The house smelled of pine, bayberry and bacon. My mouth watered, anticipating the feast promised by our hostess.
My husband and I settled in on the sofa to enjoy our new Christmas tradition with his daughter’s blended family. Kelly’s fiancé and her two college-aged kids sat at the dining room table. Alfredo’s two grade-schoolers bounced around the room, along with Kelly’s littlest one, navigating through the assortment of friends and relatives, curled up cross-legged on the floor in the crowded living room.
“We’ll serve brunch after we open the gifts,” said our hostess, wiping her hands on a dish towel.
Perfect. My morning coffee and toast should hold me while we unwrap a few presents.
I got up to greet a late arrival and nearly tripped over the avalanche of gifts fanning out beneath the tree in a wide semi-circle.
How will we ever get through that landslide of ribbons and reindeer wrap?
The room began to spin. Visions of syrup soaked waffles danced in my head.
Kelly motioned to her son. “Start handing out the gifts, Benny.” The lanky 20-year-old, sporting shaggy hair and a scruff of beard, ambled across the room and knelt on one side of the tree. He picked up a small gold package, and fiddled with the tag.
No one moved. The scent of apple cider simmering on the stove wafted through the room. My eye twitched.
I scanned the crush of teens and tweens scattered about.
Come on Janelle. What’s the holdup? Claim your prize.
“Janelle’s not coming,” Kelly said finally.
Seriously? There must be two dozen people crammed in here! This isn’t everybody?
“Give it to me,” she said, waving her hand. “I’ll keep hers over here.”
Our ersatz Santa reached down and picked up a box wrapped in snowman-themed paper. “Adela,” he announced, holding it over his head. Alfredo’s eight-year-old jumped up, grabbed the gift, and started ripping the paper.
“Wait,” her dad said. “Slow down. Who’s it from?”
Slow down? Are you kidding me? Have you seen that pile?
The grade schooler’s shoulders slumped. She found the tag on a scrap of paper. “Grandma Sosa.” Then she resumed paper ripping.
“A Barbie car!” She squealed!
My stomach somersaulted. It was time to get this party started.
“Benny, grab another gift,” I said, clapping my hands together. “Chop, chop.”
The next one was for Kelly from Alfredo. “I’ll open it later,” she said, taking it from Benny, a coy smile lighting her face.
Holy crap! I was trapped in a scene from It’s a Wonderful Life running in slow-mo. At this rate, I estimated the process would take the better part of two hours. About an hour and a half longer than my hunger could endure.
I felt myself slide off my perch and kneel in front of the tree. I snatched a gift from the pile and read the tag. “Benny,” I said, scooting it across the carpet to my grandson.
I picked up another one. “Adela,” I read. Spotting her just out of arm’s reach, I slid it across the coffee table behind me. She ran over just in time to snag it as it sailed off the end.
I read the next tag.
“Kelly, heads up.” She leaped over Adela just in time to grab the gift bag I lobbed in her direction.
Arm Chair QB
Determined to get through the cascade of presents before I succumbed to starvation, I scooped up gifts, and tossed them to their recipients like Colin Kaepernick throwing a Hail Mary.
Sensing my manic mood, the guests leaned in, their arms outstretched, ready to catch any airborne offering that came their way.
“Trina,” I said, not bothering to look up. My granddaughter jogged over to the tree. “And take this to Alfredo,” I said, handing her a ribboned Nordstrom box and a slender wine bag, silver tissue spiking out the top.
Adela and her little brother frantically tore at holly, elf and snowflake wrap with barely enough time to reveal the contents before intercepting the next forward pass.
Soon my voice turned raspy and my arms ached from all the name calling and gift pitching. I heard Alfredo shout, “Adela, hurry up. You’re falling behind.” Jarred from my famished frenzy by his remark, I realized it was time to take a break. We all took part in finishing the the gift distribution, then lined up in the kitchen to fill our plates with the festive offerings.
Funny thing, everyone insisted I go first.