Death Under The Tree

I'm a little behind, as is too sadly usual. You know how it is during the holiday for us persons of the selling persuasion. But I am temporarily caught up on mailing out people's longed-for goodies, so I decided to take a moment to dispense some holiday advice.

It's too late for me! Save yourselves!!

Well, okay, I just said that for dramatic effect. But I do want to seriously tell you what I plan to be telling myself over and over for the next 15 days. Remember that this is a holiday! It is supposed to be FUN! It's true you are trying to make some memories, but trying too hard will only result in memories of being cranky, exhausted and annoyed at every other living thing on the planet.

This Christmas hurtling at us like a Giant Deadly Unstoppable Meteorite From Outer Space will be my 46th, and I admit many of the details of Christmases Past sort of run together in my mind by now. On the other hand, my mental scrapbook has plenty of good clear shots that stand out:

There's a red Chevy station wagon, the kind with pointy tailfins, absolutely jammed full of presents, all of which are wrapped in white paper printed with sprigs of holly. That's from back when my mom worked for Western Auto. She bought the goodies for all six kids there, and my sister Debbie and I got to come help wrap the ones for my four little brothers. (Hence the massive amounts of matching paper.) The car was so full there was barely room for my mom in the driver's seat. Being young and nimble (and double-jointed) I managed to slither into a small gap between the top of the presents and the car roof for the ride home. I think Mom tied Debbie to the roof....

Fast forward to my first Christmas as a married lady. This was in 1972. THAT MAN and I lived in an $85 a month apartment, and my housekeeping funds were a lush $5 a week. (First born Damaris was pretty much formed out of macaroni.) While on a visit to his folks in the trailer park (yes, I am being a little snarky here; I realize that), I was thrilled to see that someone landscaping the grounds had thrown away a tiny evergreen shrub (the kind that smell vaguely like cat pee). I toted it home, found a big mason jar to use as a stand and tied hair ribbons all over it, plus anything else I could find. (I think I may have gone so far as to try to make garlands out of toilet paper.) We had solemnly agreed only to spend $5 on each other's present, but in a fit of seasonal sentimentality I sold my ornate jewelry box to a friend who had long coveted it, and ended up with enough to buy THAT MAN a small aquarium. I got a book of cat stories from him. This incident is actually a moderately good metaphor for how the marriage went. But that's a whole 'nother column. Or twenty.

Christmas is really a kids' holiday, of course. And don't we sometimes have strange ways of acting on that? I believe there are still pictures in Grandma Ginny's collection of baby Damaris (the incredible macaroni girl) shrieking indignantly from the lap of a long-suffering mall Santa. I don't know if I have any left or not--I lost a big percentage of my lifetime photo stash during the first flood (of four, so far) in our basement.

Luckily most of my best pictures are mental images, immune to the ravages of time and faulty hot water heaters. I can still see four year old Sterling opening a Christmas present, one of those stretchable rubber figures that were sort of a knock-off of the Creature from the Black Lagoon. His mouth dropped open, but he was too excited make a sound for almost a full minute--and he was simply quivering with delight! That has remained, over the years, my idea of a 10 (on the famous scale) for judging how well someone likes a gift I've given them.

Probably the strangest present ever given in our family (and it does have stiff competition) was Death. Kenny became an avid role-playing game fan as soon as he discovered them, and one of his favorite characters was named...Death. (Don't let it worry you--he was and is a sweet boy. We all have our own ways of coping.) So I had a brilliant idea--our friend Carol Kimball sewed up a traditional black hooded robe. I already had an antique scythe from a farm auction, and a mannequin ditto. So tucked in behind our tree that memorable Christmas was a looming, ghastly figure...that none of the kids noticed until nearly noon. And then they laughed like maniacs. I guess Death isn't all that scary when he's wearing plaid polyester pants and penny loafers under the robe.

Michael, being 7, is in the middle of his prime Christmas years, and of course he loves every bit of it. He has ever since his first Christmas, when he was 10 months old. He was still not crawling, and we (plus half a dozen professionals in the child development field) were experimenting with anything we could think of to coax him into trying this scary new thing called self-locomotion. Although it is not generally recommended these days (for good reasons), I decided to try him in one of those walker things--you know, sling seats with little wheels on the bottom of a wide base. Well, he hated it and protested every time we put him in it. Up until the day we decorated the tree and plugged in the lights! He bounced up and down with such excitement that--he moved forward and GOT them! So that year we had to make a Mikey-baffle around the base of the tree out of rolled up old blankets, so he could scoot close to the tree but not quite grab those wonderful glowing lights and pull the tree down on his little head.

It was our best tree ever. But then, in our house, tradition has it that every year's tree is the best ever. We buy a real one (donated to the Wildlife Conservation afterwards for their habitat projects), as branchy as possible, and cover it with a big conglomeration, from tinsel garlands going back to Caro's childhood to ornaments made in school by our kids down through the years. And anything else we feel like!

So I encourage you to let your Christmas this year be a conglomeration of things you feel like doing, that will make you or someone you love as happy as Sterling was with his monster. Don't worry that anyone will think you're odd in your choice of fun, and don't let anyone make you sit on a Santa you don't like. Take a cue from Mike and bounce after the sparkly stuff.

Very few people's best Christmas memories come from being around someone who can honestly say, "I did 1,000 pointless things perfectly!"

Quote of the Week:

"If there ever was a time to lighten up, it's Christmas!
If there ever was a time to chill out, then it's now!
If there ever was a time to relax and have a ball,
Just decorate the tree and give a friend a call,
If there ever was a time to lighten up it's now!"

'Lighten Up, It's Christmas!' by The Geezinslaws

Need an attribution, a nifty opening line, or just a quote fix? There are some great links to quote sources on the NNNN web page!

"Quotes!" she cried!

Here is your 'Pic(k) of the Week' URL:

Let me give you a warning--this is funny, but risque! Don't scroll down if you are easily shocked!

Heed these warnings if you plan to attend holiday parties. A. Only go out with friends you trust and B. Follow your Grandma's advice and wear decent underpants!