All my life, I have been a child at Christmas. Asking a blessing is typically an honor that falls to a father, or a grandparent. I am neither.

Family is all around me. Children screaming. Adults laughing, telling the same worn-out stories they tell every year. A lit tree. Bing Crosby on a radio.

We are celebrating the holiday with extended family. We do this every year. It’s a way to commune together, eat lots of food, and to try to have a good a old-fashioned nervous breakdown.

My elderly aunt made me swear not to use real names if I wrote about these people, to protect the privacy of those implicated.

Of course, she is mainly concerned about my uncle—who we’ll call “Otis.” He worries her around the holidays.

Let’s just say that Otis loves a good party. In fact, he starts practicing for Christmas around early March.

Nobody will ever forget the Christmas he stood before an in-ground swimming pool, singing “YMCA,” then did a belly flop, only to find out the pool had been drained for winter.

This afternoon, my wife and I wandered through Aunt Bea’s door carrying casseroles. We were greeted with hugs from white-haired women who smell like Estee Lauder and wear polyester blouses.

I brought gifts for the kids, a tradition in my family. Ever since childhood, for as far back as anyone remembers, uncles and aunts have been demonstrating affection for children by purchasing heartfelt gifts that were on clearance at TJ Maxx.

Last year, for instance, I bought my cousin’s kids some patriotic tableware, and gluten-free breadsticks from the dollar bin at Marshalls. They haven’t spoken to me since.

My aunt’s house is decorated to the hilt. In her kitchen, tables are weighted with more food than I’ve ever seen.

This brings back good memories. Memories of casseroles, backyard games of Red Rover, twinkling lights. And my uncle Bill, carrying me on his shoulders, parading me through the house, asking if I’d been a “good boy this year.”

“Yeah, I’ve been good!” I’d shout.

“Well, I have a present for you,” he would whisper. “But you can’t tell your aunt about it.”

“Oh boy!” I would say. “What is it?”

He would present his hand to me. “Pull my finger to find out.”

Speaking of uncles, right now they’re all in the den, drinking Uncle Otis’ spiked eggnog. They are gradually falling into a stupor before the television.

Cousin Floyd has already had three cups and is outside playing tag with the kids. Floyd runs in lazy zig-zags, and has been “it” for nearly an hour and forty-five minutes.

Anyway, the whole place is buzzing. Women are in the kitchen, rushing from counter to counter. Children race around furniture, strung out on sugar. My cousin Cheryl’s dog is committing a Biblical act upon my leg.

Soon, it’s time for supper. And this means we gather into one room and hold hands around my aunt’s table. We form a human chain. And I am taken back in time.

I remember when I was a boy. I remember how my father would invoke the blessing the same way each year: “Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest, and let these gifts to us be blessed.”

It’s been awhile since I last heard that prayer.

I have memories of sitting at the kids’ table, eating seconds, and thirds, sometimes fourths. And I remember the blessed women who would always bring sweet potato pies—shut my mouth. These are memories you couldn’t pay me a million dollars to part with.

Aunt Bea elbows me. “Would you ask the blessing?”

“Me?” I say.

“Yes, YOU.”

All my life, I have been a child at Christmas. Asking a blessing is typically an honor that falls to a father, or a grandparent. I am neither.

People smile at me and bow their heads. Uncle Otis hiccups.

She nudges me again. “Go on, say a prayer.”

I am at a loss for words. There is silence around the table. And it’s hard not to think about the past right now. It’s hard not to recall all the people we’ve lost over the years. It’s hard not to feel a little choked up.

Then, the words sort of fall from my mouth:

“Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest, and let these gifts to us be blessed.”

Everyone closes with “Amen.” We eat casseroles, Virginia ham, and potatoes. The memories are so thick we have to swat them away like gnats.

After the table is cleared and the dishes are washed, my aunt finds me sitting on the porch. I am overlooking kids, running through the colors of dusk, laughing.

I love to watch children play. Children still believe they have a million years left to live. If only that were true.

“Life moves so fast,” my aunt says. “Doesn’t it?”

She’s right. And it’s not slowing down. But the faster it gets, the more beautiful it becomes to me.

Merry Christmas to you and your family this year.

Someone please keep Uncle Otis away from the swimming pool.

27 comments

  1. Sandi in FL. - December 23, 2018 7:34 am

    Run through “the colors of dusk” again with those children, Sean! Christmas cheer and bountiful blessings to you and your kin.

    Reply
  2. Mary Talton - December 23, 2018 9:34 am

    Everyone is “the best” yet!!!!! Thanks Sean, Merry CHRISTmas!!!!!!!

    Reply
  3. Velva Jones - December 23, 2018 9:37 am

    I’m so thankful I discovered your writings! I eagerly await each morning to read your post. It starts my day in a positive and thankful manner. Thankful for a talented Southern writer that fires my memories and imagination! Merry Christmas and God Bless Us Everyone!

