Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

Recently, I realized I’ve turned into my father. Yes, I know this is odd. I’ve also turned into my mother and possibly my grandmother… there’s that uncle too. Anyway, I discovered my transformation into my father while I was at the grocery store. It’s Christmas you see. This means that everyone completely loses all ability to think and create lists and remember the simple things that are needed for cooking and gifting and all that comes along with Christmas. I travel to the store quite capably every other day of the year — but today, the eve of Christmas Eve, well… I turned into my father and made four trips to secure sour cream, butter, milk, and cheese.

Now, my father made these eve of Christmas Eve trips alone so I can only speculate that my behavior once I was in the store resembled his.

It started by securing the best parking spot in the lot, the coveted spot right next to the cart return area — a stroke of sheer luck no doubt.

The store was packed more on this fourth trip than it was earlier in the day — also, the looks on the faces of the shoppers had changed from a cherub-like “happy holidays” smile to an affect as flat as an elephant’s foot. The workers were also showing signs of the eve of Christmas Eve shopping stress — there seemed to be a lot of shelf stocking going on as opposed to employees eager to locate “those-weird-food-items-you-can’t-locate-on-your-own”.

I have shopped at the same store for several years now but for some inexplicable reason, this night I had to stop at the end of each aisle and look up unknowingly at the sign to tell me what items were located on each aisle — I stood under each sign at the beginning of each aisle. The eve of Christmas Eve short-term memory loss had clearly kicked in — I’m sure my father suffered from this, I’m sure of it.

Once I decided I needed to venture down an aisle, I would pause in the middle, my cart spread across as if I was parking a Lincoln Town car there — no way around me, completely unaware of the back-up I was creating.

I looked down at the ground, hoping to spark my memory of all the ingredients needed for all the special dishes — my mannerisms reeked of dementia.

I talked to myself — going through the items I knew I had in the cupboard and the refrigerator. I answered myself, “You just bought unsalted butter on the last trip”, I’d say aloud for all to hear. “Oh yeah, that’s right, I forgot”, I answered back even louder with a smile on my face — I oozed with the eve of Christmas Eve psychosis. People turned their carts away so as not to startle me. The always helpful produce man retreated behind the bananas.

“I am not an ANIMAL!”, I screamed in my head. Which of course made me laugh aloud — the women were protecting their children.

I decided on my fourth visit to the store that I desperately needed margarita mix, for obvious reasons (I was clearly having an eve of Christmas Eve psychotic episode and what better way to welcome a psychotic episode AND your relatives then with tequila?)

My cart was filled with the necessities for a happy get together, once again, and I felt certain I could leave this place — this vortex of confused people — hoping never to return (until at least the day after Christmas which is, of course, when I will realize that I’m out of chocolate milk). I decided to park my Buick of a cart along an end cap this time while I did another mental review of my cart, matched it to my mental review of what was in my cupboards and refrigerator, checked it against my mental review of the needed ingredients for all the dishes I was preparing, and then… did it all again. Unfortunately, I once again did my mental review aloud for the whole of the store to witness… “squash casserole — this, this, and this… done, good. Pumpkin black bean soup — that, that, that, and this… yay, I’m doing great.” I looked up to see that produce man hunkered down deep in the grapes this time — one eye on me, one eye searching for the nearest exit.

I headed for the checkout, with a rather large, possibly scary smile on my face — I was feeling so smug at this point.

I made small talk with the girl at the checkout… “So, are you all open tomorrow?”

“Yes”, she replied without looking up.

“Oh good”, I smiled. “Gives me plenty of opportunity to come back again when I get home and realize I have forgotten something.”, I laughed one of those weird laughs that you laugh when you realize that you’re sounding a wee bit off and the fact that you’re now laughing that weird laugh doesn’t really help your cause in the eve before Christmas Eve psychosis defense. This is when I realized that I had, in fact, turned into my father. The supreme disher-outer of droll jokes and one liners that no one laughed at more than he did.

She continued to look down, not wanting our eyes to meet. Clearly, we were through exchanging pleasantries.

I was back to talking to myself with the occasional fit of laughter — thinking about that tequila.

No one asked if I needed help to my car with my bags — the baggers were mysteriously absent from the front of the store.

I’m home now. With my loot. The eve of Christmas Eve is here. My fourth trip to the store was hopefully my last.

So I say to you all, “Merry Christmas to all and to all a… what’s that my precious daughter? We’re out of toilet paper?”

I’ll be right back…

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With Christmas only a week away at this point, I am often finding myself reminiscing about the Christmas’s of my past — really, I’ve been thinking about the presents.

