Oh, my God! They got me a keyboard!
I knew that's what they were getting me so it wasn't like a surprise or anything but I am still jumping up and down because it's awesome. It has full-sized keys like a piano which is what I really would have liked but I know they're super expensive. It doesn't have as many octaves as a piano but it's much better than the little toy keyboard they got me for my birthday last year.
I was thinking this was going to be a really sad Christmas but so far it's one of the best ones yet. My Mamaw died last year the day after my birthday and this is the first Christmas I can remember where we're not going down home on Christmas day or the day after. We all miss her something awful, but Dad is sober and home for Christmas for the first time ever and I don't think it's possible to be any happier than I am right now.
We almost had Dad sober last year. For the last few years, ever since the spring I was in second grade, he's been in and out of the Care Unit getting dried out and going through the Twelve Steps only to fall off the wagon a few months later and start the process all over again. For some reason, even if he's sober right before Christmas, he always starts drinking again around the holidays. It's made for some really miserable Christmases.
Last year he was in the Care Unit, which is basically a hospital for alcoholics and drug addicts, on Christmas. He was allowed to be picked up and brought home for about 6 hours on Christmas day to eat supper with us and open his presents before we had to drive him back. He had just gotten out of detox, so his hands shook so badly it was hard for him to enjoy eating, and he was a weird, gray color that made me worry about him. That time it was really hard for him to get healthy again; his doctors thought they were going to have to put him in the real hospital because he had been drinking so much his throat and his liver and his kidneys and Lord knows what else were being damaged. We thought he might be scared straight that time.
But no. He started drinking again by summer and within a couple of months he was back in the hospital. I know he will probably drink again. He didn't stop for good when my mom left him, he didn't stop for good when he almost died in a car wreck, he didn't stop for good when he got so sick during detox that they called Mom and said they might have to move him to the ICU. I know in my heart he will probably never stop for good.
Today, though, things are great. He cooked a prime rib for us last night and watched me open my keyboard this morning and has been taking lots of pictures of me in my cool new red hat playing my keyboard. He's laughing and eating and I so wish this was the Dad we had at home all the time.
My sister and brother-in-law are coming over later and I can't believe our whole family is going to be together at Christmas. They are building a house and it should be finished this spring. Then they're going to start trying to have a baby. Someday I'm going to be an aunt and they've said they'll have us over every Christmas morning to their new house so we can watch the baby open presents.
I won't be the baby of the family anymore, but I'm okay with that. I'm growing up. I'm in 7th grade and I've had a couple of almost-boyfriends. I am teaching myself how to play keyboard by paying attention to my favorite teacher in my chorus class and with the help of an old piano book from way back when my sister was a little girl who took piano lessons. I can even play some things by ear. My family likes to hear me play and say if I keep up learning on my own they'll try to get enough money to pay for real piano lessons.
I feel almost like an adult today. I didn't get toys for Christmas (unless you count the keyboard as a toy, and I do not); I got clothes and cologne and a little birthstone ring. I've been through some rough times and I've learned to take care of myself. So it will be nice to have a baby in the family to buy toys for and to babysit and to rock to sleep. We need a kid in the family now that I'm all grown up. It's the only thing right now I think our family is missing.
Besides my Mamaw, of course.
It is sad that we won't be going down home today or tomorrow. When we lived in Barbourville for a year when my mom and dad were separated, I spent so much time with Mamaw. I never knew how much I loved her until I practically lived with her that year. She taught me how to crochet, how to roll out dumplins and cut them and put them in a pot of boiling broth, and how to laugh even when you're sad. I'm reading Gone With the Wind now and she's like Scarlett's mother was: a Great Lady. With the capital letters.
I miss her and I miss going down home, but it feels like things are changing. And not in a bad way. That part of my life, being sad and having to deal with my dad and all that on Christmas, seems like it's over. We're all together on Christmas day and it feels like how it's supposed to be in "normal" families. This time next year my sister will have a nice new house we can all fit into better than our house and who knows? She may have a little baby on the way.
"One more. Without that hat on."
Dad is in my doorway with uncle John's old Polaroid camera. He's been dead a few years now, but we think of him every time Dad gets that camera out to take pictures of everything important that happens in the family. I take off my new red hat (I've decided I look really cute in hats and I always want to have one to wear when I'm feeling fashionable) and hit an F chord on my new keyboard and smile up at the camera.
One...two...three. And breathe. It's the best Christmas yet.