Here’s one last view of the way my important holiday events (Christmas morning not included, it’s a given) played out.
For years now, Christmas at Nanna’s is a pajama party. You simply don’t come unless wearing pajamas. We arrive around the 6 o’clock evening hour and the celebration lasts for the next 24. The process of finding just the right thing to wear has become quite important. Invariably, the discussion around Thanksgiving is “Have you found your pajamas yet”? There have been matching families frocks, adult “onesies”, and this year Todd’s t-shirt was a perfect Santa suit that asked “Does this make me look fat”?
Some history. I am the eldest of 8 siblings. Twyla, Timothy, Tiji, Todd, Tara, Toyia, Tedd, and Travis. 2 Divorced, 1 single, the rest married. Between us, we have 9 children, with 2 being stepchildren. You add spouses and significant others in the mix and it’s a motley crew. We decided years ago to “draw names” and the results are classified. From year to year the eldest or youngest stands and presents their gift. There is the proverbial cat and mouse, handing it to the incorrect person only to reach past and give it to the proper recipient.
The evening is loud. The 3 young ones are begging to open gifts from the time they walk in the door. Todd is in a perpetual state of performance and telling jokes. Tiji and Tara are doubled over from his shenanigans. Tayler is on the piano. Music is blaring from Toy’s room. Tyler is telling hilarious stories. Clint does impersonations. Tedd and Tyren are posing. Pots are clanging in the kitchen. Shadoe and Chandler are chasing each other. Basically it’s a mad house. But we’d have it no other way. The evening is scheduled when everyone can be there. Todd works in Singapore, and Tedd, Travis and Parrish work 14 and 14 or 7 and 7, meaning they are gone various times during per month. It takes some fanagling, but we always manage to secure a date.
Everyone brings their favorite Christmas serving dishes, and makes their favorite recipes. And yes there are requests. We eat, kids open their gifts, adults take their turn (I am thrilled to say Todd had my name so my gift was an oil on canvas from Singapore!), then it’s games and foolishness, with heavy accent on the foolishness. Then we eat some more. Truthfully, we eat all evening. The dynamics of the late evening game table were entirely different this year. I sat back and thought of the days when I remember my Mother on the sidelines watching as I was.
We all spend the night on “the hill”. With Nanna, Todd and Tara all living in walking distance, we usually all stay. The next morning is a huge breakfast. Todd and Zazzy got Nanna a gorgeous waffle maker with that flipping mechanism. We had amazing waffles, along with tons of anything else remotely breakfast oriented. We simply hang out for most the day.
That 24 hours is to be remembered. Memories made never to be forgotten.
Now here’s a subject that brightens my eyes. Our Christmas service at Woodlawn Church was on Saturday evening to allow the city to participate. We chose that because every Sunday is extremely busy churchwise. The biggest shock to me when I moved to Columbia 20 years ago, was that everyone went to church. In Biloxi, out of my high school friends, maybe 3-4 went to church regularly. And I attended a large school. And I knew pretty much everyone. Biloxi is just not a churched city. It’s predominately Catholic and they attend Ash Wednesday, Easter and Christmas. The entire school was literally bussed to the local Catholic churches on Ash Wednesday. I was one of maybe 10 that stayed at the school. They all came back with black smears on their foreheads and my thought was “and they think my religion is strange?” My friends Donna and Janet went to the Baptist Church, and Nancy was Mormon. Everyone else in my acquaintance was Catholic. When I think back now, I realize I remember their names only because they were church goers.
Back to Woodlog=), as referred to by Bunch and Breeze, the comedy team that kept the evening lighthearted. We were packed out, chairs in aisles. The songs made your heart smile, and even though it was basically my baby, I must admit the auditorium was breath taking. (DVD’s of the service are available. 601.736.5128/church office) The Miracle of Christmas, the name of our evening, was a perfect way to celebrate the birth of the King. My favorites from the service was when the song “The Miracle of Christmas” was sung with acoustic only and two 4’ X 8’ canvases were painted on stage by my sister Toyia and Brandi Rose ,the other when my Tay sang. Pastor brought a moving message. The evening ended on a high note with the band performing a couple of Trans-Siberian Orchestra songs.
A grand piano and a saxophone serenaded us from a small stage in the center of the foyer. The rotunda was roped with lighted garland and scented candles were lit running up the stairwell. We served fresh cookies and sparkling juice, as the weather was warm. People lolled about, snapping pictures in the their Christmas frocks and soaking up the warmth of Christmas. The evening ended just as we’d hoped. The images are forever imprinted on my mind.
"Light Your World" will change your life. It was founded by Danny Rivers and is an incredible way we as a church give to our community. It's an adoption program of sorts for those less fortunate. You sponsor a child and Elevate Student Ministry does the work. They shop, wrap the gifts, do the cooking and serve. The family is invited to dine with us on Sunday evening and at that time are presented with a "Christmas" for each of their children. As a sponsor, you're invited to the festivities. You make new friends and get participate in the joy. When I arrived, I was amazed at some 200 plus in the gym. We were served a lovely meal and sat with the family we sponsored. Games including the crowd were played and extra gifts were won by the children. Pictures with Santa were taken and last but not least they were told the Christmas Story. We then went to their family tree for smiles and laughter.
My sister Toy played a huge part in the organization of it all and to say I was proud is an understatement. Twenty-six families had an evening that would not have been possible save the giving of our church. If there is no such program at your church, you now have the knowledge of how it's done.=)
We were able to pull something off that I am extremely proud of. A phone call was made to the Coast and a time set with the “coastal cousins” to dine. We made a shot in the dark on Saturday after Christmas and it worked. Rhonda, the sisters and I drove to the Coast and had dinner at Ruby Tuesdays with Aunt Edie, our father’s only living sister. Her children, save one were able to come. David, a nurse who just happened to have the night off, and his children Nathan and Lindsay, Stephen, a captain at the fire department who was off his 48/72 hour rotation, and Anita, mother extraordiniare who came when she left work at 5. I sent out a text with the time and God smiled on us for each cousin to be able to make it. Their youngest sister Amanda was not there, but I simply do NOT feel sorry for her as she was in New York City for the holiday=). We laughed and posed for pictures. We told stories and reminisced about our parents, Bibbie, Papaw and Aunt Deta, then drove back home.
I must admit this was my favorite holiday happening. It was such an unlikely thing with work schedules, but God was good and allowed us some time together. That evening I vowed I would always try to get us all together, even though work schedules and geography make it seem impossible. The only fly in the ointment was that all my siblings every single cousin was not there. There are “Arkansas Cousins” ,“Bourriague Cousins”, "Coast Cousins" and “Houston Cousins” . We discussed a cousins reunion and I pray we can make it happen.
At this time in my life, family has become of utmost importance. With my very own ducklings flying away, my extended family has become an obsession. With the early passing of so many of those close, I feel an urgency to stay connected to this generation I am a part of. If you are reading this, and fall into the sibling or cousin category, please reach out and touch someone. Let’s try our dead level best to meet this year. I’ll work on a date and a central location.
Goodbye holidays. You will be sorely missed.