“Please Come Home for Christmas”

Recebba (second from right) and her siblings with her grandmother.
Rebecca (second from right) and her siblings with her grandmother.

“But you’ll always be home for Christmas, right?” my father would ask whenever discussion turned to not being home for one holiday or another. Among his five children, it was rare for any of us to be any place other than his dining room on major holidays.

But eventually school or boyfriends sometimes changed our plans. I recall an Easter spent with family friends in the warmth of southern Virginia when I was doing an internship in North Carolina. (I’m from New York. To me, Virginia is warm.) I recall, too, my first Thanksgiving someplace other than my parents’ dining room. I was on a cross-country trip with my boyfriend and Thanksgiving found the two of us in Iowa at his parents’ dining room table with his aunt and his grandmother. His parents opted to sit at the kitchen table by themselves. As a girl who was used to squeezing upwards of 20 people around a Thanksgiving table, the whole experience mystified me.

But Christmas? Christmas was sacred. My mother, during discussions of future holiday plans, would invariably remind my father that one day his children would be married, and just may have other families with whom they need to spend a holiday. “But not Christmas,” he would say. “They’ll always be here for Christmas.” My father, in case you cannot tell, can be just a tiny bit stubborn.

Then his first grandchild threw a wrench in the plans. The little angel arrived just a month before Christmas. My sister and her husband were not about to take their new baby out of the house. The problem? Her house was in Charlotte, North Carolina — she was the only child not living within 70 miles of our childhood home. The rest of us knew before Dad said a word: we were leaving New York and heading to Charlotte that Christmas. Never mind that my youngest sister had never been on a road trip of this length. My parents left first (all the more time to see their new grandchild). My other three siblings met at my parents house and then headed across the Hudson to pick me up. By the time they got to my condo, my youngest sister was so nervous I ran back inside to grab some wine for her to swig. And so it was that I found myself in a car with three siblings driving — overnight, in shifts — to Charlotte for our first family Christmas away from “home.”

My father’s luck improved. His only out-of-state child moved back to New York. The second daughter to be married did him a favor and chose a guy whose family lives just five miles from my parents. And my brother, next fall, will marry a local girl as well.

And then I decided to leave New York for Asheville. But there was a never a question where I would be for Christmas.

So like Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds, all Gallo children have one destination on December 25. There will no wise men arriving late at our family celebration.

I’m sure there will come a time when we might not all be together on December 25, but for 37 years my father’s luck has held out. Is it luck, though? Or does it go back to the theory that you can put an idea out to the universe, and the universe will respond accordingly? It doesn’t matter. For Dad, all that matters is that, for 37 consecutive years, his entire family has been together on Christmas Day.

Whether this Christmas finds you with family or friends that feel just like family, be thankful for those with whom you share this day — and every day.