Sometimes you need family to remind you.
After a last minute change, heart broken, I spent Christmas with my local family: My Aunt and cousins.
Christmas is about family.
It was the best Christmas eva! Moments after arriving at the Brentwood style mansion owned by my cousin Dara (nuclear scientist) and her husband Tom (attorney) I was brought to the backyard to meet Molly (age two.) She was squatted, like a dog, on the backyard patio, having removed her diaper and pants, she pooped on the ground. Yep, right there on the Mexican Tiles.
"At least she didn't do it in her diaper. We're trying to potty train her", my cousin said.
"When Molly turns twenty one (21) I'm going to tell her what she was doing the first time I met her." I said.
An hour later the little cherub wrapped her arms and legs around me and it was love. I carried her around in my arms until they hurt.
I haven't seen my cousins or Aunt in years. I was busy. I made up excuses.
My Aunt couldn't believe I showed up. She is the woman that emmigrated to America with my mother when they were 23 years old. She married my mother's eldest brother. She cooked a delicious rack of pork marinated in garlic, Rosemary and Thyme with roasted vegetables, Au Gratin Potatoes, Butternut Squash, Sauteed Kale and Homemade rolls slathered in butter, parsley and garlic.
Everyone had a story to tell about the first time they met me, as if they knew I felt disconnected. Andrea (cousin Gavin's wife) recalled meeting me when I was 19. She said I was cooking in Aunt Mary's kitchen. I exclaimed, "I don't know what to do! What does Saute mean? I don't know what Saute MEANS!" (Funny because my mother and I started a catering company a year later.)
The kids opened presents, jumped and screamed.
The house was perfumed with delicious aromas, kids squeeling and running wild with dogs poking their noses into this or that. I was feeling the love. For the first time, I needed it.
We watched a video on a TV screen larger then my apartment, of the girls singing in a Church Christmas Pageant. It was hilarious.
I called my little sister Briana. My phone was passed from person to person. "God I just love her," my cousins chanted. Cousin Thurlow called in on speaker phone, "Merry Christmas Molly. Merry Christmas Clair." The girls gravitated to the sound of his voice, touching the phone like it was magic.
There was Prosecco, dessert and conversation. Tales from our mutual pasts and present day updates. It was with this family I spent many childhood holidays. We played in the mud. My father sprayed us with a garden hose as we ran in circles...shrieking with delight. Later, after our father's died in close proximity...we lost touch. Their father was my Godfather. He had a heart attack while cycling with my cousin Thurlow. Thurlow tried to revive him. He died in his arms. His mother, like mine, never re-married. Maybe real love ruins you.
Life and sorrow got in the way. I stayed away for 20 years.
My sweet cousin Elva sat me at "the kids table" and read a story aloud from a childrens book. A 45 year old woman read a 48 year old woman a book called, Gerald the Giraffe Can't Dance. See, Gerald was "different". He needed a "different" song to dance to. My cousin paused and gazed at me. We giggled. Time seemed never to have passed.
Except certain people were now bald.
My Aunt Mary (Mary is my middle name) and Cousin Dara begged me to stay the night. "Don't go Charmaine" they trained one of the two-year olds to say. (The air mattress was already on the living room floor and Molly, naked, was jumping up and down on it.)
On my drive home Elva called: "I love you," she said. "Thank you for making Christmas special this year. You changed things. We've never had so much fun. You're such a bright light," she said.
How lucky am I? I'm broke...but I feel rich.