The first Christmas I spent with my soon-t0-be in-laws was quite interesting. I knew the whole family (my husband and I grew up in the same small town), but it’s one thing to know people and another to be part of a family celebration. It started with his brother waking us up at 4 AM to watch The Christmas Toy. I am NOT a morning person, so I was a little less then enthused to learn of this tradition–especially without prior warning.
Around 7AM we got around to opening presents. Afterward, I was expecting breakfast, but no. Everyone (including my fiancé) fell asleep around the living room, with a few siblings (my husband has two younger sisters and a younger brother, who at the time were all still in high school) wandering back to their beds. I, however, was hungry and not used to going back to sleep a few hours after getting up–early hour notwithstanding.
I headed to the kitchen to find food, only to discover that the house did not contain much in the way of edible nourishment, not to mention breakfast fare. I nibbled on what I could scrounge and was thankful that at least my stocking was full of chocolate.
In the future, I started a new tradition where I cooked breakfast for everyone, and since I love to cook, it worked out pretty well all around. 🙂
In my latest novel, To Growl or to Groan, Chloe travels to her boyfriend’s parents’ home in Scotland a little before Thanksgiving. It’s her first time meeting the family, as well, but by Christmas Eve, she’s feeling a bit more comfortable with his family. Here’s a snippet from the beginning of the scene where they open presents.
After dinner, everyone retires to the living room and lounges around digesting food. Jeremy is the only one who seems to have missed out on the food coma. He bounces between his parents and grandparents asking when we’re going to open presents, since the family tradition is not to wait for Christmas morning.
There are a lot fewer presents under the tree then there were a few days ago when we loaded up a bunch to take to various charities in the area. Now each adult only has one under the tree, and there are seven for Jeremy (one from each adult who isn’t his parent).
Feeling the need to get the food in my stomach moving, I heft myself off an easy chair and walk over to the tree. I notice that there are small presents nestled among the boughs. Jorge walks up behind me, encircling my waist. I lay my arms over his, the noise of the rest of the family’s chatter fading into the background. “What’s up with the presents in the tree?”
“Each year there’s one special gift for each person. My mom hides them during dinner every year. We each draw one person’s name and come up with the gift. This year you got out of the drawing because I wanted this part to be a surprise for you, so I got a present for you and Miriam.”
He laughs, pulls me closer. “No trying to find yours in advance. Unless, of course, you want to get scolded by my mother.”
“OK. How about you show me some of the ornaments you made now?”
“At the risk of my mother misinterpreting, I’ll find a few in the front.” He releases me, and I miss his warmth. He walks to the side of the tree facing his mother, plucking three ornaments as he returns to my side.
He holds up what looks like a reindeer made from Legos and felt. “I built this when I was seven. I loved Legos.”
“It’s so cute. It’s a reindeer, right?”
“Of course it’s a reindeer. It’s Rudolph. Look at the red nose.”
I chuckle. “Defensive much?”
He ignores my taunt and holds up a second one. A hand-painted candy cane. The stripes are there but decidedly uneven. “This one was a project in grade one.”
I lean in to inspect the ornament.
“Not bad for a six-year-old. I can definitely tell it’s a candy cane.”
He lets out a long-suffering sigh and places the two ornaments back on the tree haphazardly. Then he holds up a third and flips a switch. The tiny robotic Santa’s legs start to move. “If I set it down on a flat surface, it would walk.”
“Let me guess. This was from when you started to become really geeky?”
“I got an A on my robotics project in grade eight science, I’ll have you know.”
Jeremy, attracted by the whirring sound, zooms over and asks to play with the toy. Jorge kneels beside him and puts the Santa on the hardwood floor. It starts to march toward Adam. Jeremy claps and follows it until it runs into his dad’s leg.
Adam scoops up Jeremy and the toy. “What have we got here?” He inspects the robot, turns to Jorge. “Isn’t this a project you did for school?”
“Yes. I was just showing it to Chloe.”
Jeremy squirms, and Adam sets him down and hands him the toy. He races off to show his grandpa. Adam turns to me. “He made a ton of robots when he was a kid. I’m sure Mom still has them somewhere.”
“I’m sure Chloe doesn’t want to see my robots.”
I give him a bemused smile. “So you do still have them? How cute.”
Miriam enters the conversation. “What’s cute?”
Adam turns to her. “Jorge’s boyhood robot collection, which he evidently still has.”
“Ooh, I remember those robots.”
Jorge gives her a wry eyebrow raise. “I remember you breaking several of them.”
Before the discussion can continue, Alice stands and announces it’s time for presents.