• 79°

Looking back on Christmas 2003

Well, it’s early morning on Dec. 26. Here I am in my comfortable new recliner, hanging out with my stone-deaf, slightly shopworn old cat, Ginger. After being raided at 4:30 a.m. on Christmas morn, the personalized stockings are once again hanging &uot;by the chimney with care&uot;.

New cat toys are scattered about, as are empty gift bags and crumpled Christmas wrapping paper. In the living room the lights of the tree softly glow.

In many ways, it was a different kind of Christmas for my family and me this year. It was the first Christmas since my father passed away, the first holiday in 16 years without our dear old kitty Mary Ann; it’s the first year we celebrated the day away from the old family farm since we’ve been back in Alabama.

It was the first time I, a woman who generally likes to plan ahead, can recall being so far behind in virtually everything Christmas-related: shopping for gifts, decorating, sending cards. As a matter of fact, I never did get around to doing the latter. (Co-workers, count yourselves lucky I actually got those cards hand-delivered to you on Tuesday).

I confess I didn’t finish hanging the last crocheted snowflake on our tree until Christmas Eve. (I consoled myself by recalling folks often didn’t decorate their evergreens until the day before Christmas back in the &uot;good old days&uot;).

Still, there were familiar things, too – ‘Christmas business as usual’, you might say. We took delight, as always, in watching the faces of the family’s children as they opened their gifts. Nowadays, of course, it’s the children and stepchildren of the youngsters I once held in my arms for whom we shop.

I still got to &uot;play Barbies&uot;. Benny enjoyed engaging in an exuberant game of action figure &uot;wrestlemania&uot;.

My oldest sister, Deb, was still a slightly outrageous (and definitely more exuberant version of) Martha Stewart as she bustled around her Birmingham kitchen, preparing the Christmas Day meal (&uot;Get out the silver sugar spoons…oh, I forget, you didn’t have Home Economics to learn all the finer points of setting a table, darling&uot;).

Mama, as usual, wanted to be in the thick of things (&uot;Well, I just don’t like people working around me while I just sit&uot;) and sister Sara was, as always, our family’s gentle, smiling &uot;helpful Hannah&uot;. (As for me, I had my annual case of the &uot;Christmas crud&uot; coming on and simply tried to stay out of the way as much as possible.)

The food was, as usual, wonderful, the scents tantalizing and the decorations, pleasing to the eye.

More importantly, those of us who remain were all able to be together one more time.

As Martha herself might say, &uot;That was a very good thing.&uot;