So, Christmas is just around the corner and I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite Christmas memories. Why? Well, because we all love that warm feeling we get while standing at the window, watching our kids playing in the snow, freezing their patooties off, while we're inside drinking hot chocolate! Okay, maybe my motivation is more therapeutic in nature. By telling you about some of my memories, maybe I can get past some of the hurt that came from these traditions coming to an end when Nancy decided she didn't want to be married any longer. Or maybe I just have fun making this stuff up. In any event, here are a few Milliron Family Christmas Traditions:
Picking Out The Tree
Is there anything more fun than the annual trek to the Christmas tree lot to pick out your tree? Hours of painstaking comparisons of one tree to another, only to pick one, get it home and discover it is infested with ants! The only thing more fun is going out in the woods, freezing your patootie off while wading through wet snow, hiking back and forth between any number of scraggly trees, only to hear your spouse say, "I dunno, let's keep looking" and then, after coming close to losing a toe due to frostbite, you cut one down, wrestle it onto the roof of the mini-van and carefully drive home so it doesn't fall off. Only to discover it is infested with ants!
Setting Up The Tree
For me, the Magic of Christmas comes when you get the tree home, and risk a myocardial infarction trying to get it into the tree stand, and then into the house (while the rest of your family is drinking hot chocolate and watching TV) only to find that the dang thing grew 2-3 feet on the drive back home. That's pure magic! Except for the part where you have to drag it back into the garage, to cut it down to size.
Putting The Lights On The Tree
Putting the lights on the tree is fairly easy, except for the fact that once you get them all arranged, invariably one or more strings mysteriously quits working. But that's easy compared to putting up lights on the house!
Putting The Lights On The House
Our house in Bend was two stories tall with a humongous peak over the garage. Stringing the lights up and over the peak was always a challenge. And by "challenge" I mean a death defying high wire act. Standing on my tip toes on the top step of the 18 foot ladder and thinking, "Maybe if I just jump up about six inches I'll be able to get this onto the hook!" (What a great idea!) OR giving up on that approach and crawling up the icy roof, leaning way over the edge to see if that might be easier. ("Maybe my belt buckle will catch on the gutter and get me just close enough that I can get this onto the hook.") OR really giving up and going into the house to tell my wife, "Yeesh, that is just too scary! I think we'll just skip putting lights up over the peak this year!" only to hear her reply, "Oh honey, it looks so great when the lights run all along the front of the house! You can do it!" (I now realize that what she was really saying was, "Don't give up! I'm counting on you to finally fall to your death this year!"
Decorating The Tree
The tree is in the stand. It's been drug through the house to it's designated spot in the living room. The whole house has that Christmasy smelly that comes with needles covering every square inch of the floor and pitch covering much of the walls. We put on the Christmas music (Usually Bob & Doug McKenzie's 12 Days of Christmas or The Waitresses, Christmas Wrapping or Bruce Springsteen's classic Santa Claus is Comin' to Town.) We call the kids in to start hanging ornaments. This works out really well (sarcasm intended) for two reasons: 1) Young children hang all their ornaments within two inches of each other and 2) Mom is just going to take them all down and put them back up her way anyway.
Sleeping Under The Tree
I cannot remember how this tradition started but I suspect it may have stemmed from another plot to kill or cripple me for life. Once a year, just a few days before Christmas, all five of us would sleep under the tree. We'd leave the lights on the Christmas tree all night to keep us company. (Hey, I'm not proud of it but sometimes you get scared of the dark, you know?) And while you might expect a "Good night Mary Ellen. Good night John-Boy" experience, what you really get is, "Jake! Quit kicking me!" or "Dad, you shouldn't yell SHUT UP AND GO TO SLEEP at Christmas! Santa won't bring you any presents" OR "Santa, Shmanta! You kids still believe in that goon? Well, I hate to break it to you but THERE IS NO SANTA! Think about that while you're going to sleep!" Followed by whimpering. And if that weren't bad enough, (and don't you think it should be?) I find myself waking up every 45 minutes during the night because apparently carpeting is not meant to provide you with the comfort and support you need for a decent nights sleep. On the other hand, the time I spent in traction in the days immediately after sleeping under the tree were, on the whole, pretty relaxing.
That's just a few of our traditions. I left out things like driving around to look at Christmas lights, freezing our patooties off at the Annual Christmas Parade, the traditional Christmas Eve minestrone, the birthday party for Jesus (Is it okay to say "Jesus" at work?) and the Christmas Eve story time with the Crawford's (where each year Shawn and/or I were in a panic to find the right story to read to our kids). And while I might sound a little cynical about things, I'm not. I LOVED all of these traditions - even the ones that tended to be life threatening - and the memories they created with my kids. And I hope they look back as fondly on them as I do.
Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! Happy Hanukkah! Happy Kwanza! Happy Winter Solstice! Merry "Insert Your Own Favorite Cult Celebration Here."
And now I gotta go spray the tree for ants again.