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Plenty of food and laughter: A Travis family Christmas
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Our family Christmas was the usual afternoon, filled with food and laughter. I didn’t have a new tub and sink. The tub is still held up in customs. I told the supplier not to ship anything until after Jan. 1. Who wants to be minus a bathroom while hosting Christmas company?

I do have one improvement, however. My kitchen is newly painted.

That might not seem like much to you, but if you have plaster walls and oil-based enamel for all your trim, it is a major accomplishment. You have to scrape out the plaster from the cracks in the wall and then spackle away before you paint.

I have swept, vacuumed, mopped and wiped down that kitchen twice a day for four days and am still finding paint chips everywhere. The ceiling, which is beadboard, was also scraped and painted. The ceiling was the major culprit for paint chips. We have had to run the attic fan to get the paint fumes out of the house so we can sleep. I’d like to tell you that the presents were mounded up under my tree, but I can’t. In fact, it looked pretty bare under my tree. You could even see a large spread of tree skirt.

I have purchased several items of clothing for my husband. But he had to go with me to try them on and is already wearing the new shirts and pants. So there was nothing for him beneath the tree. He didn’t go present-less, just surprise-less.

My children look forward to a check. I wrapped something small for them, but no big presents. The nieces and nephews get money as well.

My son-in-law gets a gift card to his favorite coffee place. Then he can indulge in his favorite hot beverages without feeling any guilt about purchasing the pricey liquids. Gift cards don’t take much to wrap.

That leaves the grandchildren. You would think they would have presents mounded up under my tree.

Well, two of them are getting bikes. I got some accoutrements for the bikes, but that didn’t take up much space under the tree. The other two want Grandmama to take them shopping after Christmas. So, there are a few token gifts for the grandchildren, but they also don’t take up much space under the tree. Everyone arrived at my house in the early afternoon. We eat about 3 p.m. That schedule gives all the little ones plenty of time to enjoy Santa, get dressed in their Christmas best and travel to Grandmama’s. There were plenty of aunts, uncles, nephews and nieces to spare. I fed 17, but at that number, a few more makes no difference.

You have already heard my litany on the list of starches my husband insists on having on the menu. I try to talk him out of one or two. He agrees, and then he goes to the store and buys whatever he agreed to leave out and secretly cooks it on the silver coffin grill on the back porch, which happens to have an electric eye.

While everyone enjoyed the food, and we all groaned that we had eaten too much, the meal is not as important as the company.

Old family stories were trotted out and enjoyed and laughed about. I think every Christmas we hear the story of how my husband and his brothers received a box of chocolate-covered cherries every Christmas. One hoarded the candy while others ate theirs in a hurry and sought to poach candy from the frugal brother.

My daughter has heard the story so many times that she gives her father and two uncles a wrapped box of chocolate-covered cherries each year for Christmas.

There was plenty of laughter. The children rushed noisily from room to room. Invariably, there were moments of silence. If the silence lasts too long, everyone starts looking for the children to make sure they are not into something they should not be doing. (We remember when one grandchild glued another grandchild’s eyes shut with Super Glue.)

One thing is for sure in the Travis family. I may worry about the food, but everyone enjoys the spread. But what I don’t have to worry about is the laughter and camaraderie we always enjoy.

Paula Travis is a retired teacher from the Newton County School System. She can be reached at