Merry Freaking Christmas

Christmas is a time when people of all religions come together to worship Jesus Christ. ~ Bart Simpson

Ok. I have taken a deep breath; I have counted to ten; I have counted backwards from 10; I have bit my lip; I have walked away. None of it is helping. I was just going to walk away from it this year and not engage but I tried. I failed. So here goes nothing…

Did a memo go out warning people that they would be stoned if they uttered the words “Merry Christmas” this year? I only ask because I’ve seen more pictures and status updates and news items on how people are making a stand and saying “Merry Christmas”. The hostility in some of them is barely repressed let me tell you. Did the memo go out that clearly said that everyone has to say “Happy Holidays” instead of Merry Christmas? Who sent that memo? Because, I didn’t get it and, well, I’m kinda pissed since now I don’t know what to say or how to act this holiday season.

Can someone, anyone, please tell me who told them they can’t say “Merry Christmas”. Please, it’s really making me bug-fuck crazy. And please, please, do not tell me it’s because of the jacked-up nonsense that Bill O’Reilly and Fox News are spouting about a “War on Christmas”. Really, please don’t. It’s not true. Continue reading

Tidings of Comfort and Joy

Christmas is a time when you get homesick – even when you’re home.  ~ Carol Nelson

This is my favorite time of year. I love Christmas. The spectacle, the decorations, the music. All of it. The only thing that could make it any better is if it were warm. Oh, and if Dad were still here.

I was sitting with Dylan last night waiting for our dinner to be ready when I started wondering what I could write about this week. I had already had Christmas on my mind when I started telling him some stories about his grandfather. I told him about the time that Dad thought it would be a great homage to his five daughters to immortalize their initials as Christmas decorations. This is one of the favorites of all the sisters.

I can’t remember how old I was when this story took place but I do remember it happening. The tree was already up and the entire second floor looked as if a bomb of tinsel, glitter and lights exploded. Dad, as usual, was in the thick of it. Cursing and laughing and yelling and making the spectacle even grander. I don’t remember how the idea came to him but I do remember having to get wire hangers. Lots and lots of wire hangers.

He sat there in his chair, bending and twisting, cajoling and finessing, forcing the wire to his will. Some initials were easier than others. The L for example was pretty straight forward; the B not so much. I don’t know how long it took him or how many innocent hangers lost their lives that night but the carnage was immense. After creating all five initials (D, P, T, B, L) it was time to decorate them. With garland. Miles and miles of pretty garland.

Where, you may be wondering, was Dad going to put his masterpiece(s)? Not just anywhere. No. They were going to have prominence. They needed a place befitting of their magnificence. Naturally, they were hung over the sofa in the living room. Yes he did. Not only did he hang them, he hung them fancy. In a V pattern. Starting on the left with Deb, then Patty slightly below and to the right, Tracey made the low point in the V pattern, Barbara (that’s me) directly across from Patty with Laura mirroring Deb at the upper right.

It was as horrifying as it sounds. The letters were easily a foot and a half tall and he didn’t even use the same color garland for each letter. Nope. Each letter had its own color. In the intervening years, I decided he chose each color to reflect the uniqueness of each daughter but it’s more likely that Dad’s mantra of “more is more” won out. He was also color-blind so I can only imagine what it looked like to him. I’m sure it was amazing. To everyone else it was kind of a hot mess but in a good way.

We’re busy making our own Christmas memories and traditions. One of my favorite (and Dylan’s too) is when we all pile together in the living room to watch “It’s A Wonderful Life”. We have homemade snicker doodles and fancy hot chocolate. But we can’t do that until we decorate. Hmmm, guess I know what I’m doing this weekend. Although I can almost guarantee that no wire hangers will be harmed in my Christmas decorating this year but ya never know.

Enjoy your moments where you find them; you never know when the memories you’re making are the awesome ones. I really miss Dad and his crazy ideas. I miss his big mouth, his bigger laugh and his absolute delight in his family.

Merry Christmas Dad wherever you are. Your spirit lives on in each of our hearts especially at Christmas.

