It was LOUD. As only a house full of Cubans can get. We all talk at the same time and try to make ourselves heard. Somehow we manage to keep track of all the conversations, even with all the multiple levels of voices.
There was much laughter and chaos. The lovely kind of chaos that is the basis of all my family memories. Trying to get food on the table and gifts under the tree. Taking pictures and herding small children. The smell of the garlic and onion drenched lechon (roast pork) making our mouths water in anticipation of the amazing meal to come. My mom sitting in the center of all of this giving orders and basking in that warmth that only this familiar picture can create.
Everything stops when it is time for one of my favorite traditions: "The Sister Picture."
Helen and Alina in front. That's me, Miriam and Ofelia in the rear. They still refer to me as The Baby.
For just a moment, it is just us. We are the nuclear family again. We remember that there are things that we share that do not really include all the others, as much as we dearly love them. For just a moment, we remember shared bedrooms and clothes and shopping trips and vacations. We remember what it was like to grow up in a Cuban exile household and figure life out and cling to each other. We miss our brother who lives with his beautiful family in Texas. We wish he was here. We miss Papi, who passed away 7 years ago. We remember what we've lost and celebrate what we have gained.
The picture is snapped and we go back to the craziness of the evening and the meal and the gifts and on with our lives.
But at least once a year for that moment, as the song says:
"We are fa-mi-ly. I've got all my sisters with me."
I hope your Christmas memories are as lovely as mine.