“Put up more twinkle lights.”

So I’m home now and sitting on the couch in front of the Christmas tree, typing on my mom’s new laptop and enjoying this new-fangled wireless internet.My grandfather just walked out of the guest room (which we call the futon room, as it is the room where we keep the futon). His walking out of the futon room isn’t an unusual occurence, as it would be unreasonable and–well, weird– to expect him to stay in there at all times. And as I’ve been sitting here, he’s walked out of that room at least 5 times. But this time it was different because he walked out of the room and stood in the doorway, just looking at me. And then he blew me a kiss and went back in.

He’s like my own little cuckoo clock, but one that isn’t annoying and one that loves me very much.

Home. I love home at Christmas. It’s like we took Christmas last year, wrapped it up in a box, and then opened it up and let it loose this year. Everything always looks the same: twinkly, calm, and magical. You want to know how to revisit your childhood in 5 or fewer minutes? Just lay under the Christmas tree, looking up through the branches at the lights. It never changes. Actually, that’s not true. We’ve gone from a real pine tree (after MANY watering mishaps that flooded our carpet, and after two years in a row where the dog knocked the tree over) to this fake thing, but when all the lights are off except for those on the tree, you just can’t tell.

This year, there is one key thing missing from our holiday: my grandmother. It just isn’t the same without her. Grandmama was the same as Christmas in my eyes: twinkly, calm, and magical. And I miss her. The other day I remembered how, when I was five years old and people would ask me what I wanted to do when I grew up, I would always tell them that I wanted to drive in a motorhome with my dalmatian Dottie and my Grandmama, drinking orange juice and playing Old Maid. And even though I love my life, and I believe so much in everything I’m doing right now, there is still a large part of me that would give anything to live that dream for just one day. That would be my perfect Christmas gift.

I know in my heart that Grandmama is experiencing a Christmas that is so breathtaking and wonderful, so amazing that my inadequate imagination cannot comprehend of its magnitude. And I love that for her. But I am a selfish person. I want her here. Mass will not be the same because I will not hear her sweet voice singing hymns. I will miss seeing her on Christmas morning in her red velvety robe, sipping her coffee and humming along with the Christmas music. And nobody appreciates a gift more than Grandmama did. No matter what she unwrapped, she made the giver feel as though the gift he or she had given her was the one gift Grandmama was hoping for, whether that gift was the Chanel perfume my grandfather gave her a few years back, or the travel coffee mug filled with pistachios my brother bestowed upon her last year. Grandmama would marvel and exclaim and pass the gift around for everyone to see; she made you feel special and important, and then she’d smile at you. Mmm. That smile. Twinkly, calm, and always, always magical.

We’ll make new memories this year, and they will help heal the deep ache we are all feeling but not mentioning. She is everywhere this Christmas. She’s in the songs and the smells and the twinkle lights on the tree. She’s in our hearts and ever present in our minds. Christmas will not be empty; it will be different, and I’m going to treasure every new moment and memory. That’s my gift to her now.

And you know what? When I lay under the tree and look up into the lights, if I close my eyes long enough, I can see her smile. Twinkly, calm, and magical.