I know there are tons of families out there that have ham or a Christmas turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce and vegetables to celebrate the holiday. My family is not one of those families. We have an unusual tradition that our Christmas Eve meal is pinto beans, tamales and believe it or not, spaghetti.
It all started when I was a young child and Christmas Eve was spent at my Grandma and Grandpa Zam’s house. At that age, I was not a big fan of tamales as I am now. If you do not know the greatness of a tamale, here is the Wiki description.
“A tamale is a traditional Mesoamerican dish, made of masa or dough (starchy, and usually corn-based), which is steamed in a corn husk or banana leaf. The wrapping can either be discarded prior to eating or used as a plate. Tamales can be filled with meats, cheeses, fruits, vegetables, chilies or any preparation according to taste and both the filling and the cooking liquid may be seasoned.”
Reading the description, you can imagine that a seven-year-old would not be completely intrigued. So, I begged my Grandma to make spaghetti along with the tamales and beans. As Grandmothers do, she obliged and made a pot of spaghetti along with the rest of the planned meal. Looking back, this was a ridiculous request, but it happened, and it kept happening year after year.
This menu became a Christmas Eve staple, and I would not want anything else. I never even knew this was not in line with the rest of America. Nor did I care. This was my reality and I loved it. Year in and year out every Christmas Eve we could count on it. So, the year my Grandma died, I feared it could all fade away. “Grandma Rippa” would not be around to make us this unconventional Christmas feast.
The Christmas after she died, my parents hosted the Christmas Eve celebration. It was a joyous but sad time because my Grandpa was torn apart from losing his spouse of over 50 years. We tried to keep everything as similar as it was before. In her memory, we had tamales, beans and spaghetti just like we had for many years.
Fast forward over a decade and we still have the same menu every Christmas Eve in her honor. We all share favorite memories and stories of her before exchanging gifts. This year with the COVID-19 disruption, we will sadly be missing the Colorado Christmas Eve experience. However, here in Kansas, you can bet my clan will be having the usual Christmas Eve traditional meal. Some things just must be done.
So even if someone you love is not with you anymore and maybe you don’t think about them every day, they are not forgotten. They are remembered through happy memories and family traditions. Mine just happens to be a little unusual.
Another tradition of mine this time of year is checking out some dynasty players to keep an eye on this offseason.
So, let’s do it!
Denzel Mims (WR, New York Jets)
I have written about Denzel Mims before and my stance has not changed. He is an up-and-coming superstar. He stands 6’3”, weighs 207 pounds and has a 4.38 40-yard dash time. Add that to his strong hands and his ability to make contested catches and we have a recipe for greatness.
The variable to watch on him is what the Jets do in the offseason with the coaching staff and their high pick in the draft. If they select a quarterback and fire Adam Gase, then lookout.
He can also still be a productive player if the Jets pass on selecting a top QB and stick with current quarterback Sam Darnold. Darnold was a top-three pick in the 2018 draft and has the tools to lead a franchise. Coaching is the key here.
Jalen Hurts (QB, Philadelphia Eagles)
How can I have a 2021 dynasty watch list without Jalen Hurts? He was given the keys to the lackluster Philadelphia Eagles offense and has not looked back. In two full games, he has passed for over 500 yards with five touchdowns and almost 170 rushing yards.
The thing to watch this offseason is what will they do with the former starting quarterback Carson Wentz. He put up top numbers just a couple ofseasons ago. If Wentz gets the job back, then Hurts goes back to being a long-term dynasty asset. If Hurts is named the starter for next season, then we are looking at a top-15 type player. Another thing to monitor is what the Eagles do to upgrade their offensive line. An upgrade there is an upgrade to an already good-looking prospect.
AJ Dillon (RB, Green Bay Packers)
AJ Dillon was drafted in the second round in the 2020 draft. He is a big guy standing 6’ and weighing 247 pounds. He didn’t catch many passes at Boston College, but he can run defenders over in the style of Derrick Henry. He has not seen the field much his rookie year with current lead back Aaron Jones dominating carries.
The watch for Dillon is what happens to Jones in free agency. If they let Jones walk, Dillon has a tremendous opportunity in the Green Bay backfield.
Laviska Shenault (WR, Jacksonville Jaguars)
Laviska Shenault was drafted in the second round of the 2020 draft out of the University of Colorado. He came into the league with high expectations, but he has not exploded yet. He is physical, fast and still developing his skills as a receiver.
The watch for Shenault is what does Jacksonville do with that high first-round selection? Just like in the Mims situation, if they draft a quarterback with the top pick we are looking at a huge value increase for him and the entire Jaguars offense.
A little empathy goes a long way. Try to make someone smile every day with an act of kindness. Find me on Twitter @GaryZam01 to chat about football, music or really anything.