It’s the time of year for family gatherings. The family that I used to spend Christmases with as a girl is scattered, some gone. My father succumbed to cancer nearly nineteen years ago. My eighty-five-year-old mother is lost in dementia. Years ago, one of my brothers estranged himself from the rest of the family. Another brother, whose sons are grown, has escaped the damp Seattle-Tacoma weather where I grew up to enjoy the drier climate of Montana. My sister and her husband recently moved from San Diego to Connecticut to be near his family. One brother still lives with his wife and daughter in Tucson and my fourth brother lives with his wife in San Diego where they take care of my mother.

Memories of Christmases past are distant and yet still clear: the midnight masses; the enormous Christmas trees that towered above me in our living room; the bright lights and tinsel that put me in a trance; the essence of hot apple cider; cutting snowflakes out of white paper; trimming the tree; wrapping gifts; hoping for a white Christmas that rarely came; waking up early; my dad goofing off while we unwrapped presents; hand drawing greeting cards for 150 of my closest friends; watching Rudolf and Charlie Brown’s Christmas specials; Roaring fires; The joy of getting what I wanted and the bummer of not.

With my new family, what I cherish most during this time of year is simply being together. Michael is buzzing around in the kitchen dry-brining a crown pork roast for tomorrow’s guests, making homemade eggnog with bourbon, chopping, dicing and sautéing vegetables, slicing potatoes and celery root, stirring a homemade ganache on the stove top to pour over ice cream later after devouring an herb-crusted rack of lamb, listening to music, relaxing in front of a fire.

Calvin happily spins in his jumper, at times poking his eye, at others giggling for no apparent reason. Today is day three so he is mostly content and quiet and I can get a tiny bit of writing done. He’s having seizures every eight or nine days lately—only at night—so he might make it through to the new year before his next one, perhaps longer if the CBD cannabis oil works better at a slightly higher dose. Nellie is curled up on her bed sleeping or sitting at the French doors fixated on squirrels.

Friends ask if we are going anywhere for the holidays. I tell them that we can’t board a plane with Calvin as long as he is taking cannabis oil for his epilepsy or unless the Feds take cannabis off of the list of schedule I drugs or legalize medical marijuana all together. Even if we drove across state lines with Calvin and his medicine we’d be breaking the law. Because of that and because Calvin is difficult to take anywhere without his special bed and without his industrial-sized johnny-jump-up, we stay put.

Tomorrow we’ll be hosting a few of our favorite misfits who, like us, don’t have family nearby, just like many of the guests my parents used to include for Christmas dinner when I was a kid. As far as I know, most of our guests, like us, don’t follow Christian doctrine, some of us don’t believe in God other than in the nature that surrounds us.

Today, it is dark and rainy outside just like most of the Christmases I remember from my childhood. I don’t miss the pomp and circumstance, I don’t miss the presents, the throngs of shoppers, the ridiculous materialism that has engulfed the holidays and caused so many to feel stressed or unprepared or overwhelmed. I don’t miss going to church and listening to priests. I do miss my dad and my mom, but they are here with me in the traditions we have chosen to carry on, which is to gather with friends, to share food and drink, to love, to laugh our asses off and to celebrate the advent of winter light.


  1. I am in a tearful mood, and this post restores me. The photo is so beautiful -- Merry Christmas to you and Michael and dear, beautiful Calvin!

  2. dear eee, thinking of you and yours. i love your family and think of you every day. glad this restored you. merry christmas. say hi to the gang. xoxoxoox