Or. . .it was a week ago. Hm. Anyway.

Ah yes, Christmas. A time of family, feasts, festivities, and HORRIBLE CHEESY CHRISTMAS SHIRTS!!! Yes, that’s right. Mom strikes again. For the past. . .oh, I don’t know, eleventy billion years, Mom has made the girls of the family dress alike. In Christmas-themed clothing. And then we all have a take a picture together wearing said clothing.

This year wasn’t so bad. White long sleeved shirts with small, embroidered, multi-colored snowflakes across the top. I can handle that, sort of. I’ve gotten good at overlooking the fact that when we all stand together, we look like a walking Steinmart (yes, Steinmart) ad. But years past? I still have emotional scars. But see, it wouldn’t be Christmas without the matchy-matchy Christmas-Squared (plus one) moment. And at least this year it wasn’t stretch pants.

Yup. Stretch pants. This is the year I have chosen to forget. The Year of the Stretch Pants. Blaargh.

They were blue.

With tiny candy canes.

And presents.

And teddy bears.

I AM NOT EXAGGERATING THIS.

Oh, and did I mention how they were stretch pants? And how neither Ceci nor I were under the age of 7 when Mom made us wear them?

Right. This is a good reason to go into counseling, I think.

But it really wouldn’t be Christmas without those little things. Stupid, cheesy, “can’t believe I’m wearing this” clothing is just a part of what makes Christmas Christmas at my house.

What else, you ask? Well, there’s the War of the Stereo. The War of the Stereo pits my sister and me against the General. . .General Grandaddy, that is. See, he’s decided he does not enjoy holiday music. General Grandaddy would much prefer we listen to country. Which is barely tolerable on any normal day, but to expect us to forgo musical holiday joy on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day?

BROKEN ARROW!!!!

So Ceci and I covertly change the station to Christmas music whenever Grandaddy leaves the room. And then he comes back in, starts to do some work, and then realizes that that damn Bing Crosby is crooning about snow again.

General Grandaddy: How’d the damn radio get switched to Christmas music again? *Muttering to himself* Damn Christmas carols playing for over a month.

The lovely Ceci and Alida: Exchanging looks of sorrow that he figured it out, anger that he switched it country, and determination, knowing that sometime the old man will have to get up again and well. . .when he does. . .

And so the fight continues. Yes, we may win one or two battles, but in the end, General Grandaddy always wins the war. How? Because Ceci or I will invariably cave and run to Mom saying, “GRANDADDY KEEPS SWITCHING IT TO COUNTRY!!! IT’S CHRISTMAS EVE, MOM!!!”

To which she says, “Well, when you are 83, you can pick the music.”

Stupid inarguable logic.

One of my favorite moments at Christmas is the moment when all the presents have been unwrapped. We all sit back, take a deep breath, and just look around happily. Well, almost all of us. Mom does something a bit different:

Everyone: *Sighing contentedly* That was nice.
Mom: *Sitting up straight and looking alarmed and confused* Um. Hm. Uh. . .is that all there is under the tree?
Everyone: Yeah. . .
Mom: *Sits up straighter* Oh. Um. Huh. *Sits back* Nevermind, then. *Sits up again* It’s just. . .I thought. . .wait. Just wait.

And she goes off to her closet where she has most likely left one gift or another.

Good times.

I enjoy all these things about the holiday. They make it Christmas. But we didn’t do them all this year. As I type this, I realize we got no picture commemorating the Cheesy Holiday Shirts. Mom didn’t actually forget anything at all this time. And the country station started playing holiday music.

As the Vampire and I drove back up to Arlington on Christmas night, I found myself in a weird mood. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me until the Vampire said, “It’s okay to be sad. It was your last Christmas in your house.” Which I had forgotten, until that moment. And poor Matt, neither of us expected what happened next.

I started crying and didn’t stop for a good 13 minutes, until we hit Cresson. He was right. And maybe that’s why things seemed different this year? Maybe we all knew it was our last Christmas in our old house, and so we should just relax and enjoy each other? And then I started thinking about Grandmama again and that made the tears just come faster. Mom and I talked about this on Christmas Eve. When will it stop hurting so much to think about her? When will I be able to talk about her without crying? Not just tearing up, but actually wanting to sit and cry for a long time?

I love where all of our lives are taking us. I’m sooo beyond thrilled for my mom and the good things that are happening to her. And I’m proud of my brother for how hard he’s working to change his life. And I’m way excited for Ceci and her new house, which is just so exciting and lovely. But things are changing so much, so quickly.

But you know? I can take certain comfort in knowing this:

No matter where we are, no matter where our lives take us, my mother will always make us wear Cheesy Christmas Shirts. And I love her so much for it. (But don’t tell her that. Otherwise she might try to find more stretch pants.)

Pa-rum-pum-pum-pum!

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