My grandmother made Christmas Eve so special. She knew I needed to be whisked away from my alcoholic home and transported into a magical land of cookie baking and holiday music and last-minute gift wrapping with notes from Mr. & Mrs. Claus (and often, the reindeer!)

She made ten-course meals. Made us sit through all of it before we could open a single gift. She made us discuss real topics at the dinner table. She made us feel like adults. She listened to us as if what we said mattered. I loved Christmas Eve because for one night, when I was with the Millers, I felt not just normal but special in a good way. Not special in an “oh your Mom gets drunk and comes to our soccer games” kind of way. It was magic. Until.

Often, my drunk Uncle from the other side of the family would knock on the door midway through dessert or gift giving, dressed in a Santa suit, stumbling about. It was the exact colliding of worlds I feared most on the one day I got to feel so special. In hindsight, I realize that even though that night was magic every year because my grandmother made it so, I always held my breath. Would he come this year? Would he pierce the loveliness that I was basking in with his drunken hugs and sloppy kisses and way too loud voice? Would I have to watch the faces of all the other Millers trying to appease him and be nice while also steering him out the door? Would another night that mattered be wrecked? Would the proverbial other shoe drop as it always did when alcohol and my family collided?

I still do it up for Christmas, in absolute gratitude for my grandmother. I still bake and decorate too many trees (with the vintage ornaments she left me) and try like hell to make Christmas Eve really special for others. But I know what it’s like to be waiting for the alcohol to be a problem. For everything to go tits up. If that’s you this year or any year, I see you. I love you. You are not alone. I want you to find a few moments of magic tonight even in the ish. And I am inviting you to my virtual ten-course meal and want you to be ready to discuss any number of important world topics. Are you ready?

📷: @anoesisdesign