Another holiday tradition we had was that I’d open my stocking the night before Christmas, and then we’d sleep in and have a leisurely Christmas morning, eating breakfast as we opened presents. Later in the morning, we’d make phone calls to family and I spent time playing with new toys in my pajamas. One year, my grandmother spent the holiday with us and excitedly woke everyone up before 7am to open gifts. We told her to go back to bed, but she sat at the table, pouting - ramrod straight and waiting for everyone to wake up.
The holiday she joined us for Christmas was the same year she’d kicked my uncle out of her house. My mom’s brother is 10 years younger than she is, and he was 16-years old at the time. They barely knew each other – in fact, my mom didn't even know she was going to be an older sister until shortly before my uncle was born. I know, right? My mom totally got the shaft when it came to parents. Regardless of the hard life that my mom had growing up, she remains one of the most compassionate and generous people I know.
Shortly after my uncle moved in, my mom offered to let a family friend’s 11-year old son come live with us while his mom went of town for an undisclosed period of time. The details were sketchy at best, but we went from the two of us to 4 people in a one bedroom apartment.
A make-shift bookshelf of 2x4’s and bricks separated the bedroom, with my uncle on one side and bunk beds for me and Merle (yes that really was his name) on the other.
The first night at our house after he thought everyone had fallen asleep, I could hear him quietly crying. Merle stayed with us for almost 5 months before his mom returned to claim him. By the end of his stay, I couldn't stand Merle. I’m fairly sure I was a brat to live with, too.