Last week, my younger sister went back to school after being home for over a month on her Christmas break, which, to me, officially marked the end of the Christmas season. Looking back, our family’s Christmas this year was a good one, although it got off to a very rocky start. In fact, our Christmas started out no where near holly, jolly, merry or bright.
The trouble began on Christmas Eve morning. We had a smaller group this Christmas Eve with my brother in Cleveland with his wife and my sister with her husband’s family, it was just my parents-Mike and Mo, my sisters Bridget and Jane, and myself. Yes, it was another Old Maid Christmas at the Kelly house. There was still lots to do to prepare for Christmas and we were short handed with our skeleton crew. Old Maids can only do so much work! To make matters worse, when my younger sister Jane finally rolled out of bed a little after noon, we discovered she had been stricken with a “mysterious illness” which left her couch-ridden the entire day. And by that I mean she was severely hungover. We had both gone out the night before and Jane must have made a little too much merry. I guess she took Merry Christmas very literally.
One of the things I love about Jane though is that whenever she is hungover she always denies it and instead claims to have some sort of chronic illness. “I think I have Crohn’s Disease” she’ll say, coincidentally the morning after consuming mass amounts of alcohol at the bars with her friends. Crohn’s Disease has been her go-to illness lately whenever she is hungover at home. I told her she’s going to have to start switching things up and use other diseases and illnesses, otherwise my parents are going to start catching on. I said if she was looking for suggestions for the morning of New Years Day, Tuberculosis might be a nice change of pace.
With Jane busy dying on the couch/looking up illnesses on WebMD, many of the Christmas duties fell on Bridget and me, one of which, was making the Christmas cookies. And boy, was that a chore. It’s very misleading when you see these families in Christmas commercials and Christmas movies all gathered together in the kitchen smiling and laughing, having a grand old time as they bake delicious cookies because in reality that’s not how it is at all. They don’t show you all the prep and clean-up that goes into those damn cookies. All the bowls and pans that need to be washed, the worry of accidentally overcooking or under-cooking the cookies. It’s a lot of pressure! Those Christmas cookies didn’t bring us together at all. In fact, they nearly ripped our family apart. Between the five of us at home, no one wanted to make them at all. My mom made it very clear on Christmas Eve morning that she was not going to partake in any holiday baking. “Now listen, girls” she said in a scolding tone as soon as we came downstairs, “I am NOT making those Christmas cookies! One of you kids will have to make them. I am going to make the bacon ahead of time for Christmas Brunch tomorrow and then I am out of this kitchen!”
I had never heard someone talk about Christmas cookies with such anger and hate in their voice. It was quite the rude awakening. Bridget and I both looked at each other stunned. We hadn’t even been up for three minutes and we were already in the dog house. I quickly glanced at my mom’s waistline to see if she was wearing a belt, as I was afraid she might take it off and begin beating us with it. Luckily, she was still in her robe.
I’m my mother’s daughter so I also did NOT want to make those cookies. I really tried hard to negotiate my way out of doing it, to no avail.
Me: Do you really think we need to make the cookies this year? Does anyone even eat those cookies anymore? Let’s just pick up a pack of Oreo’s and call it a day.
Mom: Well we are stuck making them because Dad already made the dough last night. So the hard part is pretty much over, you girls just have to finish the rest.
Me: Oh Dad, if you started making the cookies I think you should follow through on the project and finish them. Isn’t it so rewarding being able to complete a project from start to finish? You always taught us never to half-ass anything, so I’m really doing you a favor.
Dad: Oh yea, nice try! I did my part making the dough, you girls need to pitch in now.
Me: Well we really should have sat down and discussed this as a family a couple of days ago because Bridget and I never agreed to this baking thing.
Just after I finished getting that smart ass comment out of my mouth, I turned around and fear overcame me, for I thought the ghost of Christmas past had appeared in the kitchen to haunt me. But to my relief, it was just Jane, pale as a ghost from her Crohn’s Disease or Scarlet Fever or whatever she was calling her hangover that day. Somehow she gathered the strength to pull herself off the couch and join us in the kitchen for our domestic dispute over the cookies. “I’ll make the cookies” she stated in a weak voice. “Ew, no” Bridget responded “We aren’t letting you touch those cookies with your illness. Go back on the couch, you look awful….no offense.” She added. It’s true, poor Jane really did look terrible. She reminded me of Grandmother Willow from the movie Pocahontas. Not because she was giving out great advice like Grandmother Willow did in the movie, but because her coloring was off and she looked a little shriveled up, probably from being extremely dehydrated.
Finally, Bridget and I accepted our fate of being the ones that had to make the cookies. We started them as soon as my mom was done making the bacon, but unfortunately for us, it wasn’t soon enough. The cookies took a lot longer than we planned and so we were running late for church. Mike Sr. was not happy. And to make matters worse, Grandmother Willow couldn’t even go to church because she was still too crippled. Mike and Mo were not happy with their three youngest children.
Our bad luck didn’t stop there. Since we were running late there were no seats left at church, which my parents blamed on Bridget and me. We ended up sitting in the choir loft behind a gigantic organ where we could not see or hear anything. We could have all sat in front of a wall wearing ear plugs in the comfort of our own home for an hour and had the same experience as we did during that mass. Also during the mass, my mom and dad kept suggesting that I go sit at this lone folding chair in the corner of the choir loft away from all the other pews so I could “see the altar better.” After a while I was starting to become suspicious of their suggestions, thinking they were trying to abandon me. I had heard stories of parents leaving their children at safe places such as churches or fire stations when they could no longer care for them, but I never thought MY parents would do it to ME. If they thought they could get rid of me that easy, they were wrong. I wasn’t going to fall for their trickery.
After my parents came to terms with the fact that their three youngest children will always disappoint them, they changed their attitudes and we actually ended Christmas Eve on a good note. We watched It’s a Wonderful Life and ate pizza. Bridget and I could especially sympathize with Uncle Billy watching the movie this time around because just like Uncle Billy, we also couldn’t do anything right on Christmas Eve. At least in my parents eyes.
Christmas Day things really turned about for the better though. We just figured Santa was going to bring the three of us coal this year after how mad he was at us the day before, but to our pleasant surprise he actually left us gifts! But that’s not even the best part of Christmas Day. The greatest moment was when we witnessed a real life Christmas miracle. Yes, Jane, who was stricken with [Insert any disease from the Oregon Trails computer game-Typhoid Fever, Cholera, Dysentery, Measles- really, take your pick, any will do, you just can’t call it a hangover] just hours before, made a miraculous recovery! She was totally cured!
Seeing my younger sister Jane finally get up off the couch that Christmas morning made all the trouble we went through the day before worth it. And isn’t that what Christmas is all about? I hope next Christmas is just as magical as this one was.