It’s my first Christmas living back at home, and the weeks leading up to the big event have been decidedly different.
It seems like I was just in Columbia, Mo., doing white Christmases at the Kappa House with four fully-decked out Christmas trees (and a solitary dreidel and menorah on a corner table for our far-outnumbered Jewish members).
Donny, Dennis and Jim — our house staff — had the sprawling columned house decked out with white lights and garlands, and were constantly serving up plates of cookies to decorate with every color of icing and accoutrement imaginable.
Dennis has been with Kappa for 35 years, and the transformation that house underwent every year at his hands after the Thanksgiving break was totally breathtaking. I don’t need my heater often in Houston, but when it acts up like it did at school, I wish I could hear him bellow “Man on the floor!” and come to my room to fix it.
Christmastime at home is a little different. There is no staff to look after us four girls like there was to keep up with the 89 back at school. We have one tree and it’s a palm (my mom thinks it’s kitschy). Our lights just went up last week.
I can guarantee that as I sit writing this column on Christmas Eve, my family is maniacally wrapping presents and distributing them under the canopy of artificial palm fronds littered with mismatched ornaments. We’re not experts in the kitchen, either. Our favorite dish to make is a peppermint ice cream cake, solely because it involves hammering peppermints (literally) into smithereens.
My real house is messy and so is my family. Everyone is always yelling and interrupting each other and someone is always, always, in crisis. My mom has always said that a mother can only be as happy as her least happy child, and I think it's true. It's definitely true for her.
She's got all three of us under her roof now for an unlikely period. One sister is on the brink of high school, one's on the brink of college, and one (me) tumbled back into their lives. I ended up back in my old room after a series of events that can only be called unfortunate.
But this Christmas morning, under our festive palm tree amid the chaos, I know I'll feel lucky to be home.