Written by Jennifer Azubuike
One more time, Nana took a break from dicing the tomatoes and clutched her apron at the chest as she looked around her kitchen; an ultra modern kitchen that her husband built at retirement. Nana prided herself in maintaining the kitchen in its original state. From the arrangement of the utensils to the countertops and dining, everything looked clean and properly placed. On an ordinary day, she would have found satisfaction in such cleanliness but not today.
She picked up the knife again when she heard footsteps approaching. Her husband must be awake, she thought within herself. Normally, he sleeps in on Christmas mornings. Today, he slept two extra hours because the Christmas carol was canceled.
“Good morning Susie.” Gary said between stretching and yawning loudly.
Nana hummed something under her breath without looking in his direction and busied with her knife. Gary shrugged and strolled to the fridge for a drink. With his cup in hand, he watched his wife for a minute.
“Susie, you okay?”
“Mhmm.” Nana nodded
He got closer and peered over her shoulders. Alarmed that the tomatoes had been squashed more than necessary yet she continued to smash the knife into them. He put down his cup and carefully held her wrist to stop her. With the other hand he collected the knife and put it away.
“Here Susie, it’s enough for now.”
As he led her away, she was visibly shaken. He sat her down and poured tea.
“Is this about the kids?”
She looked at him teary eyed.
He sighed. “We already talked about this hon, they can’t come over. We will get to see them over a video call, but they won’t be coming over this year and there’s nothing we can do about it.”
“It’s not the same, Gary, it’s not the same.” She blew her nose into a pocket napkin.
Gary was speechless. He considered dialing their son who is more effective at calming his wife.
Nana looked around the kitchen sadly. “I used to have this kitchen crawl with children around this time every year. Do you remember last year? Little Lila camped by that fridge.” Nana nodded in the direction of the fridge. “Because she loved the ice dispenser.” She chuckled sadly. “I remember when her mother caught her stuffing ice into the mouth of her baby brother because she thought everyone enjoyed ice as much as she did. Then Malachi almost broke his nose from climbing to reach into the medicine cabinet because he thought the dog was sick. Meanwhile, Jack was just being his normal lazy self.” Nana chuckled again loudly and continued to recount memories from her family’s previous Christmas gatherings.
Little Lila and her baby brother Yoki are the children of Nana’s youngest daughter Jessa. Nana calls them her honey buns.
Gary listened patiently. Sometimes amused by some of her recollections. He doesn’t pay that close attention to what his grandkids do except, of course, when somebody gets in trouble and he is summoned to help.
“Oh and remember we celebrated Paul’s eldest son. What’s his name?” She tapped her forehead gently in an attempt to recall.
“Yes, Spurgy! I never remember that name. His parents should have listened to my suggestion and named him Johnny.”
Gary smiled but said nothing.
“Oh, he’s a smart kid. I think he will be a very important person in society one day.”
At that point, Gary glanced at the phone. He had to find a way to contact his kids but he knows Susie would not appreciate him walking away that moment.
“And sweet, sweet Jinger.” Nana clasped her hands to her chest as she spoke. “She completes the decorations every time.”
‘I think she prefers to re-do them.” Gary corrected.
“Well, she has an eye for decor. I can’t argue with that, and she takes after her mom.”
The phone rang and Gary sighed with relief. He went over for it. He returned with the news that the family video call will be held at 6 pm. Nana brightened up a little. She picked up herself and finished her cooking. At 5:30 pm Nana called Gary to ready their laptop for the call. She had set the table as planned. Everyone would be sharing dinner over video call. At the beginning of the call, each family took turns to bring their kids to the camera to say hi to Nana and Gary. Nana felt happier after seeing her grandchildren, all seven of them. Jessa announced she’s expecting and everyone rejoiced. Then they had to eat but Nana called on Amy, Paul’s youngest daughter to say the grace.
“Thank you Lord for everyone. Thanks for saving grandpop’s life from the virus. We know we can’t be with them this year but we thank you that you have kept them alive for next year. Bless our food and the baby in Aunty Jess’s tummy. Amen.”
“Amen”. Everyone echoed
Amy’s prayer struck Nana. She was reminded that they had to stay safe this year so as to remain alive to continue their family tradition.
She whispered “I’m sorry” to Gary. Gary was uncertain why she apologized but grateful to see her smiling. Gratitude, as he always said, is a great attitude.