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Christmas Morning Breakfast (12/25/08, midnight)

Last night at this time I was exhausted…sitting on the floor, surrounded by gifts I hadn’t yet wrapped and piles of gift wrap, one ear on the television and the other on the door to the hall, praying that the kids were asleep enough for me to be conducting this task.
“I’ll just tell them that this is stuff we got them if they do get up,” I told Duane as he lounged comfortably on his throne.
“Tell me again why you do this every single year?” he countered. He was referring of course, to our Christmas breakfast, preparations for which somehow always seem to rise to a crescendo. This year’s was a last-minute Christmas Eve mad dash that included having to make yet another Wal-Mart run (having forgotten Grandma’s gift card the day before), cleaning the floors and several other things that I just had to leave until right up to the minute before the in-laws cross the threshhold…otherwise they won’t look clean, preparing a breakfast feast for…oh, I don’t know, ten or twelve people, and then wrapping all the presents that I’ve been stockpiling for the last month.
The easy answer is because I am a procrastinator.
That’s not really the entire answer, though, because I have tons of reasons why these things had to be done on Christmas Eve. You obviously can’t prepare the meal any earlier. You can’t vaccuum and mop any earlier, or the floors will look like crud the next day. I should have wrapped the presents. Then again, I should have had my brain screwed on tightly so I wouldn’t have had to go back to Wal-Mart on Christmas Eve. Blah. Blah. Blah.
What Duane is really asking is why the big hoopla. Why get so stirred up. It’s one day, as I have heard him say repeatedly, over and over again. (Yes, I know that is redundant.) Some things really have no explanation, so I didn’t bother attempting it. After he had gone to bed, though, and I had finished polishing the water spots left by the dishwasher on my silverware (hello, Jet Dry), I wandered into the living room to start working on the kids’ Santa stash, having deemed it suitably late enough.
And there was my explanation. It’s after midnight. Most of the lights are out, except for those on the Christmas tree and a couple other little Charlie Brown trees that most people think are pretty ugly but I’m oddly attached to. I’m standing there, hands on hips, the arches in my feet aching, just plumb worn out, but it’s not fatigue that assaults me in the peace and quiet of this simple room, with its toys on the floor and pictures on the walls. It’s memories of past Christmas mornings, when the whole clan is piled into this house, showing off their Santa loot and clamoring for a plate or a glass of juice, or someone to shut-up-so-we-can-please-say-the-blessing-and-eat.
And it struck me: that’s it. That’s the why. Nothing really profound or prophetic. It’s tradition, though–building it, carrying it on, seeing it through, even when it’s a pain in the butt. Tradition helps you know that you can always go home, no matter how prodigal you’ve been, and because tradition has instituted familiarity…because you know how someone’s dimples will flash when he laughs, or how much pie a certain person will eat if given the chance, or how many different hair colors another someone has had…you know you’ll always be loved and accepted.
That, for me, is the why of it. It really has very little to do with breakfast.
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