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It was an ugly sweater Christmas

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It was the year for ugly sweaters. I’m sure you went to at least one ugly sweater party in 2013. For us, we did the party and it’s time to take them to the thrift store.

The children have all gone home and it’s quiet once again on the Lower Blanco. It’s funny about family. We raised them the same, but they operate at different speeds and different volumes of loud and quiet. We have night people and morning people. We have goers and stayers at home, but we are family.

I was putting the Christmas decorations away and thought about how much we enjoyed our children. We laughed all the time, mostly at ourselves. I’m not sure how we do it! Twelve family members and four dogs spend two weeks together. And we still love each other and want to spend time together whenever we can.

I saw this post on my son’s Facebook. He wrote, “I love that my family can be so candid … and then laugh. My mom asks why we came home (for the holidays), Cricket said that she came to serve, (Isn’t that beautiful? I feel a tear in my eye.) Angel said she came home out of obligation. (She really came home to Daddy.) My mom looked at me and said, ‘I suppose you just came home to be waited on.’ Allison, stay at your house, none of us can top Cricket.”

Families come home, apparently for different reasons. The most important thing is they come home. This is how our family manages to still love each other:

1. Let everyone be who they are. It’s not always easy. Our son came from the Philippines. He had jet lag, a cold and came off a big high and a big production. He was freezing in the 20-below weather the whole time. We have learned to put on another layer; he hasn’t.

He slept the first five days and spent two days texting and on Facebook. He never leaves his work thanks to mass media. While the family was opening presents, he was sleeping. When we were eating Christmas dinner, he was watching TV.

He is a foot taller than all of us and he scans the horizon over our heads as if looking for an eagle when he talks to us. No eye contact. I felt like I was with Robert Redford waiting for an autograph.

He brought home a recent magazine from the Philippines about how the rich and famous live. He was in it. They interviewed him as someone doing good for the people in the Philippines whose roots are in the country soil of Pagosa Springs. His article was about coming home for the holidays and missing us. Wow. That’s news to me.

We do not pamper him or walk on eggshells around him. He doesn’t get any special attention. He gets a short rollaway bed sometimes and leftovers. Of course, if he would eat with the family, he’d get a fresh-cooked meal. Believe it or not, he needs us.

When we were getting ready for our annual family portraits, he was outraged. “How can you take family photos looking like that? These are family portraits, how could you wear those ugly sweaters?”

“Because we’re doing ugly sweaters this year. It’s not my idea, but your sister’s. Lighten up and enjoy the family. Be a part.”

Need-less-to-say, we will Photoshop him in again this year. I think he was afraid it would show up on Facebook. Well, it did. Ha.

Finally, on the last two days of his visit, he became the enjoyable, funny and witty Stephen we all love. We had to forget the first seven days. He took pictures of photos on the wall of Al and I in our twenties. He posted them on Facebook, as “Yup, They were hotties. Mother is on a diet so she can be bikini ready for Manila.”

I told him, “If you don’t act better, I’m not going. That’s final.”

2. To get along, we look the other way. We had four dogs here. With all the mud and dogs, I only lost my cool once. That was when the dogs ran in and Daisy jumped on our bed with mud on her feet.

After Christmas, I took the leftover turkey and made a big roaster of turkey soup. I put it out on the porch to stay cold. Yes, of course the dogs got into it and ate it all. My son-in-law said, “I was looking forward to turkey soup.”

I said, “You’re not getting any turkey soup this year.”

3. Laugh a lot. During the picture taking, Allison said to me, “Mother, look better. You’re not looking right.”

I said, “I’m looking the best way I know how.”

“Well, mother, we’ve got to do something with your hair.”

“I was wearing a Santa’s Hat, that’s why my hair is a mess.”

“Not the whole time.”

“When the camera is clicking, don’t talk.”

“I’ll try not to.”

“When you talk, you close your eyes. Look at all the photos, you have your eyes closed in every one of them.”

My comment to her was, “Go ahead and shoot me and take me out of my misery.”

4. Let everyone do what they want to do. We had puzzles, chess games and Hallmark movies all going at the same time. After the evening meal, Allison is famous for saying, “What game do we all want to play? We have Apples to Apples, Farkle, Thirty-One or Spinners.”

I said, “I’d like to play Scrabble.”

“No, Mother. No one wants to play Scrabble. We all play together.”

Some of the family went shopping in Durango, others shopped in Pagosa and some of us stayed close to home.

Our oldest daughter and I made two videos, one of our ugly sweater picture day and a demo for an art project. She came to serve. I took advantage of her beautiful heart. My daughter taught me how to make and edit videos. The result was a family movie night with the ugly sweaters. I laughed until I cried. Of course, I added the subtitles, which I thought were really funny. (The family didn’t see the humor in them.) The delicious rum cake given to the family by Traci, of which I had two pieces, helped also. The family thought watching me watch the video was funnier. I’m still laughing and the rum cake is all gone. (Traci, next year we need two rum cakes.)

5. Love them no matter what, even if they don’t want to play Scrabble with you. Then they will always come home.

Final brushstroke. Remember the Five L’s:

1. Let everyone be who they are.

2. Look the other way.

3. Laugh a lot.

4. Let everyone do what they want to do.

5. Love them no matter how they act or why they come home.

… Or you could book your next holiday in Hawaii! The tan would be nice, but the laugh lines that you would miss are priceless.

Artist’s quote

“The most valuable things in life are not measured in monetary terms. The really important things are not houses and lands, stocks and bonds, automobiles and real estate, but friendships, trust, confidence, empathy, mercy, love and faith.” — Bertrand Russell, British nobleman and philosopher.

Readers’ comments

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This story was posted on January 30, 2014.