As you may have surmised over the last several years of reading my blog, I’m from a large, Irish Catholic family. How large? As my name atop this blog suggests, I am the eighth child out of nine born to my parents. In contrast, my hubby is the second born of three. When my five brothers, their wives and children along with my three sisters, their husbands and children meet up with me, the hub, doll and bay–all in one place, the number usually reaches somewhere to around sixty people (give or take a few).
The only time we ever get close to 100% participation of all families is Christmas.
This year, our family decided that since we have become so big, putting the burden on one family to host and then clean up was too much. Instead, the decision was made to rent someplace and work together to ensure no one person/family was left to clean up after us. So this year, our annual celebration of love and family took place inside a downtown art gallery aptly named, The Shared Lives Studio.
The number one rule when my entire family gets together is chaos usually rules and believe you me, there was plenty of chaos present that night. My older sister Terri, whom we affectionately and aptly refer to as “The Queen”, noticed a smell coming from the foyer and discovered a gift bag, apparently discarded by one of the kids during the gift exchange, smoldering atop tealight candles.
Disaster, thankfully averted.
My nephew Ben, who recently graduated with a degree in Music-jazz, invited a couple of buddies with nothing else to do, to come and entertain us with Christmas jazz, while we mingled, visited and ate our buffet style dinner. How many other families can say that?
The adults in the family do not exchange presents, but kids under the age of 18 do. This year however, my nephew Patrick approached me at Thanksgiving and asked if he could give the boy his old Xbox 360 system, he no longer played including all the games. To say he was surprised and happy, would be an understatement. Already, I am regretting my decision to allow the system, based on the amount of time the boy has spent (happily) playing the games.
During our annual family white elephant exchange, while the boy and my doll played along, I snuck away and began gathering the many discarded paper plates and empty bottles to throw away, so the families who volunteered to stay late and clean up, wouldn’t be there too late. When the exchange had come to an end, my doll and niece Jessica were declared the big winners, each coming home with something they both truly wanted…? A Superman robe, cape and underwear (Jessica) and Bunny pajamas a la The Christmas Story, for the doll.
Shortly thereafter, the annual cheesy treats were passed out and we all complained of the additional calories we are adding to our already full bellies. Then Ben and his buddies resumed playing and over the next hour, the crowd slowly began to thin out.
I have to say, this year was one of our better Christmas eve celebrations if you ask me, surrounded by our mutual respect and shared loved for one another in the beautifully decorated and aptly named, Shared Lives Studio.