Christmas Memories – The Perfect Tree

I love Christmas! Love! It hasn’t been a life-long love affair. For a little while, in the middle, I was kind of over it. But it’s back now baby! The funny part is, I don’t even care if I get anything. I love the giving. Paying attention and giving the perfect gift. The unexpected. The one they didn’t think anyone paid attention to. That gift. Priceless.

As a child, Christmas was magical. Dad loved Christmas. And he did Christmas like everything else with a style all his own! Or, the tackier the better. He had a lot of great qualities, taste was not one of them. Being colorblind factored into it certainly but it was more than that, it was his absolute inability to edit. Every idea, according to Dad, was a good one and needed to be accommodated. Some how. Somewhere.

You have no idea how much garland, fishing wire, and tinsel were lost to Dad’s quest for Christmas decorating perfection.

First things first.

The Tree. Not just any tree. The Perfect Tree. A Scotch Pine. Oh, the tree, couldn’t be any Scotch Pine. It had to be the biggest, the fullest, the christmas-treeiest of all trees on the lot. He would not tolerate bare spots or other disfigurements. This was Christmas. This was the centerpiece of his decorating madness. The crowning glory of his vision.

I don’t think Dad ever paid full price for a tree. Hell, I’m not sure he paid any price for a tree, ever. People gave stuff to him cause he was a nice guy. He was always the first to offer help and would stay there, at the lot, carrying trees to cars, tying them to rooftops, just helping out a busy guy. For an hour of his time, doing what he loved – shooting the breeze – he would come home with a tree. Dad was smart. He did his shopping, picked out his tree, and brought it up to pay. Then, he would start with the chit-chat and the helping. And when it was time to go, he’d go to pay, and tree-guy was like “nope, we’re good. Merry Christmas.” It was a true talent.

He would drive up Sheridan Street, tree tied to the roof of whatever car he was currently driving, the sisters all excited. Waiting. Anticipating. Dad would park and unload the tree. It would be monstrous. The tallest tree we had ever seen. It towered over everything near it. That folks, that is when the fun would start. Getting it in the house. No easy feat when you purchase a fifteen foot tree for a home with nine foot ceilings!

Wrestling the tree into the house to gauge it’s true height, Dad would then start with the “trimming”. Usually 3-4 feet before the tree could be safely placed in the stand and slid into the box bay in the living room. We would be admonished to leave it alone. Decorating would take place the following day.

The tree trimming doesn’t stand out in my memory. Most vivid, to me, is the wrestling and the chopping. Taming the tree into the confines of the living room and the box bay. I remember some cussing as bulbs blew out and wires tangled. As we all got older, the trees got bigger. One year he cut so much off the top of the tree, we had two trees. One for the living room and one for the playroom.

But the tree was just the beginning of the decorating on-slaught. The true decorations were yet to come.

Stay tuned for the next installment of Christmas memories. Wherein Jim bends wire hangers to his will and another family legend is born.

Hey Barbie, I have a great idea…



said my dear husband.

The kids have wanted a dog since as long as I can remember. I, however, did not want a dog and neither did Pat. Dogs are so much like babies. They even need sitters! I’m a cat girl. Put a bowl of food down and some water and you can go for a few days without worrying. Not so dogs. Dogs need effort and work. Two things I’m really kind of all full up on, all the time.

Two years ago, Pat came to me and uttered that phrase. Me, being the dutiful wife – what! Stop laughing! – listened patiently as he laid out his grand plan. The plan that would stop the dog talk forever. Forever! I was all ears. Well not really but he likes when I pretend pay attention. Hey, I do what I can. It’s a partnership that way.

No, his plan was not to get a dog. His plan, his diabolical plan, the plan he devised to fool and deceive his beautiful and trusting children. That plan? Was elegant in its simplicity. Offer the children a choice. Intrigued, I was (also channelling Yoda, apparently).

What was the choice? The children could have a puppy if, and it’s a big IF, if they agreed to give up all their Christmas presents from us AND Santa! Santa. No presents. From Santa. AT ALL. For a puppy.

