Winner-take-all on the waffles

I am thankful for kitty purrs and coconut-milk desserts and dinners with friends. I still love the feeling of driving over the I-55 bridge over the Mississippi River, and I still am secretly thrilled when Jeff approves of something that I do. I still can’t remember the name of all the reindeer without singing them, and I think it’s funny that this year is the first year, ever, that my father has put Christmas lights on his house.

I am thankful for the fact that I wake up each morning. Some days I realize just how much of a victory that alone is. I still wear my Santa hat almost every day in December, even though it squishes my bangs into funny shapes that I don’t quite get ironed out until January.

I still have one memory of Christmases past that is capable of making me cry.My grandfather made the best waffles. Ever. It was, simply, what was for breakfast on holidays. My cousins and I would fight over the waffles each year—though, in retrospect, it wasn’t much of a fight, because Clint always seemed to win every single time.

We would crowd around the kitchen table, adults and children alike, and it was winner-take-all on the waffles. There was no rank; it was just whoever had the luck, the timing, and the persistence to nab the waffles as my grandfather took them out of the waffle iron.

We weren’t above stealing waffles off of each other’s plates, either. I know I’ve had it done to me more than once.

I’ve been to the cemetery twice on this trip to Arkansas. The first time, I went there alone, at sunset on a rainy, foggy day. I knew that I wanted to shoot some photographs in the cemetery, but that Jeff would be with me when I did so. I needed to say and acknowledge some things in my heart, and I needed to do so alone.

Someone suggested to me this year that a way to make grief constructive is that for each time your mind reminds yourself of the grief about the loss of someone you cared about, to turn that on its head and think of one positive memory of their life. Instead of mourning their loss, celebrating their life and the experiences they shared with you.

I expect that my nephew will come barrelling into my parents’ house the moment he wakes up and can get his mother—my sister—out the door. We will open presents and thoroughly destroy my mother’s living room. I will sit back in the corner of the room, as I do every year. I’ve never been totally comfortable with my parents’ videotaping each Christmas, partly because I dislike being videotaped and partly because I know they get impatient with my slow, deliberate way of opening presents.

(Side note: my parents would love nothing better, I think, than to see me rip into my presents one Christmas morning. It just isn’t how I am.)

The gifts will be marveled at, played with, and tried on, and then we’ll pack up our things and drive the mile or so down the road to my grandmother’s. Where we’ll settle into the kitchen and have waffles.