    Reply
  4. Elaine Stroff - December 23, 2018 10:29 am

    When I was young, we used to pray, “Come Lord Jesus, be our guest. Let this food to us be blessed. Our hands we fold, our heads we bow. For food and drink, we thank Thee now. Ahhh-men!”

    Reply
  5. Marilyn Vance - December 23, 2018 10:58 am

    There was no eggnog at our North Alabama Christmas table, but everybody was laughing, talking at once and everybody knew what the other said, always ending with the families around the piano, singing. We had our ‘Uncle Otis’ though, and tried to keep him from making too many trips to the barn…….Merry Christmas and sweet memories to you, Jamie and the pups!

    Reply
  6. Kelly - December 23, 2018 11:15 am

    Merry Christmas!

    Reply
  7. Jean - December 23, 2018 11:34 am

    Christmas is made of sweet memories. Many of ours sound alike. Merry Christmas!

    Reply
  8. Nancy - December 23, 2018 11:54 am

    I’m a Yankee who has lived in Alabama for the past 30 years and Christmas up north was basically the same when I was a child. My Dad said the same exact “Come Lord Jesus…” blessing and I got the same present pulling his finger! We are more blessed as every year slips by. Merry Christmas Sean, Jamie and pups!

    Reply
  9. Bobbie - December 23, 2018 1:29 pm

    Merry Christmas, Sean!

    Reply
  10. Janet Gray - December 23, 2018 1:33 pm

    Merry Christmas Sean. Thank you for the wonderful gift. I look forward to reading everyday. Your friend ,Janet, in South Georgia

    Reply
  11. Sherrie Kulwicki - December 23, 2018 1:33 pm

    You are a gift Sean. Merry Christmas.

    Reply
  12. Susan Self - December 23, 2018 1:41 pm

    Merry Christmas Sean. You have been a gift each and every time I read your heart given words. Thank you.

    Reply
  13. Connie Havard Ryland - December 23, 2018 1:43 pm

    Beautiful words today, bringing back wonderful memories while sharing yours. God bless you and Jamie. Merry Christmas.

    Reply
  14. Debbie Britt - December 23, 2018 2:49 pm

    You bring the past back alive! Merry Christmas!

    Reply
  15. Helene - December 23, 2018 2:54 pm

    What a wonderful blessing! Merry Christmas to you and yours!

    Reply
  16. Steve Welch - December 23, 2018 3:22 pm

    Just got back last night from one of the same family meals at my mother-in-law’s house. Kids yelling, adults telling corney jokes, way to much food and red velvet cake AND banana pudding for dessert. Hard to believe how time does fly. Thanks for putting how I felt into words. Hey to Jamie!

    Reply
  17. Rick L Butler - December 23, 2018 4:48 pm

    Thank-you Sean, and Merry Christmas to you and yours.

    Reply
  18. Carol - December 23, 2018 4:57 pm

    Merry Christmas and thanks for the Memories!!
    Love ya!

    Reply
  19. Shelton A. - December 23, 2018 7:07 pm

    Thanks for invoking some good memories for me, too. I never got asked to give the blessing but I think you did a fine job…your dad is smiling down on you.

    Reply
  20. June - December 23, 2018 11:04 pm

    Merry Christmas to you and yours, Sean!

    Reply
  21. Phillip Saunders - December 24, 2018 12:27 am

    Great one, Sean! all I can say is…great one! God Bless us every one – and especially the Uncle Otises of the world.

    Reply
  22. Jackie Darnell - December 24, 2018 12:35 am

    What are you when you are IT? i have never thought of that before and I have been ‘it’ many times. hahahaha.
    I loved the line kids playing thinking they have a million years to live . Great thought.
    MERRY CHRISTMAS dude, hope y’all have a great time, dogs ‘n all.

    Reply
  23. Edna B. - December 24, 2018 1:08 am

    Ahhh, memories! No matter how many years go by, Christmas is always a magical time of year for me. Thank you for sharing your memories. Sean, you have a wonderful evening. Hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  24. Patricia Gibson - December 24, 2018 1:39 am

    Merry Christmas! !

    Reply
  25. Barbara Jones - December 24, 2018 3:24 am

    Merry Christmas Sean, thanks for the memories. You brought it all back to me, wonderful time. God bless you and Jaime and fur babies.

    Reply
  26. lisatindell - December 27, 2018 6:25 pm

    This reminded me so much of my childhood. Our family used the same blessing before each meal – we held hands on Sunday. Thank you for warmth, joy and love at the remembrances you share. Happy New Year!!

    Reply
  27. Ginny - December 28, 2018 3:20 pm

    Your posts always make me cry. Why I read them while I’m at work I’ll never know but I always hope no one sees the tears streaming down my face. Your words bring such memories and with them sadness that so much has changed.

    Reply

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