Remember the Christmas when Grandma had a little too much to drink? Big brother Mike's surprise visit from overseas? The time everyone was stuck in a blizzard?
As we grow older, we mark the passing years with events rather than numbers. Christmas makes a convenient bookmark and helps us break the merging years into compartments. Happy ones, sad ones, lonely ones and often hilarious ones.
My French Canadian family always got together for Christmas Eve. This usually involved an overnight trip to Hamilton, where one of my dad's many siblings hosted the event.
I remember the year my sister invited her boyfriend and his best friend to accompany us to the extended family Christmas in Hamilton. Ken wasn't there five minutes when he knocked a display of knick knacks off the wall and shouted, "It wasn't me!" before the crash on the floor.
Once, my parents hosted in the house I now own. The tree was in the family room, and Dad had a swivel rocker beside the tree. My aunt leaned back a little too far and flipped backwards into the tree, her legs in the air.
There was the year I writhed in pain with a bad bout of the flu. I lay in my cousin's bed, wracked with pain while my dad sat on the edge of the bed stroking my forehead and murmuring, "I hate to see you like this."
There was the year my great uncle Edgar told a story in his heavy French accent about sneaking his buddies from The Legion into the apartment for a party while his wife was away. They burned a hole in the carpet and he tried to cover it up with fibre shavings and glue. When she 'got out the Hoover' and vacuumed up the patch, she was convinced the carpet was defective and had it torn out and returned to the store.
I remember my cousins and I playing ping pong in Uncle Eric's basement (which was perpetually decorated for Christmas - even in July). We talked about our crushes while our parents shouted "Yatzee!" in the dining room upstairs until the wee hours of Christmas morning.
After the cousins grew and nurtured their own families, we still got together a couple of weeks before Christmas. All the aunts and uncles and many cousins smoked like chimneys in Uncle Tony's farmhouse basement while little ones ran around, jumping on the furniture.
In recent years, Christmas has been celebrated in turn at my siblings' and inlaws' homes. We've had our own 'comedies of errors' like the time my brother in law overcooked the Christmas goose while waiting for my husband to arrive with his mother - many hours late. We ate the burned goose and invited Victor from next door to play his accordion. My sister and I ran outside to watch dancing shadows spill from the dining room window, across the sparkling snow.
Today I'll be vacuuming up dog hairs and peeling vegetables in preparation for my siblings to visit this house, the one we grew up in. I hope we create many memories here for ourselves, our grown children and their future families.
We'll be missing some key members of the family - my parents are on either end of the country, celebrating with their friends and loved ones but we'll be in their hearts and they'll be in ours. My husband's family is no longer with us, but we'll remember the great meals Nana made and the silly songs Grandpa sang.
My sister in law's family will be in Cuba, likely starting a tradition of their own.
Happy Holidays to all of you, and may 2010 be a stellar year or everyone.