My Christmas has been very different lately. In the last five years my family reunions have been getting smaller. It’s sad to see how every year there is an empty chair, an empty space on the sofa, one less gift under the tree, more empty parking spots and way more left overs. I was used to have them with me and now they are gone. This year I feel so vulnerable with all this Christmas vibe. Christmas is the time of the year that you enjoy with the ones you love. I believe it’s the time to be with your family. This year I realize how much smaller my family is now. In these five year I have lost a person every year. I wish I could see them again one more time.
Wrapping presents is so fun. I love to play with the colors. I am always in charge of wrapping all gifts. I do not like to let anyone else do this part. I chose a military green color sweater for my dad. He liked to wear them. I choose a red and gold wrapping paper. I will not lie to you as I was doing it tears started to drop on top of that beautiful wrapping paper. I looked at it and I could see how he would react to this gift. I pictured the old Christmas we spent together. I remembered all the things he gave me. All the memories invaded my mind as if I had just pressed play to a movie. I knew I would end up saving this gift just like the others. It’s hard to change all the things you used to do. There are so many special memories with those who left this world. I think during Christmas it gets harder. There is something during this time of the year where you miss more how things used to be.
I fell to sleep on the sofa. I had tape all over my hands and I didn’t finish writing the tags with the names. I look around for the time. I see the day. December 24th, 10:30am. What? How? Yesterday it was the 20th. I did not understand what was going on. The door opens and I see my mom. “Why aren’t you ready? We said we were going to help your uncle to set up for dinner.” My mom says with that look you can tell she is annoyed. “We are always late Regina come on.” I hear her yelling from the laundry room. I am so lost but I manage to get everything in the car and drive.
“Mom, where am I driving?” I ask. “Regina we always spend Christmas with your Uncle Sebastian. So, you have to drive to his house.” My mom says looking at her phone. I was glad she didn’t look at my eyes when she said that. We lost him in a car accident 5 years ago.
We finally arrived to my uncle’s house. He was making some food. As always he had a beautiful pencil for me. Every year he finds a unique pen or pencil for me. He did this since I was 6 years old. This is pink, jumbo pencil with butterflies carved in it. I grab the pencil and start crying. “Thanks!” That is all I could say looking at the beautiful gift I had in my hands. “Do not cry, it’s supposed to make you happy. Your uncle looked for that everywhere.” My mom says. “I am going to place the gift on the tree. I will be back.” I say running to the bathroom to get myself together. This was so crazy.
I open the door to the bathroom and there she was. My grandmother was casually brushing her hair. I almost fainted. “I think you are hungry. Your face is so pale.” She grabs me by my shoulders and kisses my forehead. It felt like the last kiss she gave me before leaving this world. The perfume and her soft hands are the same as I remembered. Her voice was strong but sweet as always. I missed seeing her short, curly, gray hair falling on her ear. The way she smiles with such happiness is so peaceful. “Abu, how are you?” That is all I say. I think my mind was slower than usual. “I am fine, come and help me with the muñuelos. You can dip them on sugar and Andy can fry them.” She says walking towards the kitchen. Andy is my cousin and we both love to help with the dessert in the holidays. The issue here is that Andy had a heart attack. We were super close since he was only two years younger than me. Everyone was so surprised with the tragic news since he was so young. I am twenty-five years old and he passed away last summer. Once my Abu mentions him I remembered the place where he always hid when we were kids. He used to run to the cleaning supply closet. There was an empty shelf on the bottom. He used to scare me every time he jumps out of there. I was by the same spot and open the door.” Haaaaaaa, Haaaa.” I yell with all the air I have on my lungs. He was laughing at me. “You still fall for that. You will never change Regina.” Andy says. I couldn’t help it. I start to laugh so loud. “Move Abu is waiting for us.” Andy says.
Once I was in the kitchen I could enjoy the discussion of politics. My uncle, mom and grandma were discussing the latest issues. I had never been so happy to hear about politics. My mom never talks to anyone the way she talks to her brother. I missed seeing her happy and having her brother with her. Andy keeps doing pranks on me. I always bother him with the fact he had a crazy girlfriend. I was enjoying having him around again. I try to focus on the fact that they were there not on the why or how. The smell of cinnamon and sugar for sure help me to stay with them. I was so amazed to see them again.
