Friday, December 24, 2010

It's Christmas Eve!

"What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments,

but what is woven into the lives of others." ~ Pericles

Holidays. Traditions. Decades.

Back in the 1960s, when I was a wee one with a head full of imagination, I would pore over the Sears & Roebuck Christmas catalog. We all did. That annual book was full of fingerprints and circled pages and circled toys. Figure: five kids with high hopes for BB guns, Chatty Cathy, Spiro Graph, - oh, you name it! If it was in the Sears catalog and had a well-written description, then it was on our Christmas lists.

We Websters never celebrated Christmas on Christmas Day. We were always headed west, to what was then the "Big Family" Christmases. We studied the Christmas story in the Bible and in church, and before it came time for us seven to pile into our station wagon, by some miracle, Santa would have visited our house and brought our presents early - earlier than all the other families' deliveries in the neighborhood. Amazing. Totally amazing. So many years I recall my Dad getting up before us kids, and shutting the hall door. He told us he was shaving. We were gullible. He was hauling out the Santa gifts, of course, just an hour or two before we would drive west for Big Family.

And there was the year, no doubt when I was the last, youngest, "believer" in Santa, and my oldest brother Jerry and my sister Barb took us five out mid-afternoon, in broad daylight, for a drive around Pryor Creek to look at Christmas lights. Gullible little kid that I was, I took in the lights, which of course were not lit, and when we returned home, omigoodness!!!! Santa had come while we were looking at Christmas lights in the mid-afternoon!! A miracle!!

I loved Christmas.

I still do.

The miracle of the birth of Jesus Christ is always what we celebrate at this time of year, but my wise mother taught us decades ago that we celebrate Christ's birth every day of the year, not just at Christmas time, with Santa and all. Mom is pretty wise. So we enjoy the Christmas story, and singing the Messiah (which details Christ's ENTIRE life, not just the manger part), but we know to hold this in our hearts all year long.

The Santa bit? Only in December. For most people, only the eve of December 24th. For us? Well, the 60's tradition of Santa arriving early happily skipped right into the next generation, with Saint Nick acknowledging our kids' plaintive letters that we would be travelling from Michigan to Oklahoma on Christmas, so could Santa please come early? And he did. The best year I recall in our East Lansing years was our herding our kids to our backyard neighbors' home, the Taylors, under the guise of a Christmas party. (Four parents and seven kids: happy holidays!) In the meantime, our next-door neighbors, the Phillips, were in our house, pulling all our "Santa" gifts out and putting them under the Christmas tree in our absence. What a great neighborhood. The pièce de résistance was that Dr. Phillips/Santa took the time and attention to take his boots, dirty them in our fireplace ashes and proceeded to make "Santa" footprints throughout our living room, from the fireplace to the Christmas tree. Our kids were manic when we returned home that evening.

So now, here we are, middle-aged parents with college-aged kids. What is our Christmas like ? Lovely. Some years we have done the early Christmas plan, and headed west to the Rockies, but last year and again this year, we opted to enjoy Christmas time at home - no doubt the peripatetic lifestyles our kids are leading now is part of this decision. The warp and woof of our holiday now entails trips to airports and coordination of three "twenty-something" schedules: time off work, time off for the semester, time off for the quarter. Some years we have overnight guests for Christmas Eve. Last year's Christmas Eve blizzard saw us five, plus a couple of boyfriends, plus my brother Bob's family driving slowly the twelve miles home after church services and the Patterson Christmas party... the drivers could only navigate the snow-blown road by looking out for the next electrical pole through the driving white winds of snow: there was no road to be seen in the blizzard.

Santa, of course, still comes. Nowadays, he delivers fun things like ice axes, duct tape, sledge hammers. How his reindeer managed the blizzard last year, we do not know, but there were exciting things under the tree for all of us the next morning!

Some things change, some remain the same, we have traditions, and sometimes those traditions meander to fit the wants and needs of the day. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said: "We change, whether we like it or not."

Merry Christmas, you all.

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