It is Christmas Eve and Nichole is putting the finishing touches on the Christmas ham with her mother Rosa. "It looks like Dad's family recipe has done it again. It looks beautiful. He would be so proud of us.", Nichole says.
Rosa sighs and looks out the kitchen window, "I know. It is still hard for me to believe your father has been gone for three years now. But the ham looks delicious, and I know he would not mind if I just cut the tiniest slice off the end here."
Nichole gives her mother a side eye. Rosa grabs a knife off the marble countertop and slices through the perfectly maple glazed crusted ham and winks. "You know, just to make sure it's not poisoned." As Nichole begins to protest, Rosa reaches over and puts a thin slice into her daughter's mouth.
Nichole moans in ecstasy and licks her lips. "Dad would be so proud of us. Mom, this tastes even better than last year’s ham. This little piggy is a true masterpiece."
Just then Kelly, Nichole's wife, and Dayon, their 7-year-old son walk into the kitchen.
“Hi grandma! It smells so good in here. It smells like Christmas.” Dayon says as he rushes over to Rosa.
"Let me guess. You two are testing the ham for poison." Kelly smirks.
Mama Rosa laughs, "You know us all too well Kelly. As you should. You've been a part of our family for sixteen years." Reaching down to give her grandson a kiss she asks, "How's my favorite grandson?"
Dayon smiles, "Grandma, I'm your only grandson. Can I have some ham? I think Grandpa Danny would want me to check for poison too.”
“Do you see what you two have started?” Kelly asks.
“Well, we’re always looking for new partners in crime. Isn’t that right Dayon?” Nichole retorts as Dayon nods in agreement and puts a bite size piece of ham in his mouth.
"Dayon let's go get dressed so we can join Milton and Laurel to see the luminarias in Carrollwood." Rosa smiles.
"I'm happy they invited us. I never would have thought that an elderly white couple would be so open minded and invite their non- traditional neighbors." Kelly says.
"Well, I've always told Nichole and her brother to never judge a book by its cover and that goes for Milton and Laurel. Now, let me help my only and favorite grandson get dressed so we can head next door. Laurel says Milton will drive us since he knows the streets with the best luminarias displays." Rosa grabs Dayon's hand and heads upstairs.
"Of course, the male breeder wants to drive. They always have to be in control." Kelly sneers and shoves a piece of ham into her mouth.
"Hey, be nice. You heard what my mom said. Never judge a book by its cover. Besides, they wouldn't have invited us if they had a problem with us." Putting her arm around Kelly, Nichole gives her a light kiss on the cheek.
"You're right of course. I don't want to prejudge people because that would make me a hypocrite." Kelly says. "And I believe that would put me on Santa's naughty list." She smiles and relaxes into Nichole's arms.
“Well, for the record, I don’t mind if you’re on Santa’s naughty list. I’ll still give you all your gifts under the tree.” Nichole grins.
Twenty minutes later the motley crew is being driven around Carrollwood's streets and avenues with Milton and Laurel as their guide.
"The traditional luminaries consists of a small brown paper bag, a small candle and a small amount of sand to weigh down the bag in case of wind." As Milton navigates through the beautifully lit neighborhoods, they continue to 'ooh' and 'ah' at every turn. “Although the people in our neighborhood have come and gone and changed over the years, the tradition of the luminaries perseveres.”
An hour later, Milton pulls the van into the driveway. "So, who wants hot chocolate and warm donuts?"
"I do! I do!", screams Dayon.
"For the past thirty years me and Milton always follow our luminaries ride with hot chocolate and warm donuts." Laurel smiles and reaches over to squeeze Milton's hand.
"That sounds lovely", Mama Rosa replies.
That evening, Kelly and Nichole enjoy their traditional bourbon eggnog with steaming hot bowls of gumbo as they wrap last minute gifts for the tree, Kelly smiles, "Tonight will go down as one of my favorite Christmas Eve's."
"Oh really?" Nichole takes another sip of her eggnog and places another piece of tape on a gift with sparkly green wrapping paper. “You mean you enjoyed spending time with a white heterosexual elderly couple?”
"Yes", Kelly replies. "Milton and Laurel were wonderful tour guides and a sweet elderly couple. You and your mother were right. My early New Year’s Resolution is to not judge a book by its cover. I hope to one day be as loving and caring as they are."
"I'll drink to that." Nichole says as they both clink their glasses together.
Meanwhile next-door Milton and Laurel are also sharing a Christmas Eve drink; a glass of Pinot Grigio along with small bowls of warm pasta carbonara.
"Do you have the book Laurel?" Milton asks as he sips the last of his wine.
"You know I do sweetheart", Laurel replies.
Laurel places a black leather-bound book with gilded pages on the round dining room table. She gently pulls on the scarlet-colored ribbon revealing a page with the heading Bucket List followed by a numerical list of varying items written in a combination of black and blue ink. Some of the items are followed by a big red check mark indicating a successful completion of the task.
Mid-way down on the right-hand side of the journal, Milton's weathered index finger lingers over numbers 71 and 72.
"We definitely hit the jackpot with our new neighbors didn't we Laurel?", Milton chuckles as Laurel hands him a red pen.
"We sure did sweetheart. Merry Christmas!", and with two quick strokes of the pen Milton puts two red-inked check marks next to the phrases "Have hot chocolate with colored people" and "Hang out with lesbians".