Outside the weather is miserable, foggy, wet, cold. The roads are slippery; the family members arriving for Christmas Eve festivities are late and later. Inside the tree is glowing, on the porch a bright white spiral tree, carefully fastened to the decking boards by Grandpa, shines against the black wet night. And there are the car headlights, turning down the laneway. They are here, they are safe. Christmas can begin.
A teenager tears through a pile of bags and boxes, all gifts of clothing to a boy whose wrists and ankles are showing below the hem of every garment he owns. The father, who chose the clothing, looks anxious. 'Hey, I really like it,' says the teen, unfeigned sincerity in the comment. Smiles, a subtle relaxation of the whole room.
'Mommy! Look. I got my own camera. It's a real camera. It's PINK!' Later Grama and Little Stuff huddle over the camera, exploring the knobs and buttons, trying things. Soon the camera will contain photos of noses and single eyes, Christmas tree ornaments and teenaged faces with bemused grins, a tilted festive table, some feet, some floorboards and half of Grama's face, eyes dark-pupiled from repeated flashes. Utter bliss.
Ten people fit around a green draped table, a table so loaded with dishes and platters that traffic directions are needed to pass the food around. Wine is a red glow in the new goblets. The platter of perfectly roasted turkey, anxiously assembled in the kitchen, steams with delicious scent. One of the guests is a graduate student from Japan and his face is bemused as he deftly fields bowls of glowing orange carrots, crisp baked potatoes, green Brussels sprouts, yellow beans, pitchers of gravy, bowls of garnished sour cream, of aspic, of jewel red cranberries. Later he comments that at home there is no such 'big food' celebration; it is observed that he has done justice to the feast and taken seconds of everything on offer. Then comes the cheese course, then a choice of pie and other sweets. Undaunted he samples the pumpkin and mince, a family tradition. And sticks, with the last bit of crust uneaten.
The floor is scattered with scraps of tissue paper and ribbon bows. The gift bags and boxes are empty and stacked in a pile ready to be stored until next year. Limp stockings hang abandoned on the stereo drawer knobs. The silent tree glows alone in the otherwise dark room, it's water dispenser giving an occasional soft glug. In every bed turkey stuffed revellers are sleeping, safe, warm, beloved. Christmas is over.