Every family has a special tradition around the Holiday time. Ours was the "Gifts Distribution Protocol". With a software test engineer as Father, it deserved no other name. The night before, we would all agree on the First Gift, mainly by its size, or lavish wrappings. The recipient of the First Gift would then select and deliver the next gift, and so on. We carried this tradition for a quarter of a century in our family.
Christmas 1999 was different, though. Mom's lung disorder had progressed, and she was now stuck in bed. Sis and I decided it was time for a new protocol: "Tossing for Presents," where the recipient would instead launch the wadded-up giftwrap at the array of presents, and the first struck was then selected as the next gift.
Few people know that wadded-up giftwrap posesses none of the aerodymanic qualities of a good missile, and the unintended targets included the family's faces, the little Nativity scene, and the dog. Naturally, the lighthearted revelry meant that it took several hours for us to successfully target all the presents.
Meanwhile, Christmas Dinner was already in progress, in the kitchen. We had forgotten all about it. Smelling the "something burning" smell, I made for the kitchen and promptly returned, announcing
"Houston, we have a problem. Sis, Hon, kitchen!"
Everything was burned. The roast, the potatoes, the mashed squash, the bread stuffing, the peas had even boiled dry, and they were burnt, too. Christmas Dinner was ruined. It was our fault.
We rinsed, and scraped, and peeled, but it was still burnt, and no amount of gravy would ever cover this up. Then my husband, bless his soul, saved Christmas.
"It's not burned," he said, "It's cajun-blackened."
We brought the decidedly crispy dinner to the table, announced that it was in fact not burned, but instead cajun-blackened, and we all had a great laugh, and a great amount of gravy.
Mom died less than a month later, on January 21, 2000. The doctors had told us she had about two years left, but a massive heart-attack brought an early end to our time with her.
We cried, we all cried a lot, and for a long time.
But to this day, in my Mother's honor, nothing is ever burned.
And once again, we can laugh.