to do for our trip first to my parents’, then on south to Florida. I hope each of you enjoy your holidays in your own way–be they quiet or boisterous, simple or strange–and may your memories be as happy as mine.