This weekend, I spent an early Christmas with my 1 aunt, 1 uncle, 1 cousin, 1 grandma and 1 grandpa.

We’re a teeny family but we make enough noise and produce enough presents for each other to make the outsider think we are about 4 times the size we are.

Every single Christmas I can remember starts out with the arrival of the family at Grandpa and Grandma’s farm. My family is usually the tardy one, so there is a lot of fuss and bother over our bags, our copious amounts of presents, and the condition of our vehicle. When the chaos dies down and we actually enter the extremely warm house, there are lots of hugs exchanged and kisses given and icy hands pressed to warm necks followed by screams of protest. My mother inevitably turns down the thermostat.

My tiny grandma (she’s less than 5 feet tall) is always behind the island, fussing with something and the kitchen smells like apple cider and side dishes. The turkey and ham bake downstairs and the aroma is starting to seep into the upstairs. Grandpa hops up with a great hello (because he’s almost deaf and hadn’t heard us come inside) and more hugs are exchanged. People go downstairs to play ping-pong.

My uncle says the blessing over the food while we all stand in a circle. Following the blessing, there is an all-out protest about who goes first through the line. Oldest to youngest this year? Youngest to oldest? Grandma conveniently makes herself busy with last minute additions to the meal so she never has to go first. Sparkling cider… lefse… pickled herring… perfectly roasted turkey and ham… endless fantastic food and before you can say stuffed, we’re all loosening our belts and cradling our “food babies.”

When my cousins and I were young, we put on a “concert” for our grandparents after dinner and after all the priceless dishes are washed (very carefully) and put away. I remember wondering how I could procrastinate performing my portion of the concert in any way I could. Grandpa would get predictably teary-eyed and clap enthusiastically. We then sang carols a cappella and handed out presents. Mountains and mountains and mountains of presents for everyone. Perfume, lacy pretty things, chocolate, money, books, jewelry…

Kisses and hugs exchanged, many thank you’s, Merry Christmases and goodnights.

My cousins and I would rub backs and watch TV until 2 am or until we all fell asleep and then wake up far too early for church at the Grace Lutheran Church at the awful hour of 8:30 AM. Grandpa would give us $1 to put in the offering plate and we’d get quizzed afterward about the state of our education and everything else imaginable.

It’s the best little big family ever.