Wednesday, December 15, 2010
My mom will be so mad that I’m mentioning this, but I can’t resist because it’s such a special Christmas to me. It’s no secret my family has never had money to burn, but my parents did the best they could do to never bring the stress of not having money into Christmas. The older we got the harder it was to do that, but we were more capable of understanding that stress as we matured. One year, while living in Grandview, MO we didn’t have a tree. We reassured my mom over and over that it was no big deal. We were all together and that was what was important. Mom couldn’t handle not having a tree. So at some point, in the wee hours of the morning, my parents snuck out of the house and went to an abandoned Christmas tree lot. My mom climbed over a fence to procure a discarded tree. They were all getting pitched in the trash in a few days anyway, so why not get use out of one she rationalized. Christmas morning was just like when we were kids coming downstairs to find presents under the tree. Except this time we were just excited to see a tree! I think my dad was secretly proud of my mom’s rebellious and illegal behavior. I know I was! She hates when we mention she stole a tree, so I just say, "Mom, yes you stole a tree, but you did it for your kids. God understands."
Another special Christmas was when my sister and I received a custom made doll house built lovingly by our Uncle Randy. I don’t remember the details; I just remember being told to close my eyes, when I opened them, my uncle and dad were bringing the biggest present I’ve ever received around the corner from my grandpa’s kitchen to the dining room. This must be special if it takes two grown men to carry it! Wait, it has working lights! Get out of town! It has a room for my sister, my brother, and me in there! The details are amazing! Thank you Uncle Randy, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!!!!
We moved from California when I was fifteen and we had to leave the doll house behind at Uncle Randy’s house. By that age it wasn’t too big of a deal to me. I had moved on from playing with it. but I didn’t want to get rid of it. Here it is seventeen years later and the doll house is now back in my hands. I know my uncle is happy to have it out of his house! All this time later the doll house is still gigantic to me! In the time that my uncle watched over it he added more to it, little details here and there that make it even more amazing. When my mom and I were unpacking it from its traveling crate, it was like that Christmas all over again. Unpacking the furniture and accessories and placing them in the right place was a trip down memory lane. I remembered all the stories about where each thing came from, much to my mom’s amazement. Now I have a new respect and appreciation for the doll house that I could not have had when I received it and when I left it behind. I am so excited to share the doll house with my daughter. I’m so glad my sister trusts me to take good care of OUR doll house.
For the longest time I’ve heard my mom complain about not having any Christmas traditions in our family. My siblings and I would remind her we do have a tradition, we always have Pillsbury cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning. It’s not exactly what she had in mind. And family arguments don’t exactly count either. I think she was hoping for something out of a Victorian novel or a tradition that would impress Martha Stewart. Now that I have my own family I know what she means. Actually, I knew what she meant back then but it was more fun to give her a hard time about her whining. When we were kids we set cookies out for Santa, we picked out a Christmas tree as a family, we took our picture with Santa, we went to Grandpa’s house on Christmas Eve, and we were always together Christmas morning. Little by little each of those things went away. Maybe my mom didn’t realize those were our traditions back then, or maybe they seemed more like a routine. When we think of routine it brings to mind the day to day boring stuff. But really, Christmas traditions are Christmas routines. Eventually routines change or fade away. So my mom’s longing for Christmas traditions is really her just longing for routine. What we do for Christmas changes from one year to the next. We just have to, forgive the cliché, make the most of the time we do have with each other.
A friend told me about something her sister-in-law does with her kids around Christmas time; I told her I was going to steal the idea. “Holly the Elf” is the name of the mischievous creature that makes messes in your house when you’re asleep. This mom has gone so far as to pour chocolate syrup on her countertops and make foot prints on her wall from ashes in the fireplace! Now I’m not going to push it that far. My husband would not approve of that kind of mayhem in the name of fun. Come on, we have three cats, can you imagine them running through chocolate syrup and the mess it would leave through the house?! No, I’ll stick to non-sticky messes that won’t leave stains.
I like to think of Holly the Elf as a Santa’s workshop disgruntled employee. Due to a shaky economy Santa had to make some cutbacks in hours and benefits for the elves. Holly the Elf’s wallet was already being stretched since her husband decided to go back to school full time to be a woodworking elf. He was bored with the doll assembly line. Now her son needs braces and the family pet hamster needed emergency surgery. So instead of taking a yoga class at the local elf rec center, she decided to cause mayhem to let out her aggression. So far, at our house, she has spilled candy canes on the floor, knocked our stockings down, put Christmas bells on the floor, and left candy wrappers and an empty cup of milk on the kitchen table. Rylee has been shocked at this behavior. She has said, “Well that was rude!” and “We need to write a letter to Santa to have her put on the Naughty list.”
I wasn’t sure how much I would want to get into the whole “Santa” thing with Rylee. I really couldn’t avoid it since she’s around other kids and they talk. I wouldn’t want to tell her the truth and have her ruin it for another kid. Besides, Santa has turned out to be a great motivator for good behavior. I’ve never said I was opposed to bribery and fear tactics as parental tools. I have to say Santa is more fun as a parent than as a kid. As a kid he’s mysterious and maybe even a little scary. As a parent he’s a weapon of deception and fun. Now that Holly the Elf has been added into my Christmas repertoire, I’m having a ridiculous amount of fun. The reaction Rylee is having to Holly’s mischief is priceless. My hope is that Rylee will look back on Christmas when she was a kid and have those little things stick out as being what made Christmas with her family so much fun. I can just picture her doing this with her own kids and calling me to tell me what my grandkid said when they saw a “Holly the Elf mess.”
My parents may not have done the crazy things I’m having fun doing, but that doesn’t mean Christmas, when I was growing up, was boring. If you don’t celebrate the birth of Jesus, then in the end this time of year is about being together, blessing friends and strangers, and from doing those things you will produce fantastic memories and maybe even create a few traditions of your own.