I take motherly pride in attempting to grant my kids all their wishes at Christmas. Within reason, of course. Each child gets to ask Santa for three presents — Santa then chooses whether or not the present is a viable option (we like to keep things systematized at my house). But, they seem to be happy each year, so I guess Santa’s choices are ok.

I had some great Christmas gifts when I was a kid. There are a few though, that I really remember . When I was probably around four years old, I have a distinct memory of getting an umbrella for Christmas. It must have been the greatest umbrella in the world because I still remember it. I remember seeing it wrapped under the tree — and, I’m pretty sure the shape of it didn’t give it away to my four-year old self because it was the excitement at opening it as opposed to just seeing it that I remember the most. It was purple. There were polka dots.

When I was around nine, I got the most ridiculously cool race track. It came with three cars. My sister and her husband stayed up on Christmas Eve to assemble it for me (I learned this later in life). I played with that track so often that the metal clips holding it together wore out. My father, being an engineer, replaced the metal clips and attached the whole track to plywood. I was in college before I finally let my mother throw it out.

I also have distinct memories of the presents that weren’t under the tree. Two come to my memory immediately — an Atari and a moped. Oh, how I longed for that Atari. My best friend had one and we would play for hours. That little maze game was the best. The moped, well, I still haven’t let that go. My best friend and I were the only ones who did not have a moped. We had to watch all the other kids ride around the neighborhood and out to the lake — hoping someone would let us get on the back (there really wasn’t a back to moped’s when they first came out — it was more of a stand up on the pegs thing). I vow, every year, to buy myself a moped and ride it around the neighborhood.

I think it’s important to keep some things the same. The Christmas after my grandmother died, some fourteen years ago, we all still got gifts from her. And last year, my mother put her and my father’s name on all the gifts — and told my kids it was from their Poppy. I know what my mom would want me to do this year, she would want to have her name on some gifts. So, I think I will pick out some special ones and make them from her. Maybe the kids will remember those presents as they get older — maybe the memories won’t fade.

One of my father’s biggest fears was that his grandkids wouldn’t remember him — he was afraid they were too young to hold on to the memories. So maybe a gift from him for a few more years will keep his fear from being a reality — for now.

It’s strange how the memory of certain gifts stay with us… make the memory that much more real. Sometimes our memories are tied to the presents, and that’s ok. Especially if you are a kid, waking up on Christmas day.

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First Christmas

This year, I celebrate my first Christmas without my mother. I thought about running — far away. Sometimes avoidance is the best solution. But, I’ll stay… here. The lights are on the house, the poinsettias are placed ever so cleverly, the stockings are all hung — including my mother’s and father’s. There is no where you can hide that your memories won’t find you — especially the sad ones.

I love the Christmas season. My goal is to attempt to get people to shake their heads in disbelief at the sight of my decorations — of course, that is not my husband’s goal. So we reach a happy medium. The truth is, those beautifully decorated homes only occur in magazines where the children are fake and the dogs don’t continually knock the glass balls off the tree to play fetch — and no, I’ve never seen a magazine’s Christmas layout with a cat who had partially digested tinsel protruding from … well, you know. So my motto is, why try to replicate the idea of perfection when you can have the reality of imperfection?

Every year our Christmas tree falls over — every year. We get a real tree (please, if you get a fake tree just keep that to yourself… I don’t want any fighting here), and no matter how long we let it settle into the stand — once it’s decorated, it falls. Now that’s a picture I want to see in Good Housekeeping. Each year we wait to see if this will be the first year our tree doesn’t topple — so far, the tree is winning.

Our lives are filled with so many “firsts” aren’t they? The first always gets the most celebration — first birthday, first step, first tooth, first car, first date. The first is always the one that has the most memories, the most pictures, the most elaborate stories. I have some great video and photos of my children during their first’s. They love to watch it as much as I do.

My father gave me a dvd a couple of Christmas’s ago with my first steps on it (I won’t mention the part where I continually fell down and my oldest sister continually propped me back up only to watch me fall again and again and again — wait, yes I did mention it). My husband and I have many pictures of our first apartment — it was hideous — (why do I have those pictures?). We have great pictures of our first dog — (good grief, she was cute). We have tons of pictures of our first-born (trying to continually make up ground with the other two). I was rummaging through some old papers to discover the deed to my grandparents first house. First’s are special, they are memorable.

I have scheduled a trip to Disney right after Christmas. My youngest is very excited about getting an opportunity to meet her favorite princesses. She’s been there before — it was her first birthday. We celebrated it there, with my mother and father. We always took vacations with my parents — the beach, Disney World, the Smokey Mountains (yes, I mean Dollywood). I’m sure my husband and I took vacations by ourselves, without my parents — I just can’t remember them.

