It’s been a few years since we’ve stayed on our home turf for Christmas. Last year, we were in California visiting my parents and a heap of cousins from India, who insisted on doing every tradition we knew about Christmas. For a full week, we baked, made Christmas drinks, and danced around in Santa hats.
The year before that we went to Hawaii, where we visited an active volcano, walked around in t-shirts and shorts, Kavya went to her first luao, had her first helicopter ride, and we hung with Santa on a surfboard.
Oh, and me, Sona, and her brother jumped out of a plane overlooking the lush green and deep blue of Oahu. The year before that was Kavya’s first Christmas, where I dressed as a dodgy Santa Claus with a tree skirt, my mum’s belt, and cotton glued to paper for a beard. The year before that . . . . Kavya did not exist.
This year marks a moment in our lives we’ll never get back and one that has not really sunk in for me. Probably because I don’t get heartburn or morning sickness. Come February, there will be a welcome addition to Team Ishq, but more significantly, it’s the end of our trio. Things will be drastically different in under two months, yet completely normalized as soon as our new little human enters our world. Kavya already sings to Sona’s belly and has conversations about life and princesses and dragons and death.
In the same way life before Kavya is a haze of foggy memories, we will immediately forget about our family trio and Kavya will never know anything other than her role of being a big sister in a family of four.
This Christmas Eve wasn’t exactly what we had in mind. While all of Sona’s family left to attend a Christmas party, me and her sat in an empty house eating apple crumble and drinking Mexican hot chocolate. Excellent crumble. Excellent hot chocolate. And even better company. But a bit of a rubbish Christmas Eve.
Kavya had gone with them, promptly falling asleep in the car five minutes in, not waking up until this morning. It was almost 9 by the time they left the house, and the one thing you can count on for an Indian party is that it will never start on time, but will always end really late. And that’s pretty much what went down. Everyone came home at close to 2 in the morning. Sona was out by 10 despite entering into a mostly incoherent debate with me about not being sleepy.
Fast forward to Christmas morning.
It’s close to 8 a.m., which for us is sleeping in. Sona wants me to get out of bed and quickly put Kavya’s presents under the tree to continue the Santa lie. Kavya had raced into the living room and sounded so disappointed that Santa hadn’t come.
I put some of the presents we’d bought her downstairs under the tree, and Kavya comes back up, excited about this new development, despite the complete lapse in logic of the Santa narrative.
First, we told her Santa brings the presents when kids are sleeping and only to children who conform to societal and parental expectations. Then she sees presents around the house, assumes Santa has already come. Opens a present. Gets yelled at. Later, she’s handed a gift by one of her Nani-ma’s co-workers, but we tell her she can’t open it because Santa isn’t here yet, even though in our botched narrative, he isn’t arriving until well past her bedtime anyway.
So, on Christmas morning Kavya is happy we’ve abandoned all of these rules and she’s allowed to open her gifts with abandon. We only give her presents we got her. And slowly, the rest of the family come sit down deliriously trying to look alert. Like this random guy sitting on the stairs:
Nani-ma puts the kettle on. We all squash ourselves onto the sofa. drink cha with butter cookies and watch a nature program that starts off being about bears eating fish, and abruptly there’s a squirrel, which looks identical to a chipmunk, even though Sona’s dad disagrees with me on this point.
I start baking cookies that were originally meant to be espresso chip. Kavya wants M&Ms and finds these little shapes, so they’re turned into Christmas shaped M&M-espresso-cookies. Just what any 3 year-old child needs to subdue their energy levels: pure sugar and espresso. Meanwhile, Sona, Meena, their brother Tarun, are having a conversation about the genealogical origin of their noses. We go to the living room and exchange presents, which is always lots of fun.
Sona makes two sandwiches from her mom’s delicious masala turkey, with gravy and mashed potatoes, and a few moments later, the three of us are on the road for a two hour drive to our favorite place: Revel Hotel in Atlantic City. It’s really kid friendly, with great rooms, guaranted ocean views, a swimming pool, and Atlantic City has some fantastic food off-strip.
We made great time on the road and were in Atlantic City by 4pm. We popped into a dollar store on Atlantic Avenue and bought three Christmas hats on sale for $3. Kavya figured out they light up! We wore them to a Malaysian joint called Melaka, which uses a lot of Indian spices in their food.
We checked into our room, jumped around on the bed, ogled the view, and since Revel gave Kavya a room card that said, “Gamblers Wanted,” we played Monopoly in the bed. Four dead princesses later, we dressed up for Christmas Dinner.
First we took some pictures with the lovely Christmas tree in the lobby of Revel, followed by lots of running around, and eventually eating some kickass food at Relish, ending the night with gooey, Lava Chocolate Cake and a chocolate milkshake. Because it’s Christmas. Tomorrow we’ll find another reason to eat more decadent food. We end the night with bedtime stories in bed.
Because we are a family of nerds, tomorrow we’re going to continue Christmas celebrations by going to the Atlantic City Public Library in the morning, immediately followed by Vietnemese Pho, and a swim in the Revel pool. Th Vietnemese Pho place is our joint. No trip to Atlantic City is complete without it.
So that’s how our Christmas is going. How is yours? Have you had any Christmasses where things didn’t go quite as planned?