Christmas 2008 was on a Thursday. I know this because in the early hours of Jesus' birthday my great grandmother left us to meet him in person. What I'm trying to say but hate to say is that my "Nonnie" died on fucking Christmas.
After living an entire century and spending only the last five years of her enormous life trapped in a mind no longer suitable, my great grandmother gasped at the gray morning, then she was gone. My 80-year-old grandmother, who'd been taking care of Nonnie, craddled her "mother, dear" as sirens caroled outside.
My phone rang hours later and I knew it was bad news. I can't tell you how I knew. Why I didn't assume it was someone calling to wish me a Merry Christmas and not my mother's shaky voice. I just knew.
I hadn't planned on spending that Christmas with my family at all. I'd just sold a book, moved out of my basement apartment and bought a grown up couch covered in Microsuede. These were my gifts to myself -- adulthood. And an adult doesn't have to go "home" for the holidays I thought. Wasn't I home already?
Where's the line between settling someplace and being from another? When do you decide to stop weather-vaning your way through a decade and plant whatever roots are supposed to grow from graduate degrees?
All those questions were answered when my great grandmother died on Christmas morning. I was going HOME.
Funerals suck ass and that's all I can really say about that. I've been to four in my lifetime and I don't want to go to any more ever. But that's ridiculous.
Obviously there'll come a time when funerals replace weddings as the shit I need to save up for to see a bunch of people I sort of hate weekend getaway. But for now I'd like to forget that funerals are a thing, that the people I love will never get old or simply tired of living.
Unfortunately every Christmas I'm reminded of the lies adults tell. Screw Santa Claus, I'm talking about life, people.
Like child birth and high school, forgetfullness is a gift when it comes to business of being an active member of human kind.
I'm talking about making new friends, loving somebody, pouring your grandmother's coffee, napping in your great grandmother's enormous bed, un-doing your mother's tangled curlers.
There's an ephemeral after-taste. A tiny hint of "What's gonna happen when this person leaves?" that can stop the most congenial of us in our tracks like a scent hound. Then it's gone, we forget and hopefully keep putting ourselves out there.
So Christmas can be tough for the Andrews clan. For years we were spoiled with the knowledge that five, then very briefly six, generations of us stalked the earth at any given time. We gorged and got fat off of that invisible surplus.
Yesterday my grandmother said to my boyfriend, "We've got to try hard to feel a certain type of way around here on the holidays."
She was trying to explain why there were so many people in the house. But eventually she was drowned out by the laughter and the shouting, the clinking of dishes and retelling of stories, suggesting we don't have to try at all.