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Wednesday, April 23, 2014, 3:21 p.m.
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Making memories best part of family Christmas

By Tammy Keith

This article was published December 22, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.

Christmas at the Smiths is another one for the record books.

OK, we don’t actually keep a record book. But, this was a good one.

We had Christmas with my parents early this month because it becomes impossible to coordinate everyone.

My dad’s and sister-in-law’s birthdays were Dec. 16, so we figured celebrating them, too, would kill three birds with one stone — and a lot of presents and food.

And because having to shop early and coordinate Christmas wasn’t stressful enough, we crammed opening presents, taking family photos and doing a slide show for my dad’s birthday into the same day.

We had both of my sons’ girlfriends there, too. One was experiencing a Smith Christmas for the first time. She had been warned.

“Just wait. I’ve never seen anything like it,” Longtime Girlfriend said to Newer Girlfriend.

We do tend to go a little overboard on presents.

Highlights of the weekend:

• As much as I loved every single gift I received, watching my 3-year-old nephew open presents was the most fun. He loved everything, including the big toy crane and Planes Duplos set I bought him, but the clapping and jumping up and down over the firetruck my mom and dad got him was priceless. He told me, when we were visiting his house, that Santa was going to come down the chimney and bring his green truck “and get on fire.” I told him his mommy would turn the fireplace off before then.

• Playing Scattergories. My sister-in-law and I could keep going for hours. (For the record, I really do know Darfur isn’t a city in the Old Testament, but I needed a ‘D’ word.)

• Food, food, food. The addictive cheese ball my sister-in-law made; my dad’s dressing; desserts to die for.

• My sister-in-law, who should be a professional event planner, suggested surprising my mom with family photos. Sister-in-law helped us coordinate our clothing long distance and directed the guys to carry Mom’s leopard-print recliner outside to use. My little nephew, normally a perfect poser, was not interested in having his picture made. He pushed his firetruck around the yard, kicked a ball through his mother’s legs as she was taking pictures, and had to be chased through my dad’s garden by my brother and captured, crying, to be corralled for the photo.

We cajoled with the crane, a Rice Krispies Treat and bouncing on his cousin’s shoulders.

“I think we’re making Christmas memories,” my brother said, and he was right.

• My husband set the timer on our camera, which he didn’t figure out how to do until we were outside in the cold and had the camera on the tripod. He’d push the button and sprint to get in the group photo. Half the time, the rest of us would yell, “The light’s not blinking!” and he’d sprint back and push it again.

My brother said, “The little lights aren’t twinkling, Clark.” It’s not Christmas until someone makes a National Lampoon’s

Christmas Vacation reference.

• Watching my dad’s slide show. (We only do these on “big” birthdays.) It moves from him as a sweet, skinny little boy, to a bunk in Vietnam, marrying mom, raising my brother and me, walking me down the aisle, holding grandsons and watching us all grow up and older.

There was crying then, too, by several of us. We’ve never had so much crying at Christmas. I cried when I opened my mouth to say how thankful I was we were all together, and I got a partial group hug. The Girlfriends stood back with the “my-boyfriend’s-mother-is-insane” looks.

It was wonderful, and we get to do it all over again this week.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

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