I'll invite them all, just like my mom always did: family, friends, acquaintances, everyone. I can still hear her saying, “they might enter as friends, but by the time they leave, we're family.” Boots would get kicked off and lined up on the front porch until you'd swear we ran a shoe shop. We'd bring boxes of decorations out of the attic. Mom always let the kids lay out a plan (which we rarely stuck to) before we threw our hats and down vests on to head outside. By the end of the day, the entire house, most of the yard, and – when the guys were feeling particularly brave – even the rooftop would be transformed into a winter wonderland.
A week later, Mom would be ready for round two. Yet again the invitation was open and so were her arms. Her hugs were the best; she always knew who needed to be held for just a little longer. I can still see her standing in her kitchen, wearing her slippers and Sport Knit pants, with one of Dad’s t-shirts covering her blouse. “Works better than an apron,” she claimed. Her kitchen would transform into a cookie factory. Some would mix. Others would roll the dough. There'd be cookie sheets popping out of the oven for hours on end. That was always the best smelling day of the year. For the kids, other than taste testing (of course), Mom always set up “The Decoration Station” and encouraged us to get artistic, which obviously meant more sprinkles. Definitely the favorite of the fun holiday traditions!
The Saturday before Christmas had a slightly more narrowed guest list, including immediate family and a few favorite cousins. We always met at the same time, at the same tree farm, bundled head to toe in our warmest hats, scarves, coats, snow pants, wool socks, and boots. After all, finding the “perfect tree” was no small task. Looking back now, I think maybe we could have sped up the tree finding process if we hadn't always gotten so sidetracked with Hide-and-Seek-Snowball-Fight (a game of our own invention). By the time we cut the trees and dragged them back to everyone's vehicles, hot cocoa was more of a necessity than an option.
When Christmas Day finally arrived, Mom would have us all looking so sharp before the brunch crowd arrived. I can still see Mom wearing her sweater twinset. That's probably why I have one, too. Hers was cashmere. Mine is cotton. I think she'd still approve though.