Theresa arrived from Cincinnati a few minutes after the above photo, well in time to dig in with the rest of us.
After dinner we were all on the verge slipping into that paralyzing state of post-pig-out soporificity, but as Claire, Miguel and Theresa still had some important business at hand to attend to - namely, deciding what to do on Saturday and how to get Tommy (who wasn't able to make Friday night dinner) in on the plan, they decided to haul themselves up from the kitchen table and go for a walk.
A couple of turns around the 'hood turned out to be the very ticket, and after communicating with Tommy they were able to quickly reach a consensus on what they all wanted to do.
Claire and Miguel were thinking that they wanted to drive down to Chillicothe, Ohio, to visit the pre-historic Hopewell Indian Mounds, which are a national historical monument. Claire and Miguel have a goal to visit every one of our country's 300 national and monuments and have a National Parks passport that they get stamped for each site that they visit.
Theresa and Tommy also liked the idea of taking a day trip to visit the mounds so it was decided that that's what they'd do. But what they all agreed that they really wanted to do was start the day with the The Feast.
Now, The Feast is a family tradition that happens only once a year on Christmas morning. It's a big breakfast that we eat in the dining room with the unchanging, never-to-be-messed-with menu of scrambled egg, sausages, tater tots, toast, fruit salad, cinnamon rolls, orange juice, coffee, and/or tea. As our family doesn't exchange Christmas gifts anymore the preparation and subsequent relishment of The Feast defines Christmas morning for us. The meal is generally served at around 10 am and after it's finished Tom takes over the clean-up, I jump right into preparation for the day-after-Christmas family reunion I host every year, and everybody else, still tired from the late-night Christmas eve celebration, either sits around the family room playing Chinese Checkers, catches a nap on the couch, or just throws in the towel and goes back to bed. Later in the afternoon when everyone is sufficiently rested and the chores are done, we all head into the family room to watch the movie that has become our traditional family Christmas movie: "Tremors".*
My favorite" Tremors" scene: Reba McEntire and Michael Gross as a pair of gun nuts who finally get to use their arsenal against the giant worm-creatures invading their rec room.
But what the heck, I figured, Claire and Miguel won't be able to be here for Christmas this year since Claire has to work, so why not have The Feast now?
It was decided. The Feast would be served the next day, Saturday, at 10:00am.
I woke up early Saturday morning and zipped out to Krogers to buy the necessary provisions, and by 9:30 everybody was up and about their appointed tasks: Theresa making the eggs, Tom and Tommy setting the table, Claire and Miguel making the coffee, me doing everything else and overseeing the operation. As we were bustling around getting the big breakfast together, the thought struck me: it feels like Christmas.
As I stood at the head of the table while we offered a prayer of gratitude and thanksgiving I again thought to myself: this feels like Christmas.
As we dug into our Feast...
...missing Justin, Maria, Makaila and Sienna:
And after we'd eaten all we could and it was almost time for the kids to take off for the Hopewell Mounds, Tom to clean up and me to start planning the evening meal I thought, this truly feels just like Christmas. But without all the weeks of planning, work, expense, and stress.
And that's when I realized that this is what Christmas is for me: Having people I love sitting around this table sharing this meal and wishing that everyone I loved could be here.
Later that afternoon when the kids returned from their day trip, Tommy had to leave but Claire, Miguel and Theresa settled into the family room to watch "Tremors".