My best gal Nicole has been out of town for two weeks. Too long! Now that she's back, she finally had the chance, tonight, to celebrate Christmas with her family, which consists of long-time honey and best friend Raul, his teenage son and daughter, and Nicole and Raul's two young girls (one just a few months older than Chupi--his "girlfriend" we like to say).
Chupi and I were over in the afternoon visiting with Nicole, and she asked if we wanted to stick around for Raul's enchiladas for dinner (hellz yes!!). Then she said, "well we're doing our Christmas after that. You're welcome to stay for that too if you want." I eagerly accepted this invitation, because for years now I have felt like an extension of Nicole and Raul's family. When I was going through a rough time a few months back, I felt like to could have spent every afternoon and evening in their home, just mooching off the feeling of family. Now, I do have my own family here of course, but sometimes it's just nice to be around a family that includes people of all different ages.
At Nicole's I get to talk to Sophomore Brielle. She reminds me of my own high school self, and I've had the chance to get super girlie with her discussing the male stars of Glee (ok, so I go for the teach while she's into the boys her own age, but still it was a bonding experience). I also get to talk to Senior Zach, or at least we can exchange a snide comment or two on his way through to his man-boy cave. I'll take it. I can get silly with 3rd grader Maya, who is full of big-sister-to-the-baby energy and always down to entertain the little ones while her Mom and I talk. She is most definitely the closest thing to a niece I have :) I can watch with the purest joy imaginable as Sureya and Chupi do their parallel play and even stop to give each other the occasional kiss. Awww. I can talk with Raul, about software things I don't understand, world events, and just grown up life in general. And always and forever, I can laugh with Nicole about things only her and I (in that whole room of people) find funny, share everything shareable in words, and reminisce over the 20 (!) years of our friendship.
Yes, there's no family gathering I would rather encroach on for
Today's New Activity: Crashing the Family Christmas
Now admittedly, tonight's events were not really the equivalent of just barging in on some stranger family. But still, I've never had the chance to see--up close--how another family does Christmas...the present opening part, that is.
At Nicole & Company's, it looks like this:
It's something like the Christmas present openings in my own family, only really nothing at all like that on account of a complete lack of ceremony. I don't know why everything seems to be ceremonial in my family. Everything is a big deal, especially when it comes to holidays. There is a lot of build-up and the thing goes on and on, followed by a good bit of reveling in the aftermath. I like how we do it in my family; I've always appreciated the on and on aspect of our familial celebrations. But sometimes I also really love and appreciate the more laissez-faire approach of Nicole's family.
I have never worried about the appropriate- or inappropriate-ness of anything I do in this wonderful family's company. Yes, this is true of most good friends...one is free to just be herself and let it all hang out. But it's even TRUER where Nicole is concerned because she just has a very relaxed and accepting attitude about almost everything. It's great to feel that at ease around people.
I mean really, in what other family Christmas present opening would the oldest child be allowed to stand in the doorway, shirtless and nomming on his own separate dinner some 45 minutes after the rest of the family ate:
Hahaha. Oh Zach.
The present opening lasted maybe 20 minutes...rather fast to me because everyone was opening at the same time, rather than the one-by-one, replete with ooing and awing that happens following each gift, in my family. There was a very quick paper and bow clean up, and then suddenly half the family disappeared into the netherworlds of the house. Nicole and the girls stayed and played with the new toys, and Sureya very generously allowed the tired and grumpy monkey to play with things she hadn't even had the chance to touch yet. What a sweetie.
All in all, Christmas came and went in a flash. But hey! It's a Tuesday, a work night, a school night. There were things to be done and dinner dishes to be cleaned and children to be put to bed. I just love that Christmas could even happen on a Tuesday night more than 2 weeks after the actual Christmas in Nicole's house.
Lest I sound like I'm judging in pointing out these differences in style, let me just say that I love every last thing about the way Nicole's family operates. I love everything that is the same and different about our families. And my life would be significantly altered, for the worse, if I didn't love and wasn't loved by them. They have been this incredible source of stability through all my unstable college days, through my numerous relationship ups and downs, and through my transition into something resembling adulthood.
Merry Christmas A/G clan!!!