O Christmas. The beloved winter holiday with potential to be the most wonderful time of the year. And sometimes it is. Time with family and friends. A beautiful exchange of thoughtful gifts. But disappointment runs large when expectations are high. And when you pay to fly across the country to watch your younger brother shrug at the extremely thoughtful gift you researched and purchased, the whole season can feel slightly deflating.

For me, the time leading up to the big day is always the most special. Memories made in the planning, rather than the exchange. The shopping trips, lunch breaks, neighborhood strolls to compare lights - spiked cocoa in hand. The belly laughs from recalling old stories and watching A Christmas Story on ABC for the 100th time.

It fills my heart, as much as it fills my glass. Which is practically overflowing as we get closer to the main event. Family begins to occupy the guest rooms and space gets tight. In the literal and figurative sense of the word. My grandmother’s ego alone leaves no space for anyone else. Her new book, The 60 Minute Man, hadn’t quite made the best-seller list, but you would have never known by the boastful comments and critically acclaimed self review. Who would have thought a book of foreplay ideas targeted to over sexualized senior citizens waiting for the little blue pill to kick in wouldn’t be more widely relatable? (Signed copies available this holiday season for whoever is interested).

A warm blanket of alcohol protects from the cold as much as it protects against underhanded blows over dinner. It makes stories from the uncle you only see once a year bearable and helps curb political debates before they become a special edition episode of Jerry Springer - stuck up old white people without manners.

This year, I left the familiar chaos for something almost more perilous - the unknown. My boyfriend and I were spending our first Christmas together. We had experienced a lot of time with each other’s families, and perhaps mine is the only one who changes direction faster than the tide, but the anticipation was filled with both excitement and anxiety.

As I sit on a worn leather couch on the big day, discarded wrapping paper at my feet, reflecting on the weekend, all I feel is warmth. From the bellies of babies pressed against mine as they slept in drool stained santa outfits. From the tamales at Christmas Eve dinner to my flushed face as I tried to use my best spanish salutations for hello and goodbye. More than anything, the kindness and embrace of everyone I met and spent time with.

New traditions were the best gift I received this Christmas. And a deeper more meaningful appreciation for my own. I’ll still fill my glass, this time to uncynically toast the most wonderful time of the year. 

Chelsie Fish

Slightly exaggerated stories of love, life and travel.