Sometime in the afternoon, though, on Christmas day, we'd leave the new toys and go dress in our best, load up in the car and off to Grandma's house. For years, my brother and I were the only grandkids running around, and we definitely reaped the benefit of having lots of aunts and uncles and no competition. Later, cousins would come along, but not for years.
Everyone gathered early. The menfolk would end up down in the living room, the women in the kitchen, and my brother and I would race back and forth between them. When my uncle brought home a pool table from Cincinnati, the menfolk would gather in there, and we'd do a three-legged lap between the pool room, the kitchen, and the tree, where we'd scope out the packages and dare each other to touch the hot lights. And there was the bubble lights, too. Those fascinated us.
When Grandpa got home from work--he always worked Christmas day for the overtime and I always understood Cratchitt--then we'd eat. The dining room was small, so the menfolk would eat first, and as they finished, the women would wash up the plates and start seating the kids. Then they'd start eating, after the kids were fed.
When I was fifteen, I thought it was unfair.
When I was eighteen, I understood. The time in the kitchen was the time when my mother and all of her sisters caught up with each other. Until we started having a family picnic around Labor Day, Christmas day was the only day that all of them were in the same place at the same time.
After Grandpa passed away, though, it just wasn't the same. We had Christmas dinner at my aunt's house, and she made sure there were enough plates and seats for everyone. Something was lost, and it wasn't just Grandpa. But it was still good to gather with family. Next year, I hope to make it home.