A lot of Christmas Gifts
Around our house, the day after Thanksgiving and the one after Christmas are predictable. Except for this year.
In my rush to avoid Christmas, a few traditions got trampled underfoot. The biggest ones had to do with seasonal decorations.
In the Hughson house, the day after Thanksgiving means decorating for Christmas.
It involves lugging dozens of boxes in from the garage, emptying them and refilling them with non-seasonal knick-knacks.
Two things interfered with that this year:
Selling our house
A vacation to Mexico
The extent of decorating my house: I pulled a centerpiece my mother bought me several years ago off the top shelf of a rack in the garage. I unwrapped it from its garbage bag and placed it in the center of the dining room table.
I removed the autumn leave centerpiece and table runner and put them away in the laundry room.
Of course, this lack of decorations affected today’s traditional UN-decorating of the house and tree. There was nothing to take down – not even a string of Christmas lights (which are my favorite decoration of this holiday season).
What are your holiday traditions? Have circumstances altered or derailed these traditions?
Labor Day marks the official end of summer. The Tuesday following kids head back to school.
On the west coast anyway. Elsewhere in the US, kids have been back to school for a week or two already. It’s hard for those on this coast to let go of summer.
Isn’t it a given that the preferred cooking method after Memorial Day is the barbeque? Gas, propane, wood or charcoal may fuel it, but it’s the way beef is done – in July.
Sometimes a handful of family members might recline on the deck at our house. Other years, we’ve loaded up the essentials and taken our Farewell to Summer Party to a park.
So it was this year. Since our youngest son is already in class at college (that Quaker school he attends does things a little “other coastal,” if you get my meaning), it was a gathering with friends. Specifically friends from our church.
Hot dogs and hamburgers might make the grade during the summer, but at the last barbecue, a few other dishes are required.
First of all, fresh corn on the cob is essential. Roasted directly in the coals wearing its own husk makes it downright delicious. Grilling it on the barbie will satisfy, but if you bring out the boiling water, we will cry.
September is corn harvest season on the left coast. You can see overloaded semi-trucks with the golden delicacy. Come back in October for the largest corn maze this side of the Rockies.
Another staple on Labor Day is watermelon. The best watermelons in the world are grown in Hermiston, Oregon. I can eat the heart out of one of these juicy red mamas.
In fact, one of my worst memories from tweenhood centers around my ability to do just that. Apparently, it’s okay to eat your own heart out, but it’s a heinous act of selfishness to eat the heart out of a watermelon.
So said the blistering tongue-lashing my father gave me when I at the heart out of that melon. It sat covered and minding its own business atop the washing machine. It even had black seeds in it. Actually, they marked the edges of the succulent heart.
Back to the last barbeque…it’s nice to recline in the camp chairs around a fire pit roasting corn. It’s even more glorious when the sun agrees to drive the clouds away and spill a golden spotlight on the gathering.
Games you might enjoy at summer’s goodbye bash: volleyball, badminton, softball or horseshoes. Regardless of the choice, there will be lots of ribbing for the losers (as if losing wasn’t its own form of ridicule). My mom liked to call this “Love talk.” You only tease those you love, she said. The worse the taunting, the deeper the love.
Love flows at both ends of the horseshoe pits. Camp chairs line the sides (a safe distance away) and love talk sails with more regularity than ringers.
Alas, summer gives up the ghost for another nine months. The red, yellow and brown leaves already announce autumn’s arrival.
Best of all, school starts. But for the second time since 1997, that means nothing to me. The Tuesday after Labor Day is just another day pulled up to my desk letting my fingers find the right way to spill words on a page.
Summer may have ended, but my novel has a few more chapters before it makes way for a new season.
Some of you will call me Scrooge. Some of you will second my sentiment. A handful of you might gasp. Others may nod (unless someone is watching). The truth is: I hate putting up a Christmas tree.
I heard the gasps. Really. I prefer it to the tirade I received from my youngest son a few years back when I said I didn’t want to put up a tree. In all fairness, he lectured his dad for wanting to put up an artificial tree, so it’s about more than having a tree to sonny boy.
My son loves the tradition involved. This is what he remembers: the first Saturday in December, we bundled up in warm coats and mud boots and headed to a local Christmas tree farm.
Wandering through the rows, they would point out possibilities. I had the final say. Some people think I’m picky about the tree.
Such a conclusion was probably formed when I frowned at the fat Douglas fir tree my husband brought home one Christmas. I told him – I like Noble fir trees. Was this a Noble? A tree is a tree, he says. He never made that mistake again.
Back to the story at hand: when we found the perfect tree, my husband would saw along the base of the tree. We would cart it up to the cashier (there was no “cart” but my husband is a pro at walking it beside him).
Unlike those people who drive around with a tree strapped to the top of the car, ours goes in the back of the truck. In fact, I feel that one of the reasons my husband keeps our rarely-driven truck is just for hauling a tree. And other hauling emergencies, of course. Like when we cleaned out the garage. Did I mention the truck is seldom put to use?
What was I writing about again? Oh, right, the idea of not having a Christmas tree.
It’s so much work to move the furniture around to make space for the tree. Dragging out all the lights and ornaments is another hassle. What I hate the most? Decorating it. No, un-decorating it (is that a word?) is worse.
Let’s just agree that decorating (or un-decorating) the tree isn’t my favorite thing. The same son who throws a tantrum at the thought of having no tree disappears when time for dressing the tree in all its sparkling finery approaches.
Or he puts a dozen ornaments on the branches in the middle and calls it done.
If I’m going to have a tree, it’s going to be done right. Glaring gaps are strictly forbidden. Two ornaments the same color hanging directly next to each other is a gaffe. All sides must contain equal disbursement of embellishments.
Since I have standards, a few people who live in my home think I should do the decorating myself. I’m happy to remind them that I would gladly choose to have no tree at all. More grumbling and complaining and another flippant attempt to trim the tree.
Last year, I just let it look ridiculously unbalanced. No one mentioned it. Of course, I could only bear to look at the thing in the dark.
Here I freely admit that I would miss having a tree for one reason. I like to get up early in the morning, plug in the tree and then just sit in the darkened room sipping coffee and watching the lights twinkle, reflecting off the different ornaments and painting patterns on the wall.
How do you feel about having a Christmas tree? Is there a specific aspect of Christmas that you strive to keep the same every year, as a matter of tradition?