As their father presented them with this offer, Emma – then 10 – looked at him, sized him up, and said “deal”. Dylan was a little worried but he trusted his sister. She’s a shrewd one, she is.

Pat, his plan now having gone terribly wrong, was a good sport and the hunt for a dog began. We took internet quizzes to see which dog would be the best match for our family. Our result: get a cat. Haha, not really. I had very specific requirements. It had to be small- to medium-sized. It had to have short hair. It had to be smart. I could not have a dumb dog. Could not. I don’t have the patience. Not even a little.

So we settled on a Boston Terrier. Oh they’re so cute and smart and gassy. Yup. Gassy. Short-snouted dogs always are. We found a beautiful puppy in Maine. We drove, two days after Christmas, to get him and bring him home. Hmmm, that story would make a great blog. It was an epic adventure in getting lost!

We named him Felix. He’s a great addition to the family. The best part. When it’s raining or snowing or just cold and the kids don’t want to take him out. I play my trump card. Someone in this room didn’t want a dog for Christmas. Is that someone either of you? No. Didn’t think so, take your puppy out. The one you promised to take care of. The one you promised to walk. Yeah, him. Bye bye, don’t forget your mittens.

Oh, bet you’re wondering how the kids handled their presentless Christmas.

Ha. As if that happened. Seriously. Santa came just like always. Only this time he brought puppy toys too.

So what did we learn? That’s right. Never listen to your husband. Ever. Especially if he says: Hey Barbie, I have a great

Decorating the tree – my favorite part of Christmas

Today is a “busy” day. I have lots of busy to do: house stuff; Christmas stuff; work stuff; volunteer stuff. Stuff. All of it necessary and all of it demanding my attention today. I like doing stuff. Keeps me busy and out of trouble (mostly).

Looking forward to the Christmas stuff the most. I love this time of year, moreso now that I have kids. It was Dad’s favorite holiday – favorite! I think that’s where it starts for me.

Decorating the tree is what I enjoy most. Every year the kids get ornaments. Some from their grandparents, some from aunts, but mostly from Pat and me. In the ornaments we give, we try to reflect an event or interest they had that year, a chronicle of their lives. They love this day as well. I have saved every box. Each is labelled with their name, who gave it to them, and the date. I love their questions and comments. I love seeing their faces as they uncover a memory, see it grow in them, and watch with joy as they re-live a happy time or a effort well done.

With Christmas music playing in the background, the sparkling cider or cocoa, the laughter and the reminiscing, it’s really my favorite day of the season. It reinforces the family and traditions we are trying to teach the kids. Family is the basis of everything; of brotherhood; of tradition; of good will; family is the basis of Christmas. At least in this family.

It’s why I don’t understand the “War on Christmas” drama. At all. Not one single bit of it.

Have you ever wished anyone a Merry Christmas and had them snap at you? I haven’t. But even if you have, it only means you have met one of the eleventy-billion assholes that inhabit Earth at any given second. I have slipped up and said Merry Christmas to my Jewish friends. Know what they said to me? Happy Holidays or Peace or they’ll give me a blessing in Hebrew. Know what, I’m not offended and neither are they. We’re grown-ups. With enough drama in our lives already that we don’t need manufactured, Bill O’Reilly, hyped-up nonsense. Not today, not next week, not ever.

Anything that makes people stop, appreciate the world around them, focus on others instead of themselves, is a good thing, right? An ability to share our traditions and share the traditions of our neighbors; expanding the joy of the season to others is a positive, affirming action. A blessing. I spend the season counting mine, loving my family, and being good to my neighbors; I try to surprise myself.

Live your life your way. Open your heart to new and different ideas. Expand your idea of brotherhood. Plenty of things want to do you harm, don’t mistake the real ones for the manufactured ones. That’s when we all lose.

Me, I’m going to spend this season like I spend most of them, working and shopping and singing. I’m going to wish everyone I see a Happy Holiday, Merry Christmas, Peace, Shalom, or Happy Festivus. I never know what’s coming out until it’s already out. If I offend you, that’s your problem, stop trying to make it mine.