Sunday, December 7, 2008

Family Traditions

I love Christmas. It is my favorite holiday for so many reasons.

And with this holiday comes I think the most family traditions, at least with my family. Today I found that my children are going to be adding to those family traditions in a unique way.

There are traditions that have always been around - divinity and fudge made from Great Grandma Devore's recipe, making a human assembly line to get the decoration boxes from the closet upstairs to the artificial tree downstairs, mom's special strawberry drink, Bing Crosby singing White Christmas, the smell of turkey baking while we opened our stockings...the list is so long I don't have time to put them all down. But as soon as the giant wooden box is opened each year to reveal the tree at my parents house, a flood of traditions come together and to life to establish that familiar feeling of Christmas.

Some traditions have defining moments that create them and establish them into the old routine. I will always remember the year my sister and I named my mom's old fashioned stuffed Santa "The Ho-Ho" and then fought over who wanted him. And some traditions are just the way things are done.

Every year we have put together the artificial Christmas tree at my parent's house. It started before I was born and they still have the same tree, with tattered instructions that we lost one year. Then we photocopied it when we finally found it so we would never lose it again. Now a copy of tree instructions can be found in various boxes filled with ornaments. You can count on that tree and every step that leads to bringing it to life. It happens the same way every year, no matter who is there to participate.

Dad drags the big wooden box into the house and unscrews the top.

We dive into the box stacking branches by size and colored ends. Once the piles are finished, Dad starts at the bottom of the tree and calls out for colors until the tree is complete. It has to almost fall over at least once and a few branches have to fall out before we are done.

Then Dad strings the lights with much fussing and fuming. These lights are the best. I have never known anyone to have this kind and they are part of the old-fashioned look of our tree that I love. First Dad strings the wires that have sockets for the lights to be screwed into. Then we all gather around a box of lights that are big round balls each a different color with almost candy like crystals glued to the outside. We used to have some that were bell shaped but I think those finally all burned out. We have also added the older fashioned styled bubbling lights - which Dad will call bubblelioushus over and over until we take the tree down. We struggle to screw in all the lights - which makes the sockets come unhooked from the branches, refuse to screw in straight, you can't have the same color next to each other even though there's only about 8 colors and after the lights are all in and we turn on the tree then we have to search for the ones that aren't lit to replace the burnt out ones with new - but not the same color that is near by. Then comes more fussing and fuming from Mom and Dad as the silver garland is added. Then all the ornaments you can pack on go on the tree. And finally my favorite part is the icicles that have enough static buildup to make them stand out straight from the tree and stick to everyone's feet and butts.

Last of all we crawl around under the tree putting together the village and then sit back to see how pretty and colorful it has all turned out.

And all of this happens each year on or near my Mom's birthday.

Today was no different except that I think Nathan added to our tradition. Take note, from this day forward, in my parent's house, those wonderful old fashioned lights will be known as dummies...

It started the same as every year - big wooden box, human assembly line, putting together the tree... Nathan had so much fun with every part and was anxious to put on the ornaments. He's very fun, animated and funny to watch on a normal day. What makes him really funny is the constant stream of consciousness babbling that starts from the moment he wakes up until he finally falls asleep and sometimes even in his dreams! Our boy never stops talking. Really, Never. Not at all. If he's not talking to you or asking questions, he's talking to himself or singing.

He was running around, in the middle of everything, I was pumping, Mom was giving Evan a bottle and getting him off to sleep, James was trying to help my Dad and Dad was stringing the lights on the tree...with much fussing and fuming. Mostly fussing because the tabs that are supposed to hold the lights to the branches don't work or have broken off, It's his own kind of stream of consciousness commentary about how much he hates the lights and how badly they were made. Finally, all strung he sat on the floor trying to get a bulb screwed into a socket and grumbling "...and now if these dummies would just go in..." My sweet little Nathan picks up a bulb, goes to the tree and says "I want to put a dummy in."

And so a tradition is born. The rest of the bulb screwing in portion of the tree was spent with Nathan saying "here's a dummy for this spot, I'm going to put in a dummy here, Daddy where can this dummy go, I've got another dummy..."

James and I are laughing, Dad's so tickled he can't get the lights in straight. What has always been mounting frustration that leads to the hanging of the garland, transformed into giggles and smiles. I finally ran and got paper and pen when Nathan said "When a light won't go in straight, you call it a dummy." It was just too Nathan and too hilarious to risk forgetting a word.

When the tree was done, Nathan got a big high-five from Dad and a lot of laughs from us all.

Little Evan is a little too small still to enjoy all the craziness of the tree and decorating and he missed most of it for a much needed nap. But I know he will enjoy the challenge of the next couple of weeks when he tries his best to get a hold of the village, an ornament, icicles and the tree!


Ruth said...


You are quite a writer! This is worthy of publishing. It makes me wish I were there and I actually feel like I was there. You are so wise to savor the moments. They are so precious. Nathan is a very special boy.

Amelia said...

Thanks for the comments Ruth! I miss seeing you and telling you in person. With all the crazy things going on around us, we try to enjoy the boys as much as possible. It's hard to be too serious when you're installing dummy lights! :-)