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Christmas Memories

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
-Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

For me, Christmases past are a little like the families Tolstoy describes in the above quote.

With a couple of exceptions, my most memorable Christmases occurred after my mother died. They certainly weren't better Christmases.
They were memorable because the family had to figure out a way to celebrate in  a way that wouldn't  makes us think too much about mama being gone. This forced us to be resourceful and creative, which made what we did for Christmas unique and  memorable.

The first Christmas without her was especially tough, because she had died only a few weeks earlier on  December 3, 1995. It was a very sudden death from a ruptured aorta. My siblings and I were grown, all of us in our 30's, but it was still tough. Her death was just starting to become real to us.

Christmas in our parent's house was of course out of the question. So we spent it with some cousins up in Winston Salem. We stayed at a local hotel to save them the trouble of putting us up for the night. My sister brought along her dog, an australian sheperd named Sky.
The hotel had a "don't ask, don't tell" policy about bringing in pets. Actually, we just assumed that's what it was because we didn't tell them we were smuggling Sky in in a portable kennel. And they didn't ask us if we were smuggling in a dog.

The hotel was fairly upscale and had a very nice restaurant. We took one of our suppers there. I ordered a steak, cooked rare. They bought me a well-done steak, so I sent it back. They let me keep the well-done steak and take it back to the room in a doggie bag.

"Doggie" is the operative word there. I gave the steak to Sky. I couldn't help but feel good that in the midst of so much tragedy, my sister's dog was getting to have steak for the first time. A fanciful part of me thought of it as my mother's Christmas gift to him

It was a sad Christmas. But it had it's moments of happiness, so I guess the analogy to Tolstoy's families breaks down a little.

There were some other interesting holidays after that. One Christmas we all went out to a Dim Sum restaurant (which reminded me  a little of the last scene in A Christmas Story) and there was another one we spent at a fancy hotel. My father treated for both of the fancy hotel Christmases. He was often a very generous man. I may write about these other Christmases later.