Christmas Eve and Christmas Day 2021

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (American Christmas, that is) at the Sharpmans are super, super quiet. One of the cool things about the family keeping Armenian Christmas is that everyone who works for the Sharpmans can get regular Christmas off. That includes Belen (who goes to her family and makes tamales), Ethan, Sandy and the whole crew. So it was dang quiet when I woke up Christmas Eve day, which was the legal holiday for Christmas. It was gray and kinda rainy outside, not the sort of day that makes you want to leap out of bed, so I didn’t. The boys came in to get me while I was still in bed, although I was officially off-duty. Truth is, I didn’t have that much to do, besides wrap a few presents for the next day at Joyce’s, and I figured the boys could help with that.

Maya was downstairs having breakfast when we came in, and she scolded the kids for making me work on my day off.

“If they get to be too much for you, just let me know. Robert and I will find an activity for them.”

That didn’t prove necessary. Me and the boys had a good game of Monopoly – Matteo actually won, which they could tell pissed me off lol – and then we did my presents. Then it was time for me to head over to church – yeah, we’re back to having public services again, and not a moment too soon. The sermon, which was about the shepherds and why it was that they were the first to find out about the birth of Jesus, was ok, maybe not the greatest I’ve ever heard, but I’m still enjoying just being able to go to church again. And the music was awesome, although it sucks that you can’t join with the choir when you’re wearing one of those lameass masks.

After church, I headed over to Keaton’s, where I was spending Christmas Eve. Joyce said she was going to be too busy getting ready for Christmas dinner to “entertain” me, so I decided I’d go over to Keaton’s and hang out. Travis was at his parents’, so it was just the two of us and some Wingstop. Keaton did a great job of holiday decorating, so his apartment was a great place to spend Christmas Eve.

Christmas morning the weather was gray, rainy and cold. And again it was the boys who woke me up.

“Merry Christmas!,” they said, together. “There’s something for you in the other room.”

“I don’t need to worry about setting an alarm with y’all,” I said.

“It’s 10 o’clock already!,” Jacob said.

“Oh,” I said. “Y’all know that sometimes adults like to sleep in, right? And I was having such a weird and vivid dream…”

“What was it about?,” Matteo asked. “Santa Claus?”

“No…but I think there was the Sugarplum Fairy or something.”

“Who’s the Sugarplum Fairy?,” asked Jacob.

“What’s a sugarplum?,” asked Matteo, maybe more to the point.

“I don’t know.”

“They were in your dream…”

“Yeah…but didn’t you ever have a dream you didn’t understand?”

“I…guess…,” said Matteo, not sounding very convinced. “But come see your stocking.”

“You ruined the surprise,” said Jacob.

“I reckon the surprise is what’s in the stocking,” I said. “It doesn’t take too much guessing to figure out that you’re getting a stocking on Christmas morning.”

By that point, I was out of bed and in my robe over my Christmas pajamas.

“Wait a second,” said Jacob. “Let’s see the pajamas.”

“Here goes,” I said, opening the robe to get a good look. They were pretty restrained for Christmas pajamas, just a bright red and green plaid. Mom sent them in an “open before Christmas” box with a note saying that, even if we were all going to be separated this Christmas, we could still all have the same pajamas. Mom didn’t send me the top, since she knows I like to sleep in tshirts…and I had a bright red one that Keaton says looks gay but which matched the bottoms perfectly.

“That’s not too bad. Wait ‘til you see the ones Mom got for us this year,” said Jacob. “And don’t forget we have to wear ours on TV.”

I laughed, tied my robe, and headed out to see what was in my stocking. Although it’s not Christmas for the boys until the 6th of January, they know that’s kinda weird, and, like last year, they explained that that they didn’t want me to feel left out on “my” Christmas. Last year, they got me an awesome Peanuts nativity set that I’ve got set up under my tree along with a stocking. This year, there was just the stocking.

“We’re keeping your real present until Armenian Christmas,” Matteo said. “That way you can open it on TV.”

The stocking was brimming over with stuff.

“We went easy on the chocolate,” Matteo explained. “We know how important it is that you look good without your shirt on.”

I burst out laughing at that one. I did get a marshmallow Santa, however, along with some Reese’s trees; it wouldn’t be Christmas with out those. There was a whole mess of other stuff, though, including a bunch of gift cards, one for Big 5 Sporting Goods, one for Amazon (can’t go wrong with that) and one for Baskin Robbins (I guess they weren’t that worried about my abs after all lol.) Each of those came in its own cool gift card holder. There was also this funny-looking elf/dwarf/gnome dude who got a place of honor under the tree.

It was a good day to sit home and drink hot chocolate, which is what I made me and the boys for breakfast. (Y’all may not believe it, but Belen showed me how to make the Mexican hot chocolate and get it to be all foamy, so I made us some of that. No more of the stuff out of packets for me now.)

“What kind of plans do y’all have for today?”

“Mom got us a whole mess of Christmas movies. They’re probably retarded,” Jacob said.

“But we’re having pizza for dinner,” said Matteo. The kid really does love pizza (ok, what kid doesn’t?), and we send out for food very, very rarely at the Sharpmans.

