This year we had to do Christmas Day twice. Three of the cousins didn't arrive into Ohio until afternoon on Christmas Day, so we opted to come back the following day, dividing the festivities into two fun-filled, extremely chaotic, mind-spinning days.
So this is how it went.
Christmas Eve, as you know, is spent at my parents' house. It is one giant slumber party. (In the old days, all four girls slept in one bedroom, but now two of us are coupled and babied and in need of privacy, and the other two don't really have a desire to share a bed when there are plenty of beds in which they could stretch out and have a night free of kicking and fighting over the covers.) In the morning, we are awoken bright and early by my parents, who have been playing Santa as well as cooking breakfast downstairs. Now here's the embarrassing bit, because you knew there'd be one: We all have to sit and wait on the landing until they call us down. Yes. We do that. It used to be the four of us, waiting eagerly for the go-ahead while my parents held loud discussions downstairs ("Honey, did Santa come?" "I don't think so, dear, looks like he didn't make it this year, hardee har har.") Now it's six of us and two little ones, looking like we've been punched in the face from lack of sleep, slightly irritated that my parents still insist on videotaping us coming down the stairs.
(Let me just state for the record that in my twenties I made many, many attempts to get this tradition to go away. It is very hard not to feel silly as an adult sitting on top of the landing, hung over, waiting to be called downstairs while being videotaped in ridiculous Christmas jammies. But I've mellowed out a bit and accept it for what it is: the pure peculiarity of my family.)
When we come down, we open presents from my parents. There used to be a mountain of gifts, now, thankfully, there are just a few. Usually one slightly expensive thing my parents know we want and can't afford, and a few little things. The mountain of gifts has now moved onto the grandkids, in spite of my protests (We didn't even buy Jack any toys this year).
After the mountain has been conquered, there is breakfast. On the red Christmas dishes with the tree on them that only come out for this One Special Day. Like most traditions, breakfast gets more elaborate every year. Eggs, bacon, sausage, cinnamon rolls, pancakes, coffee, fresh squeezed orange juice (to put in the mimosas, duh), and hot chocolate were all on the table this year. I gain about twenty pounds on Christmas day alone. Afterward, we have to rush to do the dishes lest my mother do them all before we get there; then it's off to grandma's house.
We used to sleep over there on Christmas Day, but now there are simply too many of us. And besides, this year every bedroom was taken with out-of-town Townleys. Which means we had to make the hour drive there and back twice, but it was worth it.
Christmas at grandma's follows the same presents-then-stuff-your-face pattern as at home. But we saved the presents for day two this year, and went ahead with the face-stuffing both days. There is your typical Christmas feast, right down to the two twenty-pound turkeys my grandmother cooked up this year, all washed down with mulled cider and SoCo, wine, and champagne. There are two tables, the "adult's" table and the "kid's" table, so stated because the only children at the kid's table are our children. Over the years, the kid's table has grown as the cousins got married, and now have children, but we still sit at the same plastic fold-out table-cum-chairs combos (the kind you all have to sit down on at the same time lest they collapse) that we've been sitting at for years, while the "grown-ups" sprawl out at the dining room table. Not that I'm complaining, because the kid's table is way more fun. Often at the other table there is absolute silence. No doubt they are listening in on our conversations.
As far as presents are concerned, there is a very organized system. All names are put into a hat at Thanksgiving, and everyone picks a name (couples count as one person), so everyone buys and receives one gift, with a price limit of $30. This year Tommy gave David and me two bottles of wine. Somehow we drew his name too. We got him a sweater. He is not easy to shop for.
Normally all of this is a very relaxing, good time. This year, it was utter chaos. Forty-three people, four babies cycling naps in two pack-n-plays upstairs, three toddlers running amok, a few tiny person meltdowns, harried parents waiting their turn for the changing table and trying to hold a conversation while balancing a baby and a gin and tonic, loved ones who haven't seen each other in two years trying to catch up with everyone and finding there just isn't the time. And family pictures. Oh, family pictures. These took place on Day Two, and, though worth it, were unbelievably stressful. Trying to coordinate that many people, seven of them under seven, is actually insane. It is actually insane. But I am glad we did it, because every single Townley was in that photo, and that is something.
So there you have it. Allow me to follow it up with some of those hard-earned family photos.
Our immediate family:
The great-grandbaby 2009 quartet:
Grandma, Grandpa, and their great granchildren:
The Townley military men, all in uniform for a photo. From left to right: my cousin Richard, a doctor in the air force, My grandfather, retired air force, My cousin David, army, special ops--shipping off to Afghanistan in March, Uncle Jim, Coast Guard, retired Captain of the Port of Portland, Oregon.
It's so amazing to think that the Townley family went from this:
What a Christmas.