Every year at Christmas, perhaps on the night we decorated our Christmas tree, but definitely on the evening of Christmas Eve, my father treated us with cups of eggnog. At some point in the evening, after dinner, Dad would head into the kitchen to prepare the drink.
The eggnog was never homemade, always store bought, but he never served it straight out of the plastic jug. He made a point to doctor it up, making the drink special in a way that it wouldn’t have been otherwise. Looking back, I’m pretty sure he just sprinkled some nutmeg on top, but maybe there was more to it than that. You just never knew with my dad.
That first sip of the sweet, milkshake-thick drink was always a surprise and a delight. It felt indulgent and excessive, and I loved my father for that. I felt special, being allowed to share in this obviously adult ritual. Dad drank his eggnog down quickly, not pausing to savor each mouthful as I did, then wiped his mouth with the back of one hand. I remember his satisfied smile then, eyes sparkling, as he looked around the room at me, my brother, and my mom. Any strife that existed in that cozy living room — any bickering or grudges held or slights felt — were gone, entirely, for those moments we savored the eggnog.
In the many years that have passed since those first sips of the holiday treat, my memories of the taste of eggnog are bound together tightly with feelings of peacefulness and joy.
This past week has been more stressful than usual. We hosted two parties last weekend, a holiday party for my work and a sleepover party for my daughter’s ninth birthday. The parties were wonderful, and I enjoyed every bit of them. The stress leading up to the events was expected and, at least for me, a normal part of the party-planning experience.
But then my father-in-law had emergency back surgery after a fall left him with a fractured vertebrae in his spine. His surgery happened one week ago today, the day of the first party, and he worsened over the next several days, ultimately winding up in the intensive care unit. The stress of this on my husband has been immeasurable, and to make things worse, there was some major family drama in the middle of the week that nearly tipped us both over the edge. Sam and I have hugged each other very tightly these last few days, and the strife and stress have only served to make us stronger, together.
One more day of work and then I’m off for the holidays with my children. I plan to change things up around here, lighten the mood and brighten our spirits. I’m thinking of baking cookies and cakes. We’ll be wrapping presents and planning Christmas dinner. There will be Christmas carol singing, very off-key singing probably, but we will sing nonetheless. I plan to start and end each day with hugs and with I-love-you‘s.
And I bought some eggnog. It’s time for some peacefulness and joy.