Beautiful Ride

The somewhat self-indulgent rantings about the beautiful ride that is my life!

Merry Christmas to All… and to All a Good Night December 26, 2010

Filed under: beautiful ride,Faith,Family,Holidays,Home — beautifulride @ 12:22 am
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It’s a little after 10 pm on Christmas night, and I’m comfortably settled on my sofa, a glass of wine within reach, a new book on the table next to me, and my family surrounding me…and I feel full of  the spirit of the season. I have had a wonderful Christmas, and as my boys get older, I’m surprised and delighted that the wonder of Christmas, the excitement and the anticipation, has not faded for them. They continue to amaze me with the amount of joy they get from the Season…not just the stuff. Yes, they have lists of “things” that they would love to have…games and movies, musical instruments and electronics,  legos and books… all of the things that boys 11-20 years of age dream of. But what I find so charming and endearing is that even though they have lists of things they would love to HAVE, they also hold another list close to their hearts, a list that seems more important to them.  This is a  list of things they want to do…with us…to celebrate Christmas. From “Christmas Vacation” on Thanksgiving night through New Year’s Eve  celebrations, they talk about, plan for, and execute family time in a way that many their age would not. They watch a Christmas movie every night in December. They plan our day in New York City, where we visit the “Big Tree,” Macy’s windows, and St. Patrick’s. They shop for each other, and for me and Rick, thoughtfully and enthusiastically. They plan the grocery list of the Christmas Eve “finger food feast.” They seem to want to be with us, and with each other, and over the last two days, the conversations I’ve been lucky enough to overhear have been about how much they love the feeling of Christmas, and the way we celebrate it together.

It starts on Christmas Eve morning, when I get busy in the kitchen, preparing the Christmas morning casseroles, the blueberry coffee cake, and the appetizers for later in the day. They offer to help, sneak a taste, play games with each other, watch movies and listen to music. They never ask to go hang with friends, or tell us we’re boring, or retreat to their rooms. They want to go to church, because they love the service, and because it makes it feel like Christmas–the songs, the message, the beautifully decorated sanctuary. They come home, track Santa on Norad, grab some eggnog and some food, and wait for “A Christmas Story” 24-hour marathon to start. And while we watch the adventures of Ralphie and Randy, they chatter about how much they love Christmas, mostly Christmas Eve…because once Christmas Day arrives, they feel a little blue that it’s almost done. They talk about how they won’t sleep, how early they may get up, who’s turn it is to be Santa, and how we shouldn’t rush through the gifts. They talk about how much they love our Christmas Eve and our Christmas Day…stress-free and calm, and even predictable, family time.

This Christmas has been a quiet, beautiful end to what has been a crazy, sometimes diffiicult year. I’m blessed with a loving and generous husband, and loving and generous sons. I know that they are getting older, and that in a blink of an eye they will be celebrating Christmas with their own families. I wish for them Christmas after Christmas full of love, tradition and contentment. I wish for them Christmas after Christmas laced with memories of the times we’ve shared. I wish for them Christmas after Christmas filled with child-like wonder, excitement and anticipation. And I wish for them Christmas after Christmas filled with peace and joy and family. That’s what they have given me, and that’s the best gift ever.

 

O Christmas Trees, O Christmas Trees…. December 14, 2010

Filed under: beautiful ride,Family,Holidays,Home — beautifulride @ 7:11 am
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We are definitely a Christmas family. We have countless traditions that we observe, year after year; traditions from our childhoods that we’ve passed along to our children, and new traditions that we’ve created with them. Christmas is in the back of our collective heads all year long. With my extended family, we draw names from a hat on Christmas night, so that we have a whole year to find that one special something. I’m also known for picking up little gifts here and there throughout the year…sometimes I see something in March that is perfect, so I buy it and stash it. Then there is the ritualistic “search” for goodies under the bed in early November, just to take stock of what I’ve already purchased. And we’ve amassed such a collection of Christmas music that the iPod goes on the holiday mix on November 1st–otherwise, we would never hear it all!

The final countdown begins, however, on Thanksgiving night. After the dishes are done and after the pie has been sliced, the 6 of us (and anyone else who happens to be visiting!) gather around the TV for the annual airing of the holiday classic “Christmas Vacation!” We’ve decided there is no better way to get in that holly jolly spirit then spending the evening with Clark and Cousin Eddy–the wise cracking, dysfunctional Griswold clan may cut a bit close to home for SOME families, but the ultimate reminder of the film is crazy or not crazy, family is family; and what better time to embrace the crazies than the Christmas season!

Speaking of music and crazy family interactions….another favorite tradition has been a friendly competition between us and my brother and his wife–been going on for at least 20 years now. Every year, we scour the musical universe to find what we believe may be the most silly, most goofy, most painful holiday cd out there. You can’t even imagine how many bad songs, or bad renditions of good songs, exist. Sometimes we pick something that we think will be bad, but it turns out to be great; but more often than not, it’s just terrible! And in all the years we’ve been exchanging, we’ve only duplicated once–“A Toolbox Christmas” (yes, Christmas tunes played on common household tools) Sound good? I’ll play it for you sometime!

One of my favorite traditions centers around the centerpiece of Yuletide decorations–the tree. Or in our case…the trees! When I was a little girl, we would go to a tree farm in November and walk around until we found the perfect evergreen. Then we would tag it. A few weeks later, Dad would go back to the farm and get the freshly cut tree and bring it home, sit it in a bucket full of coal, and let it “rest” for a few days. Then he would string the lights…the old-fashioned, bright-colored lights that you would screw into the sockets. And that was it. In our house, Santa would decorate the rest of the tree on Christmas Eve, after we were asleep, and we would wake up to the shiny and familiar ornaments dangling from the evergreen boughs. And every year, we would get a new ornament. My mom would tell us that a new ornament every year meant that when we grew up and left home, we would have enough ornaments to decorate our own trees, and they would be meaningful treasures full of memories of Christmas’ past…and she was correct. Not long before our first Christmas in our first apartment, my Mom pulled out a little box of treasures…my ornaments from my childhood. And a new ornament…a “Your First Christmas Together” ornament…for OUR tree. In fact, the first Christmas gift I bought for Rick was an ornament…a silly “Mistletoad”…which still hangs in a place of honor on our main tree. 

We have three trees now. A small one in our family room that I call our Homemade Tree. It holds the most precious reminders of days gone by–all of the ornaments the boys have made in Sunday School, preschool, and elementary school. Handprints and macaroni angels and a nativity in a popsicle stick barn. We have a skinny, potted tree in the dining room with ornaments that would no longer fit on our big tree, which stands next to the living room fireplace. We decorate the tree together…the boys put their ornaments on first, and then Rick and I weave ours among theirs. Our guys have received one new ornament in their Christmas stocking every year, plus countless others from friends and family. They are chosen carefully, and marked with an initial and a date. I hope that someday,  when they hang them on their own tree, in a distant Christmas yet to come, that they will be sweet reminders of the traditions of our Christmas’ past.