Christmas Eve has always been my favorite of all the holiday get-togethers. Even though Thanksgiving and Christmas day had some pretty awesome traditions of their own growing up … it was Christmas Eve that filled me with anticipation and excitement.
The reason Christmas Eve has always been so special?
Grandpa loved the night before Christmas (and I’m not talking the poem here … though I’m sure he’d been able to recite it with much enthusiasm). My grandparents used to love entertaining family and friends. And from the stories I’ve heard – their parties were the ones no one wanted to miss. And so it’s always been with Christmas Eve.
It all takes place in the garage. Only, this garage doesn’t house vehicles rather a kitchenette and mini-bar, carpeted lounge area and cement floor dining area – all in one big room. Complete with a long work bench mounted on cabinets that doubles as the buffet table during these shindigs.
Grandma is hustlin’ back and forth between the main house and the garage, bringing in food and utensils and everything else needed to serve a hungry family. She wears that look of “get in my way and get run over”. haha (my mother and then of course myself, inherited this busy-body gene)
But over behind the bar … was grandpa, dressed in one of his many plaid flannel shirts and jeans. Calm and cool. A smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye. “Get you a beer or a glass of wine, John?” I would hear him ask my dad. He already had himself a glass of red wine poured. That was his job on Christmas Eve – bartender. (I think mostly it kept him out of Grandma’s way.) He’d offer adult beverages to the 21 and over crowd … sodas to us kids.
Grandpa worked the room. His laughter was contagious. We call it the Jones laugh. He and all his sons, my uncles, and even some of my cousins share this same laugh. It’s hilarious. The closest comparison I can offer is Bert, one half of the Bert and Ernie duo from Sesame Street. Good lord, you get these Jones boys going and it sounds like a Bert convention. hahaha
My grandpa, ever the jokester/prankster, absolutely LOVED to tease us kids. There was plenty of that to go around throughout the evening. “Ohhh you better be good or ol’ Santy Claus won’t come to your house tonight.” (See, who needs Elf on the Shelf when you have Grandpa who seemed to know Santa personally?)
Yeah, Christmas Eve will forever be my favorite.
Grandpa is gone now. Been 10 years. We still carry on the tradition of Grandpa’s favorite holiday gathering – my Grandma is an amazing hostess. But of course, there’s a notable difference without his presence.
I miss him. A lot. For some reason, this year – the missing him is heavy on my heart. I miss his aftershave. Miss buying him those notorious plaid flannel shirts – Towncraft brand from JC Penney. I miss his laugh … his smile. I just miss his presence.
But you know what I miss the most? The way he would stand behind that mini-bar, looking over the room filled with his children and grandchildren … with this look on his face a pure satisfaction. A look that was proud. A look of contentment. Joy. Eyes full of love. I found him gazing at all of us in this way on more than one occasion. I started looking for it each year … purposely stopping to take notice of him taking us all in.
To an outsider looking in, our Christmas Eve get together may seem a bit bland. We don’t play games or sing Christmas carols … no blairing music … no gathering around for the telling of a traditional Christmas story. We’re just kind of … there. Talking, eating, laughing. But see, that’s the best part. WE are THERE together. Just being. And sometimes it’s the only night of the year we all see each other in one room.
Christmas Eve will always be a special night to me just because it was to my Grandpa. I find myself sitting back looking over the room just as he did … feeling blessed to have this one evening with people I love most in the world. I find myself glancing over at his spot at the mini-bar … hearing his laugh that no one else in the room hears.
I hope you all have a beautiful, wonderful time with your families this Christmas. Despite all that’s going on in the world and in your lives … that you have the chance to stand back and take it all in with love.
Merry Christmas (early) to all and to all a good night.