Friday, December 28, 2012

Family Christmas

Christmas is, perhaps, the one time when families try their darndest to get along. "Because it's Christmas" is a familiar phrase. If you're a parent, there are two families, sometimes more, who seem to "require" your presence and can and do cause problems if you can't be there because you're here on the holiday. We tried to balance that with one year there; one year here; one year with everyone here and one year with no one here. It didn't always work out that way, owing to the unpredictable winter weather of the Upper Midwest, but we made every effort to try.

I don't know the date, off the top of my head, for this photo. My family had come to my house for Christmas. There were the obligatory family photos and my youngest brother and my sister decided silliness needed to be included. I love the look on Dad's face. He's sort of resigned to our shenanigans. I'm guessing, from my haircut and glasses, this is mid-1980's.

In these later years, with a child now on her own, Christmas can sometimes feel like just another day, albeit a day I don't have to work. We always opened the bulk of our gifts on Christmas Eve, leaving a clear spot for whatever Santa brought. So, I open the bulk of my gifts on Christmas Eve. Even now, I send carefully wrapped packages to Carole marked "To Carole, From Santa". It's the spirit of things and it's nice having that one or two packages still under the tree, not to be touched until Christmas morning.

This year, my brother moved into a new house and he insisted Christmas would be at his house. We are now grandparents with two significant others, two kids with significant others, 2 kids not married and 4 of the next generation under the age of 6 roaming the halls. Dad may be gone, but mom has remarried and her husband is a part of the shenanigans that are a hallmark of our family. Dan was insistent that we have "family" Christmas. We even moved the date around to make sure everyone could be there.

Alas, it was not to be. While I made it, thanks to Dan for gas money, the pre-Christmas Blizzard of 2012 knocked out power to my sister's house. She wouldn't leave until it was restored and she knew it was secure. She left for Iowa the day I left Iowa for home. We weren't even in the same state at the same time. Oh well. Such is life sometimes.

We went ahead and had Christmas without her and she will be celebrating again with everyone tomorrow. It was still a bit hectic as people had to come from some distance and people had to leave to head to another location for another family Christmas.

"Do we want to open gifts before the dinner is ready?" Dan asked.

That was the best thing to do. While adults can be patient watching the Packers destroy their opponent, little kids have no idea why people are interested in the TV. They will, however, push the buttons on the remote because it's funny to see how adults react when their football disappears.

So, we jumped into full-scale Christmas mayhem. "We need a garbage bag for wrapping paper!" Mary hollered. There were huge gifts that would have yielded sections of wrapping paper which could be reused next year. I remember, in another time and place, saving the paper, flattened, in a box for reuse. You cut off the edges with tape and the paper was available in ever decreasing sizes for several years on end, if it had wrapped a large toy.

I don't do that anymore. I do recycle all my wrapping paper now that one can do that. I remember when it was burned in the furnace or in the burn barrel. That it can be recycled shows how far we've come in our efforts to be more green and less throw away.

My family has been doing something for a few years now that I didn't know about until gifts were exchanged. They try to mislead someone with the wrapping or wrap a small gift in increasingly larger packages. Carole and I did that with several of her friends from high school. We put one of Niles' gift cards in a duct taped plastic bag and then froze the bag in a block of ice. Rob's gift was buried in our back yard and he was given GPS coordinates spelled out in words on a piece of notebook paper that we got wet. Carole was given a gift card carefully inserted into the side of an empty case of Diet Coke. Think about how thin the cardboard is on a case of soda. It took her 30 minutes and repeated urgings to "look again" before she found it.

Dan gave Mary a birthstone ring. In the above photo, she's down to wrapping number 3. The ring itself was then wrapped and covered with two layers of tape. It took her a good 20 minutes to get through all the packaging. Later, Dan had to figure out how to open a duct taped package. He "cheated" by inserting a knife right along the edges and slicing the top open.

Had I known this was how packages are given, I'd have been more creative in wrapping mine. As it was, I put the same label on two different items which caused a number of "Getting old, Deb?" comments.

The day ended with a huge dinner, some of which was bagged up and sent home with me. There was madness. There was chaos. There were kids crying because whatever he has, she wanted. "No no. This is yours." There were lost tags and "ooh's" and "aahs". There was family. The 6 of us are up to 18 which makes any location a squeeze and a shower of wrappings. But, we were mostly all together, just as silly as we were 20 years ago.

"That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea


1 comment:

  1. That sounds like a wonderful, memorable Christmas! We normally have a little after Christmas gathering at the New Year with dh's extended family, but we won't be able to this year. It's certainly not as lively as yours, but I'll miss it!

    Happy New Year!