On Christmas morning, year after year, my mom lined up my brother, sister and I – in order of oldest to youngest – on the stairs. We were strategically positioned on the final three steps before the wall met the banister, so we were just out of view of the tree and the endless mound of presents we imagined were waiting for us.
Years later, my sister and I confessed that more often than not we knew what hid beneath the papered patterns of snowmen and ornaments much earlier than our mom thought. We mastered the art of unwrapping gifts using a safety pin to slice open the scotch-taped end – as well as acting surprised. Parents: Your bedroom closet is never a good hiding place.
Despite the Rockwellian image you conjure up at the thought of three children in pajamas waiting in anticipation at the top of the steps to see just what Santa had in store for them, Christmas wasn’t always perfect. One year it was necessary to use fishing wire to keep our tree from falling over. We tied one end to the top of the tree and the other through a hook drilled into the ceiling originally intended for a hanging planter.
My mom didn’t hang stockings with care, but I’m pretty sure she dropped a few f-bombs when she thought about how she was going to pay for three children’s Christmas presents on a Catholic school teacher’s salary. I was always missing someone that morning – mom or dad, whose ever turn it wasn’t.
This being my first Christmas as a married woman I expected it to feel different than others in recent years. Maybe I would if there was a single spec of snow on the ground – seriously Mother Nature, WTF?
That’s where Rob comes in. He’s been playing the Glee Christmas CD on repeat since Oct. 31 and I can’t even count the times Michael Buble’s version of “I’m Dreaming Of A White Christmas” has played through his headphones. It’s got to be at least 50…
He’s tried so hard, too. Our one-bedroom apartment isn’t exactly the place for superfluous decorations, but without any prompting I came home from a long night at work in early December to find our kitchen cabinets outlined in colored lights. A piece of artwork in the dining room was swapped out for an advent calendar. We slow-danced to “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” in our livingroom.
For him and his family it’s all about tradition this time of year. The family always travels to Naperville on Christmas Eve where his aunt and uncle host a smorgasbord. There’s a fish course, a meat course and a dessert course and don’t even try to use the same plate for two of the same courses – it’s a punishable offense.
After dinner there’s a Christmas program where everyone sings a selection of “Twelve Days Of Christmas,” “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer” or “Jingle Bells.” Christmas morning the family goes to church and brunch is held back at grandma’s.
I guess I’m still getting used to the fact that what’s his family is now our family. His traditions are now our traditions. When I really think about it, I’m glad that our kids will have a routine around the holidays. One that will most definitely include a picture on the stairs.