Tonight was Brennan Family Christmas. This has been a tradition in my mother's family since before I can remember. Always, ALWAYS the weekend before Christmas- mom, her sisters, and all my crazy cousins get together for a weekend of shopping, eating, drinking (drinking), and being Merry & Bright.
A long time ago, Big Dad told His Girls that he did not care when he saw them during the holidays, he just wanted to see them all together. He understood what it was like to grow up, have a family... and a life outside of the childhood home. When all of the Brennan Girls were married and off in their own part of the state, he asked, just asked, if they could make it back home the weekend before Christmas to be together as a family.
He bribed them with good food (beef tenderloin), good spirits, good presents, but mostly- just good times with the family.
He had an easy time convincing them.
And 8 turned into 16 in the blink of an eye. Those 16 are now 26 with 2 en route with summer arrival dates. And we all squeeze into a living room, with a Christmas tree, and share each other & our family. The room is different, Big Dad & Millie moved from Powder Horn Road to Poindexter, and then Big Dad could not have us all over to his house anymore-- this tradition had to be moved, first to Helen's home, then to Mama's-- but the time, the good times, are still the same. Those under 15 still run around gathering up the adults to open presents. Those over 40 (now 50) dragging their feet at the dining room table, sharing one more glass of red wine & one more Christmas story about which sister snuck out when and did what. Or my favorite-- a story about Uncle Nick who passed in 2001, a quiet enigma in my mind. They all are.
Before every Christmas dinner, Big Dad returns thanks to the Big Guy Upstairs looking out for every one of us. Every year I hold my breath & hope, just hope, that he will give the traditional Catholic Blessing- the one I grew up with, the one I taught my Protestant husband, the one that I think is the most perfect, most all encompassing prayer. This year, I am sad to report that he did not do my favorite blessing; he did His Prayer that he does when there is even just one Protestant in the room and it starts with, "All Mighty & Eternal God..." and goes from there.
My blessing, the one that I remember hearing when I was wrapped up in my dad's arms, or holding my aunt's hand in a circle around the white formica bar in that little home with the green carpet straight from 1963-- perfect for any grandparents home, is what I will always carry with me. My blessing is what I said every school day at 11:50 from Kindergarten through sixth grade in my small uniform at that little parochial school on Monte Sano Ave, a stone's throw from our current residence.
Bless us, Oh Lord
In these thy gifts
Which we are about to receive
From Thy bounty
Through Christ, Our Lord