It was tradition. Every Christmas Eve was spent the same way for this family. First they would visit Grandma V. Grandma V. was a widow and lived in a small apartment. She would cook the evening's dinner containing the German favorites of the family. The girlfriend didn't really care for the cuisine, but what could she do but politely accept what was put in front of her. She would eat as little as possible without making it look obvious that she didn't like it.
Then it was time to open the exchanged gifts. Of course, that is what the kids were there for in the first place. Grandma worked in a big department store, so most of the gifts she gave to her family were from the store, which was fine and usually very nice. A little more conversation was batted back and forth before it was time to say farewell - until the next day, Christmas, when the family would see her again at their home.
From there, the family and the girlfriend would travel across town to Grandpa and Grandma T's home. There, that whole side of the family would be gathered. The contrasts between the two visits were deep and wide. Quiet, subdued, and somewhat uncomfortable to loud, crowded, and fun.
It was a large family and the girlfriend loved this. Along with grandma and grandpa, there were aunts and uncles, and cousins galore. Girlfriend didn't have any cousins so this was something she had never experienced. She loved watching the interaction and the closeness of everyone. And it was a good thing they all got along because there were so many crammed into grandma and grandpa's living room, they were practically sitting on each other's laps. Once everyone had arrived, the gifts were exchanged - and it got even chaotic in that little room.
As the conversations flowed, so did the love. Even though the girlfriend wasn't a member of this family, she not only felt accepted, but a part of this large, loving family. She felt that way the first time she took part in this Christmas Eve tradition, and it only grew more so with every year after that.
to be continued...
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