Merry Christmas

Though I don’t prescribe to any particular religion, I grew up celebrating Christmas with many customs not at all related to Christianity and church. And, over the years, I gathered many customs of my own–some intentional, others accidentally so.

Like the one I’ll perform just before I go to bed tonight–when I turn out all the lights but those on the tree, and sit in front of it so that it completely fills my vision. I so love the lights and the smells of the holiday time, and it’s like one concentrated gaze. I try to capture it on film, but it’s elusive, and only really present this one night out of the year. Christmas magic, I suppose, if there is such a thing.

And this year’s celebration marks many new things–being here, in this house, for starters. I had my family and friends over for Christmas Eve dinner, and we sat in my living room and gazed at the tree. My father channel-surfed and my brother played with the cats while my mother and I put together dinner. I had a ham, and the rosemary almond chicken salad my mom likes so much. Mom made biscuits, and M and I had made a huge pot of French Onion soup the day before. Dad had made crab dip, and Mom brought along potato salad and unbrandied fruit. Another of our family traditions? The cook always forgets something. We’ve had apple-less Cranberry Apple, marshmallow-less fluff, and many a side dish has gone missing. This year, the fruit didn’t get boozed up and the asparagus is still in the crisper drawer. C’est la’vie.

We made a fair dent in the grub and the leftovers got dispersed at least a little bit. (Though if anybody likes ham, come to dinner!) We nursed coffee and the occasional cookie back around the tree. I got a bit of knitting done while everyone chatted. My brother had brought over several gifts for the cats, and he put them to good use. The laser pointer was a particular success, as Dorien scaled furniture, people, and vertical surfaces in its pursuit. As 2 cats–or, really, one cat, my brother, and a laser pointer–are a complete entertainment system, that’s pretty much what we did the rest of the night. It was a lovely, quiet evening.

Dorien is currently sacked out on the couch, limbs splayed, with his tongue hanging out. I’ve never seen him so exhausted.

And that? A new tradition. I imagine we will trade off since we all have our own houses now. I like that my parents understand what it is to have your own house and your own life, and to want to make that house a home by having those special times in it. I don’t want my house to just be the place I sleep and where all my stuff lives. I want it to be where I’ve lived–where my friends come and celebrate, and where my family gathers. So that important memories seep into it, and it becomes more than just a place.

My mom’s friend said something this evening, as we were settling in after dinner. She remarked that the house felt wonderfully friendly, and that she felt comfortable here, and welcome. She complimented the furniture (Thanks, S&S!), and the cats (who were really on their best and most adorable behavior), and the food and decoration. I could see my mother beaming in the background.

I love my house–it is my home. And now I know… even near strangers can come inside, and find it a pleasant respite–lived-in, loved, and beautiful. How cool is that? And how damnably domestic?

The photos

Another holiday tradition: I always seem to use some of the extra time around the holidays to play with the newest or nearest available camera toy. This year is no exception. My recently-purchased Canon is getting a workout, finally, in manual mode and I think the product is improving. Or at least getting weirder–you be the judge.

Christmas tree: Woo, long exposure times. A steady hand and the right slow movement can give you neat ghosted images.

AllCats: For the missus. And other cat-lovers. AllCats claimed this blanket long ago; I think it once belonged to K. Sorry K, what can I say? She’s a thief.

The all-seeing eye: Macro macro macro. Narrow down the aperture and hold on tight. This is a favorite ornament on the tree–a weird glass eyeball that I got from the gift swap at work. Our big boss… has delightfully strange gifting habits.

Dorien: The cats, they get equal billing. A sunshine shot. Handsome devil, ain’t he?

Christmas tree: 15 second exposure, moving camera, dark room. Whee!

Cooooookies: Macro again, to get every grain of shiny suger. These are the incredible gingersnaps of lore.

Hung by the chimney: That’s my stocking. It won’t be filled this year (unless the cats get use of their thumbs overnight), but my childhood felt sock will be full to bursting on the fireplace at my parent’s house tomorrow.

And I suppose I must sleep before then. Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

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