“One of these days you’re going to have to tell me how Christmas Eve brunch came to be.” My daughter’s words dripped with curiosity.
“Oh, I just sent my siblings a text. They all said, Yes.” The look on her face the picture of disbelief.
“Okay, so it was a God thing.” We both smiled, knowingly.
I’d like to stick to the idea it started with a text, taking credit for bringing my extended family together on the eve of Christmas. And yet, I know it started with God. As Thanksgiving approached we began to look toward the Christmas holiday. Last year it was easy to say I was not planning to host due to Covid-19. With vaccines available and restrictions lifted, getting together with others began edging its way into conversations with my husband. Reservations I could not explain clouded the joy I have always felt when entertaining in our home.
In the past few years, friends have moved away and others have grown apart for a variety of reasons. These are the relationships that have filled the gaping hole of family in my heart and home for quite some time. There is something about gathering together with non-family for the holidays that makes it extra Holiday-ey (not a word, I just made that up). Without the weight of past hurts, disagreements, grudges, slights – or misunderstandings, the time together filled only with laughter, joy, good food and good company.
As I began to shop for gifts and decorate our home, a still small voice whispered into my ear, “Invite your siblings for Christmas Eve brunch.”
Each time it came, I ignored it, brushing it off as no more than wishful thinking things could be different. This is not to say in any way that my siblings are horrible . All three of them, two brothers and one sister, are kind, loving parents to their children, and I am sure their co-workers would attest they are great people. We have more of a past and less of a present.
My ego reared up reminding me they do not invite me to visit them. Nor did they reach out to coordinate a visit even after one of my several, ‘You are welcome to come swim or fish in the lake whenever you want.’ All of which were met with, ‘Yeah, totally, we should do that this summer.’ Unrequited, I eventually stopped offering.
Weeks before Christmas, I swyped a text to my three siblings:
Hey, Siblings, I was wondering if you all would want to do a Christmas Eve brunch?? We could do it here or if Lisa wants to host, we can come north. (Sorry to put you on the spot, Sis. Just throwing out an option. Would love to see you all and reconnect.Text Message December 6, 2021 9:06 AM
Our oldest brother, the first to respond he was in. Then the second in sibling order, also a brother chimed in as well, affirmative. Hours later our sister responded, being the only one of us who does not look at her cell phone at work, she too was up for it. A few more messages and it was settled, they would come to my home and we would invite our Uncle and Aunt, who also live in Seattle, to join us.
The array of emotions I felt before the text and after my invitation was accepted, extended the entire spectrum from thrilled to anxious, and in between. Not only have we not spent time together in person in a very long time, my sister had ‘un-friended’ me on Facebook years ago. We do not see eye to eye on our upbringing, the effects it has had on our lives and my way of processing through my feelings and sharing it all openly in hopes of helping others. My relationship with my siblings consists of birthday, Mother’s/Father’s day and Christmas greetings via text message. I imagined the brunch would be wonderful or extremely awkward. There was no in between.
Christmas Eve arrived, anticipation filled the air around me. After confirming vaccinations, and texting a loose menu listing what I was making and what others had texted they were bringing, I left all else to chance, fate, or as I believe, God. What would be, would be. In addition to our uncle and aunt, their two sons joined us. Their oldest son brought his girlfriend and her younger brother. My sister’s daughter was able to come as well, and my oldest brother was able to bring his ten year old son too. Our final guest was a visiting dog, a very old, very kind golden retriever named, Galt. Instantly the topic of conversation, Galt greeted each guest with his signature lean – leaning his weight into you before nestling his head between your legs, bowing in submission.
The morning progressed with guests arriving, much like a procession released by a wedding planner, with just the right amount of time between. Hugs, greetings and in some cases introductions or re-introductions between cousins or aunts and uncles. The anticipated awkwardness left at the door as we all caught up on life, work, children and much in the news due to Covid, restrictions on life and encampments in the area. Bursts of laughter making heads turned as small conversations grew into group discussions. Who was talking, had one story finished before the other begin? No one knew, no one cared, conversation continued.
Full bellies, hours passed, one by one groups gathered their belongings. Leaving the way they had entered small group by small group, extending the inevitable end, the final good-bye. Each farewell bringing us all to the foyer, hugs, well wishes, and promises to get together again – outside this summer. My husband, Tom, and I settled into the living room with my uncle and my aunt after the others had left. Us four reveled in the day, the joy of time spent together, something they too had missed these past several years. In a moment of nostalgia my uncle recalled the long standing tradition my parents had having them over for Christmas Eve brunch. Here we sat sixteens years after my parents passing, bringing the gathering back to life.
“Your mom would be thrilled, you know?” My uncle turned to me, emotion thick in his voice.
“I know, she would have loved this.”
I’d like to think my mom was sitting up their in Heaven early the morning of December 6, 2021. She turned, looked upon her blessed redeemer and said, “Do you think it’s about time to get my children back together for the holidays?”
I hope we will get together again. We may not agree about our past, we may not see the world the same way, we may differ in how we live, but we are siblings. Maybe spending less time thinking about how we are different, what hasn’t happened between us these past several years, and instead focusing on spending time together going forward, will bring connection, strengthening our relationships. We can’t change the past, our family history, but we can decide how we go forward apart or together.