A time to celebrate

Every family has its own unique take on their holiday celebrations and it’s especially easy to get nostalgic and/or homesick with a Thanksgiving ETA of approximately seven hours.

I suppose the personal appeal wouldn’t make much sense if you thought of the size of my family and the fact that my grandma’s itty bitty house smack in the middle of Phoenix becomes so filled to the brim with relatives this time of year that you essentially need to carry a crowbar to get the front door open and past all the bodies. Aunts, uncles and cousins who’ve married and spawned, are all crammed into the smallest nooks and crannies, eating in shifts on fold-out chairs, recliners and the ancient bench which in our younger days could fit three small cousins, now only squishes in two full-sized adult cousins.

And even though my days of eating at the kids’ table during Thanksgiving dinner have yet to come to an end, I still find myself pining for just a bit of my mom’s stuffing or the familial green “salad” made of a nearly unidentifiable assortment of ingredients, none of which could traditionally be used to assemble a salad.

The gathering of the Gatlins, Bakers and Geffres for our traditional three Christmas celebrations is nothing short of a circus which only the actual arrival of a VW beetle bursting with banana-juggling clowns could make more complete, or comical.

Christmas Eve is of course earmarked by Mexican food and margaritas — we’re Phoenicians after all — and an overabundance of children four feet and under who enjoy nothing more than belly-sliding down the stairs in my parents’ house delighting in every incident in which they nearly take out an adult bowling fashion. I, on the other hand, find it all especially entertaining, usually choking on a jalapeƱo popper while stifling laughter as frantic parents attempt to rein in their children, because who do you think it was who taught them how to human bowl? [Insert devilish smile here.]

Christmas mornings are, in a word, lunacy. What used to be a friendly competition of announcement upon entering my grandma’s house — shouting “Christmas gift!” as you open the door — has ultimately turned into a battle of epic proportions for who has bragging rights throughout the remainder of the day. By the time all the presents have been opened at least one small child has been lost in the fray of wrapping paper, boxes and bows which decorate the floor acting as instant carpeting camouflage. And once the last child has been found, then breakfast begins. In years past I tried to calculate how many animals needed to sacrifice their lives to feed my ever-growing family and after viewing the cartons of eggs and overflowing piles of bacon, I gave up.

Thankfully, blissfully, by the time Christmas night roll around we’re all too tired to do anything but sit in a stupor and simply not move for several hours… other than the smallest children (all of whom I love dearly) who’ve consumed more sugar than most do in a month and proceed to turn anyone who will oblige them, into a jungle gym.

And despite the profusion of lunatics that populate my genetic line, I still look around my quiet apartment each night and miss the noise that heralds a typical family meal and look forward to Christmas when I will be going home. For this recently-transplanted Arizonan going on two months now in Arkansas, it appears that the noise that accompanies the tipsy laughter of adults who’ve had an unknowable number of margaritas and giggling of children who’ve inevitably just tripped a well-meaning parent, is simply irreplaceable.

May even your odd-ball uncle from the other side of the family and the imminent lipstick mark from the well-intentioned aunt planted squarely on your cheek, remind you how lucky you are to have them in your life. I know I feel more than blessed for every branch and leaf on my insane family tree. Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

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