After I made a lot of muñuelos and ate a lot of them I heard an mechanic’s car in the front of the house. That sound was unmistakable. That was my dad’s car. I just ran outside. I had a need to see him. This was my opportunity to hug him one more time. It was the time to tell him what I had to tell him. I can see the deep green color of the car. I looked at the car and I saw my dad with his dad as the copilot. I want to scream but I lost my voice. All I know is that I can feel the warmth of his body and I can hear him. I can hear his voice. Every letter is music to my ears. “Here is your grandpa. Go and say hi to him too.” He went to open the back door and got all the sodas.
“Grandpa, hello!” I say looking at what my dad was doing. I didn’t want to lose track of him. “You have grown so much.” my grandpa says. “Do not exaggerate. I am not looking old. You make it seem like I am ten years older now.” I say trying to joke around with my grandpa. “Look what I have for you. I never forget to bring your favorite pan dulce.” He shows me a Mexican bakery bag. He bought me a Churro filled with cajeta. “Grandpa with all the food from today I am going to gain some pounds BUT every calorie is worth it.” I say hugging him.
The smell of tamales, pozole, muñuelos, the apple salad with whipped cream, and the atole grew my appetite. The rest of the family kept arriving (those that are still alive) and no one seems confused. I am sure there is something going on. I need to think this whole situation. I take a seat looking at everyone. I can see my family as it used to be. The feeling of having them is so good. Also the feeling of losing them again is way too big. I keep looking at them and realize I am just letting this time pass. I have no idea how or why but I should be enjoying it. This is how I lose my time. I think ahead and I forget to enjoy the moment. I waist the time I have with these beautiful people. The now is now and I have to live it.
We start to eat dinner. I cannot stop looking at the happiness we have around us. I see all my family members with a big smile, and light in their eyes. All the food was delicious. Everyone keeps telling stories about their daily life when my mom comes with the table games. We play monopoly, loteria, trivia, jenga, and uno. Those are the classics of the family. Once Andy sees my mom he knows it is time to play the Christmas songs. I keep playing against Andy just like the old days. We enjoy making fun of each other in the silliest ways. That is how it was every single time we got together. No matter how old we were. We enjoyed being silly kids and laugh until our ribs hurts. He loved to challenge me and enjoyed winning but he was a really bad to loser. There was something he was never able to beat me at. Andy wasn’t able to stay up later then me. Since, he had a few shots he fell to sleep deeply on the couch.
If you want to hear a good story then you have to talk to your grandparents. Since I have my mom’s mother and my dad’s dad I can hear the story of the family on two different ends. I choose to hear a story only they could tell me. I ask for them to tell me the story of the day my parents got married. I had never ask them how it was for them. I listen to every detail of the preparation, the dress, food, cake, who made what, and the way the party went. I think I never asked them to tell me stories like this. To be honest life gets too busy that I forgot to ask about the past. It was amazing to hear that moment told by the parents of my mom and dad. The way they felt and how special it was for them too. I was enjoying the peace that my heart had. I forgot the way I saw his life slip away. I forgot the way she just stop living. I felt like a kid again.
He loves to cook and his pastries are delicious. I am talking about Uncle Sebastian. I made a visit to the kitchen and there he was making Christmas cookies. “Uncle Sebastian those cookies are looking great.” I say looking at him. I spent time with him and tell him all the stuff I haven’t. He had always been the cool uncle of the family. He teaches me the recipe for those soft butter cookies and his secret. He promised me to give me that recipe five years ago. Once they were baked I tasted them and I love those cookies.
The time to open the Christmas gift was near. I sat next to my mom and dad. I look like a kid but I was so happy to sit next to him again. I was going to ask the question and say all the things I had not had a chance to. I just couldn’t do it. Those questions were not important anymore. All I could say was how much I love him and thanks for all the beautiful years. I was so happy I got to see him one more time. I was grateful for enjoying a Merry Christmas once more. I gave him my gift and he got me a little purple box. He was so happy with his sweater and I was so amazed with the gold ring. It was a lucky clover with a little green stone.
I woke up at my house with a headache. I was wrapping my dad’s gift when I felt so tired. Then everything I had lived before came to my mind. I looked inside the box where I was wrapping the sweater. There was no sweater. Instead there was the ring and the pencil I got for Christmas this year.
There will be always something changing for good or bad but I learned to live one day at a time. I learn to pay attention to those who are there with me. I will enjoy the people around me. I am going to live this Christmas with the best gift I have never got. Even if I am missing some people I have to think about the ones here because they will leave one day too. This Christmas I will not cry, I will cheer.