5 days: the most wacky time of the year
I promise this blog is not about the ridiculously crazed people in line in the final countdown to Christmas. I could write a book about that insanity. Since I make many of my gifts, I always forget not everyone does, and I end up at the store for a jug of milk, flabbergasted by the ensuing chaos. In the past couple of days, I have been reminded of just how special family traditions are . . . even the whack-a-doodle ones.
My childhood Christmases were all pretty special. (Okay, not getting the one doll I wanted left quite an impression, but I think I’m getting over it.) Like most families, we had traditions which we typically recreated each year. Looking for the magic bell, eating sausage biscuit balls Christmas morning, visiting the miniature Christmas village in Pensacola, driving around looking at Christmas lights, and of course, enjoying dinners with families where my cousins and I always pretended the kids table was in France while the adults were back in plain ol’ Florida. All are times I cherish.
Of course, if I were completely honest, one of my favorite memories which did not become a tradition was the year my maternal grandmother, Nanny, started the neighbor’s house on fire. This wasn’t some kind of Hatfield and McCoy feud, although that would make for a much more interesting story. (Similar to my brother’s wedding when both my dad and I had stitches. On the sly, we created great cover stories of a Wild West style fight and a snake bite which were infinitely better than skin tag removal and the attic stairs dropping on your head.) Meanwhile back in my memories, the reason for the neighbor’s carport fire was a little known tradition of lighting fireworks on Christmas Eve. A little flash, boom, and pzzzzoom, followed by a very unlikely landing made for one remarkable evening. The Floridian hallmark was one we kept for a while; starting fires on other people’s homes was not a repeat event. For the record, the fire lasted only a minute and did not cause any serious damage to life or property. The part that made it so memorable was I had never seen my grandmother run – ever. Much like her dancing, her running was a sight to behold. Just writing this has caused the biggest smirk to appear on my face, and if she were still with us, she would be smirking too!
Another childhood tradition was just recently re-introduced to my own children. Last night we put up our trees. At some point, I began to wax nostalgic and blurted out, “This just isn’t right.” My loving and ever attentive family asked what had caused my dismay. (Okay, that didn’t really happen, but a girl can dream.) I eventually just kept on talking about how when I was a child we always, ALWAYS I tell you, listened to our favorite Christmas record when decorating the tree. Bing Crosby’s White Christmas, it was not. A little convincing on my part, but eventually we plopped in the “The Monster Christmas Mash” cd. It is okay you can say it. Monster Christmas Mash? What in the mayonnaise? The Boy Wonder just looked at me as if I had grown an extra head. He should never, I mean NEVER play poker, because “Mother, what in heaven’s name do monsters have to do with Christmas?” was written all over his face. The jazzy, blues, and funk style tunes did not do much to convince him or the Girl Awesome, neither did the great storyline of monsters learning the true meaning of Christmas (and I don’t mean the commercial one). At one point, they asked me if their grandparents were on drugs the day we purchased the LP at the Montgomery Ward’s. But thank goodness for the miracle of little girls, because Sally was singing along with me while simultaneously giggling at the thought of the Creep Castle chorus marching band AND dissection society.
I embrace my inner kookiness, but I am guessing others have completely weirdo traditions in their families as well. Monster Christmas may be unique to my family (as I am guessing even in the 70’s it was probably not a big seller.) But I equally certain that the other tradition we revisited Friday night is one in which many partake. We had the opportunity to give back in a most splendid way through the board that several Stevens sit on. At a local memory care facility, we created a shopping experience for residents so that they could shop for their families. Our group also had wrapping stations for the gifts. Truly a blessing to all of us present! Such a magical way to spend a Friday afternoon! I sincerely hope that we created a new tradition, but that isn’t exactly the one I was referring to earlier. We are big believers in leaving a place cleaner than when we arrived; thus, we picked up any mess we had made as the staff was preparing the table for supper. About the same time, the Boy Wonder’s eyes and mine fell upon a stack of the leftover gift wrapping tubes. A quick exchange of eyebrows told me he was thinking exactly what I was. Without much fanfare, we offered to take the cardboard tubes off their hands. The leader of our board, who also raised sons, knew precisely what we were up to. “You short a few swords at your house?” was spoken through a sheepish smile.
She gets us. She really gets us. The best part of wrapping presents is getting rid of the paper . . . off the roll so you can sneak up and whack your brother. Absolutely the best part!
Traditions are the fabric that makes families unique. Some are worth repeating, just as some are okay to let go. Others are even worth passing down through the generations. Monster Christmas Mash might not make it to another generation, but wrapping paper tube swords will definitely make the cut.
En garde, peeps! En garde!