Since we are still a relatively young family, Jeff, the kids and I don't really have any long-standing Christmas traditions yet. Every year has been a different variation on the whole Get Together With Family, Exchange Gifts, Drink, Eat, Observe A Random Nervous Breakdown, and Breath A Sigh Of Relief When Crazy Grandma Fails To Pull A Steak Knife On Someone During Christmas Dinner.
Now that we have kids, I'm thinking that the time has come to establish some sort of tradition, something the kids can count on besides Mommy dodging questions about how Santa can enter our house through a glassed-in fireplace, how he enters homes without chimney's, and why Elsa gets any presents at all when she's been so blatantly insolent for the past month (okay, so this question I'm asking myself....I guess the answer is because she's two...because she's inherently evil...because this is finally my parents' cosmic revenge for the time I stole a box of Fruit Roll-ups and subsequently weaved a month-long web of lies, false accusations and evidence-planting before finally confessing to my crime).
When I was a kid, Christmas was filled with traditions. With things I could always count on year after year. Like advent calendars. And candle-light church services. And fighting with my siblings over who was going to get stuck with the snack pack of Raisin Bran cereal in his or her stocking while the rest got to feast on Sugar Smacks, Golden Grahams, or the Mother Of All Christmas Cereal: Lucky Charms. Seriously, this battle was waged every year....Raisin Bran was the lump of coal in our house. You got Raisin Bran, and Santa was basically peeing directly onto your head.
As we got older, our father introduced to us what became known as the Annual Check Hunt. Or, as it eventually became, the Annual Everyone Else Finds His Or Her Check Except Carrie, Who Will Ultimately Stomp Off To Her Bedroom, Ranting About Conspiracies And The Unfairness Of The Universe. Hunt.
The Annual Check Hunt was quite elaborate, now that I think about it. Our father would write a little story about Christmas, and embedded within the story were clues as to where everyone's check was hidden. Some of the clues were obvious: Race against the clock, Swept under the rug, The idea was shelved. As time went on, however, and our father got more creative (or perhaps simply crazier), the clues became a bit more...esoteric. If the story contained something about a mouse, this meant a check was stuck in the fridge, inside a wrapped slice of cheese. If the story had the word potato, someone's check was stuffed between the couch cushions. If a story made reference to the color red, someone's check was hidden in our mother's China cabinet.
Carrie usually had the hardest time finding her check. Not because the clues to its whereabouts were necessarily the hardest (though I do remember hers being in the cheese once), but because on a scale of 1 to 10, Carrie's level of patience was pretty much a negative google....Even less when my father would offer her more vague and cryptic clues as he looked on with a mixture of amusement and anxiety. And our mother's calm attempt to steer my sister in the right direction only incensed Carrie further:
My Mom: What's your clue, Car?
Carrie: I don't know, something about family legends.
My Mom: Oh, okay. Well, what sort of legends do you know about our family?
Carrie: I don't know? You're always taking about Benjamin Rush being some long lost ancestor.
My Mom: Okay. So do we have any Benjamin Rush paraphernalia anywhere?
Carrie: How the hell should I know? Do you have a constitution replica hidden somewhere? A powered wig stuffed in a cabinet? A bucket of leeches on the coffee table?* (Interestingly enough, all three of these things was a possibility)
My Mom: ...Noooo....
Carrie (sighing heavily and rolling her eyes): This is so stupid.
My Dad: What's the matter, Carrie? Not getting your whey?
Carrie: No, and Mom's just giving me stupid, annoying clues that don't make any sense.
My Mom: Benjamin Rush isn't stupid.
My Dad: Why are you telling her about Benjamin Rush?
My Mom: Because he's part of our family legend.
Carrie: Why, because some stupid long-lost great uncle said he was related to us?
My Dad: I think you're making this tuffet, er, tougher than it really is.
Carrie: Great, Dad. I guess I'm too freaking idiotic to figure it out myself.
My Dad: No, but it sounds like your patience is hanging by a thread.
Carrie: You think?
Eventually the game would boil down to Hot and Cold, which would lead Carrie into the kitchen, the fridge, and eventually into a half-eaten container of cottage cheese. Unless of course she just became so irriated with my mother, she simply gave up and stomped down the hall to her bedroom, loudly proclaiming that she hated checks, Christmas, cottage cheese, and pretty much everything else on the planet.
We developed other traditions--sneaking alcohol into the house through my bedroom window, cleaning out the fridge and playing Name That Leftover, and acting out entire plays where we each took on the role of a different family member (the first Christmas Jeff spent with my family, he had to play My Mother. That performance pretty much sealed the marriage deal for me). Each one brought my family closer. To a mental institution.
And so, my little family has some growing to do before we start getting strange. Or perhaps we're already there. Either way, establishing our Christmas traditions over the years will be a fun, interesting ride. I'm already scoping out places to hide my kids' checks. The butter dish looks like a good spot.
Merry Christmas, dear readers. Peace.
*For years our mother has cleaved to the idea that Benjamin Rush (our great-great-great-great-uncle's cousin thrice removed or something) killed George Washington with leeches. While I have found nothing online to support this theory, I will say that our mother has proclaimed all sorts of things, including that whales do not deserve to be saved from beaching themselves because they are the dummies who beached themselves in the first place. Ah yes...gotta love my mom.