The Day the Magic Ended

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The annual Christmas feast that is held at Nana's has always been something truly magical. Granted the season itself makes that a given, but more so than that, it is the work Nana puts in to make that magic happen. Every doorway has been decorated with tinsel. Dozens of rosy-cheeked Santas hide in each corner of the house. The main attraction, however, is the extravagant Christmas tree that sits beautifully in the living area. Tens of decorations adorn the branches, with every kind of display one could imagine. Strings of lights, dancing this way and that way, making the ornaments twinkle like tiny stars. All of which is accompanied by a pristine angel, hands folded in prayer, watching over our quaint Christmas feast.

We begin to gather at the table, a table that has now transformed into a sea of food. Honey maple ham, mashed potatoes, brown sugared carrots, thick green beans, all gravitating around a crispy golden turkey that sits in the middle. A frenzy of hands fight for dominance as everyone begins to reach for what they want, yet despite the deceptive image of the blurred frenzy, everyone winds up with enough. No one is forgotten.

The sounds of busy cutlery and garbled conversation fill the room. In our family, the women outnumber the men 11:8, and so shrill female voices dominate the conversations with their topics of choice.

"So Jessica, when are you gonna get a boyfriend?" one of the voices asks from beside me (see what I mean?).

And so much of the conversations consist of awkward smiles, constant head nodding, and dry laughter on my part...

"Just haven't found that special someone!"

"Just been looking for work since graduation!"


Hahahathank God Nana's delicious cooking helps alleviate the tension from such awkward topics!

"If everybody's finished, let's move onto dessert!"

The selection of treats is even greater than the selection of our bountiful dinner! Pecan butter tarts, strawberry-rhuburb pie, sugar cookies adorned with little Christmas tree sprinkles, brownies sprinkled with candy cane pieces... Some store bought, others homemade. I, being the sugar fiend that I am--grab one of each before heading back into the dining area.

As I lift up my fork to begin diving into my slice of chocolate cake, a commotion from the kitchen suddenly disturbs the peace. It starts off quietly, then escalates in tone and volume. From the kitchen doorway I can see shadows, aside from the frailing arms that make an abrupt appearance every now and then. I can identify a few words of the argument between the two women, one of whom is my deaf aunt Kathy who has a very distinguishing voice, until her words begin to turn into screams.

The younger ones stare into the kitchen with horror. The adults try to laugh it off, but become visibly uncomfortable once the screaming begins. I hear my uncle declare, "Alright, maybe it's time we went out there to see what's going on..." Before suddenly, my aunt Kathy bashes her head against the kitchen counter, all the while telling my other aunt she is "a fucking idiot!!"

That's when the intervention finally occurs. Half of the family at the table jolt out of their seats and rush into the kitchen, separating my aunts from one another as 3 people pull Kathy into the living room, and another 2 console my aunt Sheila. Eventually the screaming subsides, but the damage has already been done as I hear my aunt Patricia quietly mutter, "We're never coming back here again..."

When the events finally came to light, it was about what one could expect at a family gathering: one aunt drank too much, the other nagged too much, and the drank one lost her shit. Unfortunately the entire family seemed to agree on Patricia's solution too: no one would be attending family dinners at Nana's until Kathy received "the help she needed."

It has been over a decade since the incident occurred, the day the magic died, and our family continues to remain broken... I do not grieve for my family, but rather for the season of Christmas and the happiness that came with it.

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