i’m watching football because the seahawks are playing and it’s a big game and i’m usually home during this time of the year. it’s snowing there and i don’t know any of the players’ names but i’m still hooting and hollering and trying to be excited while i pack my bikinis for our trip to hawaii.

i feel all out of sorts when i’m not on the west coast for christmas. every year on this night, we have our annual christmas party. i sing “o holy night” and eat snacks and chat with the neighbors who have been showing up to drink hot buttered rums and give each other hugs for more than twenty years, thanks to my mother, the queen of christmas.

my mom was born on december 18th, exactly one week before her favorite holiday. her name is “carol” as a result of this (and her oldest brother’s insistence) and she recently told me that she doesn’t feel the name suits her. i was shocked— my mom has always been my christmas carol, the woman who instilled a deep and undying adoration of all things santa clause, snowbanks, mistletoe, and hallelujah at the very center of my heart. it’s my favorite because of all the things she did to make it special when we were little, all of the things that she still does when we all come together from our respective corners of the world every year.

this year, we’ll celebrate with sunshine and seashells. we’ll sit on the lanai and let our hair curl in the humidity and talk about home. we’ll be thousands of miles away from where i grew up but it will feel like christmas, will feel just like home, because as i sit here watching football in brooklyn, it occurs to me: it’s christmas when i’m with my mom. it’s christmas no matter where we are.