Christmas around the world

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The dining room was packed. Erica had arranged for the grownups to be seated at the main table. A card table was set up to the side for the four kids.

Christmas is supposed to be like this, packed with family and packed with gifts and food. We’d exchanged gifts and, as has become the tradition, Erica’s mother, Sharon, brought the turkey from Canada, where she lives. Sharon did a lot more than deliver a turkey. She cooked the meal, with the exception of a selection of desserts that Erica prepared. Erica always does that, and I always have to sample a bit of each, which invariably results in a piled-high plate that garners exclamations of shock, or is it awe and envy?

This Christmas was wonderfully different. My eldest son, Jack, his wife Jen and their children, Lucy and Eddie, were here from Hong Kong. They would be joining us at Ted and Erica’s. Ted is the only child to return to Rhode Island. Jack ended up in Asia and the eldest in the clan, Diana, lives in Wyoming with her husband, Scott, and daughter, Natalie. She and Natalie would be joining us later in the week.

There was another member of the group for Christmas lunch…Nash. Nash is a furry bundle weighing less than 20 pounds that squirms, wiggles, yaps and simply loves attention. It’s the one dog that Erica felt could be a part of the family, which was fine with Ted because up until then it didn’t look there would be any dog in their future. This was Nash’s first Christmas and, rightfully so, he was part of the festivities.

Just as we planned, our dog Ollie was worn out from Christmas Eve day at Bow Chicka Wow Town and was quite content sleeping at home amidst the wrapping paper. His newfound toy is the spent cardboard tubes from wrapping paper. He had two of them, which, as we expected, were shredded by the time we got home.

Carol had thought to bring a squeaky toy for Nash that he instantly claimed. However, when it came to turkey, not even his own toy could compete. Nash was right there under the table and ready for any scrap that might come his way. We joined hands – the kids’ table was part of the extended circle – as Carol said grace and then we were in for some serious eating. The room went silent expect for the exclamations over Erica and Sharon’s cooking, and then Nash’s demand for attention, if not turkey. Ted gave in and raised Nash on his lap, eye level with his plate. Nash looked to be in heaven, wafting in the aroma of Christmas dinner. He was silent as Ted and Erica extolled over his intelligence and how he understood what they were saying. It was the role he relished, maybe even more so than the turkey that Ted cleaned from his plate.

It was Nash that ended up ruining the day.

His moment came after dessert and we all spread out in the living room after clearing the table and filling the dishwasher. The kids were in the basement playing games. Ted was up to a game of ping-pong, so the two of us joined the kids. Nash came along and soon we were all in the basement.

Jack suggested a game of “around the world,” where we each took a turn at hitting the ball, drop the paddle so the next in line had a chance, and race to the other end of the table to continue the process. Nash raced around with us, yapping excitedly. The ball went flying and Nash was first to get it. Now it was a game of chase. By the time one of us caught up with him, the ball was punctured and looked like a cracked egg.

Ted pulled it from his jaws and the game resumed with a new ball. It didn’t last all that long before Nash scored again. This time, Ted let him keep the ball, figuring that would keep him busy. But, remember Nash is a smart little dog? He wasn’t fooled. The third ping-pong ball was soon toast. Meanwhile, while the balls lasted the game went on. It became sillier and sillier, running around the table, missing shots and trying to save the errant shots from the jaws of Nash.

Jack and family had come from around the world and here we were running circles around a ping-pong table. It was surely a Christmas we wouldn’t forget. And for sure I know what to get Ted for next Christmas – a case of ping-pong balls.

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