The last vacation we all took together was about two years ago. My father was on a break from his chemo treatments and was recovering fairly well from his surgery to remove a lung. He wanted to visit his mother, his sisters, and his brothers. He had a great time. We went to eat with my parents high school friends, had a cook-out with his mother and siblings, and toured the town they grew up in — for the last time. I guess firsts are always followed by lasts.

The day after Christmas we will head out to Disney, for our first real vacation without my parents. I will stay to face this first Christmas — without them. I will put off my running away. I will take pictures and videos and I will laugh, and my kids will laugh… and we will be together. And perhaps, this will be the first Christmas that our tree doesn’t fall, that our dog doesn’t eat half the ornaments, and that our fuse box doesn’t just give up — but, I hope not.

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Perhaps it’s a little early for Christmas stories — but, I’ll take my chances. Christmas has always been my favorite time of the year. I envy those among us with such lack of self-resolve that they are able to pull off those masterful house renovations. You know, the people who decorate every inch of their home with wreaths, chair covers — down to the toilet paper. Their roofs are perfectly strung with lights and their bushes are ever so bright.

I know with very little encouragement, I could be that obnoxious with my merriment. (Everyone can thank my husband for putting the kibosh on those tendencies.) The need to over-exaggerate the holiday festivities goes way back for me. Christmas has always been filled with too many gifts and too much food. I know I’m risking being very politically incorrect talking about excess at Christmas — but, as I said earlier, I’ll take my chances.

For as long as I can remember, Christmas morning has always followed the same routine:

Open stockings,

Wait for everyone to arrive,

Invade living room,

Trash living room,


This is a routine that has been repeated every Christmas — for as long as I can remember. The anticipation of the great reveal was so intense, so enormous — my parents living room had a door on either end. The kids would gather at one door while the parents would sneak in through the other door with cameras at the ready. Then the kids door would open and in they would run — eyes wide, mouths gaped open, arms raised in sheer disbelief at the bounty before them — before us. The presents would make a huge circle in front of the tree, so big that we had to creep over the bounty to find a place to sit.

My parents bought their house in 1965. My mother sold it last summer after she was diagnosed with cancer and it had become apparent that she would not be able to live there, alone. This house was the only home I had ever lived in — a fairly strange phenomenon I think. There was rarely a Christmas that we all did not gather there to celebrate — even as we became adults with children of our own. The majority of our Christmases were spent at this house, and all of our Christmases have been spent together. Last Christmas was the first time that Mom and Dad’s house was not ours to celebrate in. But it was ok, we were still together — and Mom was feeling fairly well.

I distinctly remember one rare Christmas that we all had gathered at my grandparents house. My sister and I were probably around six and eight. We had pleaded with our grandparents to let us sleep under the Christmas tree — we had hope beyond imagination that we would catch Santa as he came down the chimney. They agreed and we began our night of trying to stay awake. It didn’t take long before we had both lost our battle and had succumbed to sleep. But, very emphatically, we both woke up at the same time. And then we heard it — a thumping sound on the roof above us. We were both so rattled and excited that we hid our heads under the covers, scared to peek out until eventually, sleep won again. The next morning we awoke to that huge circle of gifts, surrounding us, and a story we could not tell fast enough. We have retold that story of the thumping on the roof for years and I’m not sure if anyone believes us. But, I swear to this day, that is a true story.

My father was the master photographer and videographer. I remember the camera he used to record our Christmases when we were young. I don’t know anything about cameras but I know this one had no sound and we had to watch it with a film projector, on a screen. My father was very particular about who was allowed to run the projector because if it got stuck for too long in any spot, it would melt the film. He had a lighting set-up that most Hollywood studios would envy — he had attached a large string of lights to a post on a stand, and if you looked at them for too long, they could burn a hole right through your retina. One Christmas a few years ago, my father had gathered all the old films of us growing up… first steps, vacations, Christmases. He put all those special memories together for each one of us kids and transferred it to a DVD. It was an incredible gift. And there were the presents, surrounding the Christmas tree, as wide as the room.

But this Christmas, we’re on our own — for the first time in our lives. Just us kids, forced now to be the adults. Hoping to continue those excessive memories for our own children. Hoping to recreate those certain foods that when the smell of them permeate throughout the house, you know its Christmas. Hoping to have so many packages under the tree that no one can walk near it without tripping. Hoping that Santa doesn’t lose his way because we all need the joy.

In a few days, I’ll start pulling out Christmas decorations. Just a few at a time so as not to draw concern from my husband. But, before it’s all over, I hope to have bright lights on the house, Bing Crosby crooning from the CD, “It’s A Wonderful Life” playing on the TV, and a living room filled with more presents than any one tree should be allowed to display. I want to always have the excesses of Christmas.

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