Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas Fondue**

I've been pretty incognito lately, sorry for the absence. It's hard to write about knitting that you can't show off on the blog, so knitting content will resume after gifts have been given. Somehow or another during this time, I also managed to miss my blogiversary. Oh well, right?

Enough about my absence... I'm ready to chat about holidays and traditions.

When I was a child, the 23rd of December had a certain mystique. I can't quite put my fingers on it, but in so many ways it was almost as magical as the 24th. School was over for the break, there were large tins of cookies all over the house and always there seemed to be a stack of LPs on the turntable that played holiday music all day long. Some of those LP covers really stick out in my memory ... the old Gene Autry Rudolph album, the Royal Guardsman's "Snoopy's Christmas" (that was my dad's) and lots of others, including one of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir doing all the holiday traditionals. By this time, we had already watched "Babes in Toyland" (while my mother burned the chocolate cookie press men) and "White Christmas" (while we trimmed the tree). We had already spoken to Santa on the direct-line phone at the firehouse, which was trimmed to the hilt and had a huge room FILLED with electric trains racing over snow-filled landscapes and little model references to our small town. There was a promise of visitors throughout the next day, a church service and a very giddy night when I swore I could hear sleigh bells and see Santa on the horizon through my bedroom window. Forcing myself to go to sleep so that he would actually arrive (I knew he was nearing our state because the local radio station had a direct line to the "official" Santa radar).

On Christmas morning, my parents would make my brother and I wake them before heading downstairs to the tree. I remember it was tortuous to wait while my father went first and made his instant cup of coffee and a cup of hot tea for my mother. (In retrospect, I was glad it was took less time.) He would also get the old camera ready (it took flash cubes, remember those?) and lay in wait for my brother and me. He'd call up the steps to my mother, who was ready in her terrycloth slippers and pink robe, and she'd go down the steps first. My brother and I would follow, and we'd stop at the foot of the steps before going down the long hall of our A-frame into the living room. Again, Mom would go first -- this time not to stop us from dashing in, but to make sure that we. kept. our. eyes. closed. You see, my folks had a ritual of taking a picture of us as we opened our eyes and saw the tree and our stockings. Every year we did this ... and I honestly don't remember when we stopped. I'm sure it had to do with a discovery of a certain something. All I know is that of all the traditions of my childhood, this was the one I liked the least.

Traditions are funny things, and its equally odd to see the merging of two very different cultures into a single family. You see, my husband had a very different Christmas experience ... no less loving, for sure, but he was a city kid living with his grandparents without his mother. I've heard the stories of the years that his dad went whole hog at Christmas ... the year of the "Mighty Casey" electric train that carried a four-year old around the house on a large track, and tales of him racing downstairs in the morning and then running around waking everyone in the house (some of whom had only just fallen asleep). Christmas was more materialistic in his house than in mine, for sure. I kid you not when I say that I've heard stories of the year the presents were piled to the ceiling (his dad was dating a sales clerk at the toy store) . That was the year he and his bro got an air hockey table and a arcade-size "Happy Days" pinball machine. These days, his family has a huge Christmas Eve party with a bushel of oysters and steamed shrimp and everyone opens their gifts at midnight. We duck out long before then with the kids but there is always much alcohol and revelry (unfortunately, someone always manages to drink too much and shoot their mouth off at the wrong person ... like I said, we duck out early). All I have ever heard music-wise on Christmas Eve (with the exception of the year that his dad drank too much and made us listen to Kenny G over and over) was rock music.

My husband and I have managed to meet halfway on the kids' gifts (they get plenty -- more than my relatively sparse years but way less than his "up-to-the-ceiling" year. I still watch "White Christmas" every single year while I decorate the tree, but not until after my husband puts the tree up to the backdrop of The Who's "Tommy." I make the cookies, but there aren't 10 tins (and I don't dare make the chocolate men for fear that I'll burn them and be destined to suffer the merciless teasing that my mother has endured for years).

Another tradition that has transferred -- and grown in a way -- was the legend of the elves. When I was little, a conversation like this was not uncommon in our house in December:

Dad: "Wen, quick -- look at the window!"

Kid: "What? I don't see anything."

Dad: Oh, it was an elf. Checking in on you to report back to Santa. You missed him."

Now of course this only really worked for a short time. But I carried the tradition to a pair of two little spirited girls that I babysat for one evening in December when they were out of control. I spun a yarn about a gentle-elf named Harold Holly who was watching them and reporting back to Santa. They snapped right into shape, and after they were asleep that night, I wrote a note to them from "their" elf. I explained the whole thing to their mother and father when they got home, and thankfully they loved the idea. In fact, the Legend of the Elves grew and grew. Shortly after that fateful evening, an elf doll arrived at their house one night. The same elf doll kept coming each year and after a short time, he grew up into a bigger doll. He kept coming, though, and I'm pretty sure that two young adults (the youngest is nearly out of college by now I'm sure) still have a great memory. Not to mention that their friends' parents joined in on the game, and a local boutique eventually stared a whole elf section in their holiday decorations.

Harold Holly and his brother Howard come to our house each and every year. They arrive shortly after both children have exhibited good behavior and they leave when Santa picks them up on Christmas Eve night. Harold (who is red) started coming when Z was a very little baby, and his brother Howard (who is green) started visiting when The Yarn Sniffer came along. We're hoping that they'll come tonight ... for you see, they come together and the Sniffer hasn't been a very good boy these days. School is wreaking havoc in his life and he can't stay on the green light. I'm confident they'll be perched somewhere in our living room tomorrow when I wake up.

But they'll be gone by the time we awake on Monday ... and I make my husband wait upstairs with the boys while I make the coffee and get the camera ready to take their picture when they come into the living room and first open their eyes and see their gifts ...

Share your traditions with others. Tell me about them. But above all, have a wonderful, magical holiday!

**My husband participated in the creation of this entry. His thought processes can sometimes be quite abstract... hence the use of "fondue" instead of simply saying, "melting pot."

1 comment:

jmatthews said...

Love the latest entry, especially the "elves". It's fun to see all of you start your own Christmas traditions.