Thursday, December 20, 2007

Closing in on Christmas

Christmas time on The Planet is overwhelming at best.  Since having children, it's been really important to me to develop some traditions that we do every year.  As a child myself, my parents never set out to begin traditions, but I suppose a few emerged naturally.  Every year we would travel several hundred miles north to visit my grandparents.  Those trips hold tons of fond memories for me.  As an only child, I always looked forward to being with my mom's family and surrounded by my 10 cousins.  We used to take over my grandparents' basement which always smelled musty and was usually covered in cobwebs.  It was unfinished, cold concrete floors and luxury meant one meager toilet with no sink.  But there was a ping pong table, and that's ALL that mattered.  My cousins and I would spend HOURS down there challenging each other to matches and listening to Led Zeppelin on my eldest cousin's boom box.  Besides sledding on the hill across the street, it was our only form of entertainment during that long week of Christmas.

Usually after a long day of ping pong we would all stumble upstairs, loud and famished.  We'd usually get in trouble for being too loud and possibly waking up the infant members of the family.  We'd crowd in the kitchen and dig through the fridge and freezer, usually ending up with vanilla ice cream cones and chocolate syrup.  But these just weren't your standard ice cream cones.  Oh no.  They were the cake cones with the flat bottom.  We'd pile scoops of ice cream on top and then poke a finger through the middle.  In that hole made by the finger, we'd pour in chocolate syrup.  And then the magic would happen.  As the ice cream is eaten, the chocolate syrup with pool down in the bottom of the cone.  Ah yes, good messy times.

And then we'd all lay out sleeping bags in the living room.  Since there were about 10 of us, it was sorta a tight squeeze.  My two elder female cousins would always claim the couches leaving the rest of us to tough it out on the hard floor.  And there we'd lay, by the light of the Christmas tree and share ghost stories and jokes and try our hardest to not be the first one to fall asleep.

The gifts under the tree at my grandparents' house never amounted to much.  My mom was one of 6 children and ultimately there were 17 grandchildren.  My grandparents were not wealthy people by any stretch of the imagination.  I don't think that I can recall even one gift that I ever received from them on Christmas morning.  But I do remember those moments.  And so many others.  And that's what I hope to give my children on this Christmas morning, and the Christmas mornings in the future.  Moments, memories.  Despite painstakingly picking out gifts and obsessing over them, in the end I won't care if they don't remember them 20 years from now.  But I DO care about them remembering being together, baking cookies, watching Christmas movies, staying up late to play with new toys, having trouble falling asleep the night before Christmas, going to the Christmas Eve service at church and coming home to pizza and unwrapping stocking stuffers, reading the Christmas Story from the Bible, dressing up like Mary, eating more sweets than should be allowed, and so much more.  If they remember those moments, then it will be a very Merry Christmas indeed.

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