Then Robert came into the kitchen for coffee and it was his turn to scold the boys for “bothering Hunter on his day off” – not that I minded. I mean, they got me that awesome stocking, and I’d otherwise have been having breakfast by myself. But I did have to call home before getting dressed to go to Joyce’s.

The news from home was that Mom and Dad were having a super quiet Christmas, with just Meemaw and Cordelia. Dad and Portia’s Muslim and socialist boyfriend don’t get on (ok, that’s an understatement), so she went to his family this year (Dad: “I don’t see why a Muslim would be celebrating Christmas.”) Elizabeth once again didn’t make the trip down with her daughter, and I’m in California…so it was just the four of them. Mom was even going to make just a turkey breast, but, when she mentioned it, suddenly everyone said they liked dark meat better. Meemaw only baked one pie (apple) this year, and I could tell everyone thought it was a little lonely just being them.

Then it was time to get ready to go to Joyce’s. Once again she said we should come in ugly sweaters, so I went shopping online and got a Dodgers one in blue, which has two big reindeer on either side of a big baseball with the Dodgers logo. Kinda like it’s a coat of arms. I thought it was pretty funny. And, yeah, I made sure to get it in blue, even if blue’s the obvious color to get a Dodgers sweater in: we’ve been going out for a few years now, but Joyce still likes to see me in blue as much as possible.

Joyce made her own sweater again this year (Joyce: “since I learned to knit during the lockdown, I’m glad to get to use my skills”), and it was unusually done in pastel colors and a really soft wool that made me jealous because my Dodgers sweater was a little itchy. It was a very unusual ugly sweater, and not at all ugly. I don’t think Joyce could craft something ugly if she wanted to.

The table was spectacular, even by Joyce’s standards. She made it look like a giant present with a great big red bow in the center – I’m not doing it justice, but she basically wrapped the whole dining room table. Everyone thought it was incredible…and all the other decorations where there too, like the individual terra cotta pots that indicated whose place was whose because (for example), mine had a lot of miniature baseball gear and Keaton’s had cowboy boots and a miniature map of Texas.

The guests were the same as Thanksgiving: Keaton, Mrs. LaSalle and Travis. Travis spent Christmas Eve with his family, and said it wasn’t as big a trigger as he was afraid it might be, but that he was glad to be with us for Christmas Day. It’s not that he hates his family or that he’s estranged from them, but he’s been through a lot, and I get the feeling that they don’t really understand that. He says that they still treat him like the “family fuck-up” when he’s done all this work on himself which his parents (and even Dylan) don’t appreciate fully. I’ve seen Travis at his lowest points and, let me tell you, he’s a changed person since two Christmases ago when me and Keaton had to go ‘rescue’ him from Dylan’s wedding. He’s got a whole new outlook on life: he sees things positively, his moods don’t seem extreme (he’s not getting involved with sketchy chicks named Lola he picked up at a park in El Monte lol), and, most of all, I get the feeling that Travis is starting to like himself and get some self-confidence going. That’s super important for anyone, but especially for someone with Travis’ history.

Keaton pulled up with Mrs. LaSalle and Travis. Keaton, as always, brought a casserole of his Texas chili, heat toned down for non-Texans. (I keep telling him he can make the real version now that me and Joyce have had the gringoass version enough times, but he keeps telling me that you need to be Texan to handle it. I eat plenty of Belen’s spicy food, but Keaton refuses to admit that qualifies me to eat real Texas chili.)

Joyce made the egg nog with brandy this year. It wasn’t strong at all, and Travis is now on meds that he can drink with (Travis: “my psychiatrist says ‘in moderation’…but I was never a big drinker anyway”)…and Joyce even admitted that the alcoholic version tastes better than the non-alcoholic version, which she says is way too sweet, especially before dinner. Travis passed on a beer with dinner, though, and had a Mexican Coke along with Joyce, while Joyce provided as always a bottle of wine for Mrs. LaSalle, who seems to know a lot about it without being obnoxious like some wine experts are (Mrs. LaSalle: “most oenophiles are idiots – and there’s a new word for your blog, Hunter.”)

Dinner was almost the same as Thanksgiving, although Joyce added chestnuts to the dressing this time, which she says is how her mom used to make it, and she started the meal with a crab bisque that she said took her hours and hours to make. It was bombass, though…although I think Joyce thought we all ate it too quickly instead of savoring every spoonful. I told her that I thought she liked me and my friends’ appetites, but she said that a little moderation never hurt. For dessert, Mrs. LaSalle made 3 pies again, even though there were only 5 of us (Mrs. LaSalle: “I’m getting the hang of pie baking”): pumpkin (because Travis said he liked it at Thanksgiving) and lemon meringue and banana cream. Mrs. LaSalle made it very clear that the last two had regular pie crust bases…and told me to thank Meemaw again for her help. It seems that they had a whole Zoom call about rolling out pie crust and that Lucinda much appreciated Mrs. LaSalle’s not having made the floury mess she made last year.

It was a super chill and super enjoyable Christmas dinner. Joyce’s food was totally on point, the pies were awesome (even the pumpkin, although this time my favorite was the banana cream), and everyone was very full and, I think, very happy when we went to the living room for after-dinner coffee (Joyce said we were having ‘coffee in the drawing room’ like they do at Justen and Luke’s) and to open presents.

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