Tag Archives: Christmas

My Christmas List

Christmas came and went in such a blur that perhaps a list is needed, marked by increasing levels of awesomeness:

First, we begin with the best gag gift of the year. It’s a little complicated, but for awhile in early December it seemed as if the family might be part owner of a tract of farm land in Nebraska. The jokes flew and debate ensued over whether we city folks should plant corn or soybeans come spring. As things turned out, we weren’t land barons after all. But my in-laws from back east made the best of it, and we all ended up with the gift of green John Deere hats. I’ll gladly wear mine the next time I mow the latest crop of crabgrass on my Greenhaven lawn.

Then comes the arrival and too-short visit of my brother-in-law, who escaped the cold of Baltimore to share the holiday with us. He joined A. and I on a walk to the park on Christmas Eve, where we played catch with a Nerf football. Uncle Riney Piney Poo Poo, as he is affectionately called by the kids, brought us a copy of Wii Sports Resort. The last time I had this much fun playing a video game was when I discovered Centipede in middle school.

Next on the list is Christmas Eve, when A. and little C. took part in the Christmas Eve service in the procession of friendly beasts arriving to see baby Jesus. A. was a shepherd, while C. was the cutest little mouse I ever saw. They held hands as they patiently posed for me to take a photo. They were good sports, and I took a second to appreciate the moment.

Even more excellent was Christmas morning, when A. and C. hopped out of bed to see if Santa came. The mood was electric, and they could barely contain themselves as they surveyed a mountain of presents around the tree. Snug in their Christmas pajamas, they paused for a moment and then dove in, shredding open gifts and having a great time. The front room was strewn with ripped paper when they were done, and they immediately set about trying each newly opened toy. Watching them made my day.

The best part of the holiday came a day later, when A. remembered gifts he made for us in his fourth-grade class. He opened a bag and pulled out a glass candle holder, covered in red, green and white paper. He gave me a Christmas card, with “Dad” on the front and “Seasons Geetings” written on the inside. It includes a picture of Santa’s sleigh sitting on the roof of a snow-covered house, with the big man seen peeking out of window. Perfect, typo and all.

Now we’re ready to take the tree down and put the lights away. The holiday is finally over. Long after the last tree needle is vacuumed up and Christmas is gone, these are the gifts I’ll remember.

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When Time Stands Still

For kids, the last few days before Christmas feel like an eternity.

For adults, it’s time to panic as the holiday comes bearing down on us like a UPS truck loaded with presents.

“Is Christmas here yet?” little C. asked as soon as she woke up the other day. Sorry, not yet.

“My prediction is that this week is going to feel like the slowest on earth,” A. added. “Everyone is so excited.”

It’s funny how our perception of the holiday changes as we get older. We go from carefree anticipation to the weight of responsibility and more than a little dread.

The little ones can’t wait until Christmas morning. Adults are meanwhile doing the calculus to figure out how we’re going to cram last-minute shopping, present wrapping, house cleaning, cooking and all the other stuff into the coming days.

If I squint and look back, I can remember my own long waits for Christmas Eve and Christmas itself. I could hardly stand it. I knew that my grandma hid unwrapped presents under her bed, and even though I tried to be good, I couldn’t resist peeking. I was about 8 years old. I looked and found the box of Legos that would soon be mine. It didn’t ruin the holiday, but just gave me a little fix to help me make it through to the big day.

I watch the kids now and I can tell they feel the same way. When we arrive home in the evening, we often have a box or two from Amazon waiting. Each contains a Christmas present. I can tell it takes all of their self control to keep from tearing open the boxes right on the spot.

Just a little while longer, I tell them. Soon they’ll get their holiday goodies, and I can breathe a sigh of relief.

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Calling Santa

Am I a bad parent for threatening to call Santa on my cell phone when 3-year-old C. refuses to clean up her room, put on her shoes or pick up toys she scatters around the house?

Maybe, but I’m not the only one.

A co-worker who has kids said she had a picture of Santa on her cell phone, representing a sort of North Pole hotline. In the past, she even had relative she could dial who would play the role on the other end of the line when things got dire.

C. is at this golden stage where she understands who Santa is, and she believes me when I say I have Mr. Kringle on my speed dial.

Up through November, all I had to do was promise to call grandma if C. was misbehaving. This was especially effective, but at the same time strange, mainly because the grandma I was talking about is one of the nicest and most generous people in her life.

But this Christmas season, playing the Santa card has worked well.

When C. won’t eat her dinner, or stands up in her chair or does something else to make dinnertime a circus, all I have to do is reach for the phone and she snaps to attention.

Toward the end of the month, she has started to get a little wise to the ruse. Today I said was I going to call The Jolly One when she refused to get up off the floor and get her shoes on.

She looked at me and said “nooooooo” with a tone of playful challenge.

Only when I whipped out my phone did she finally get moving.

Unfortunately, this scheme does not work on A., who at 8 years old said he no longer believes in Santa.

I think that will change for him tomorrow. On Christmas morning, everyone becomes a believer.

As for now, I’m glad to have Santa on my side. He may never know how much of a help he really is.

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A Blue Christmas, Sort Of

So it started out as a sad holiday season, with my grandma now gone and a lot of the familiar traditions missing this time around.

Everyone who knew Eda Mae Sagar knew that she loved the celebrate the holidays. Not so much in the deeply religious kind of way, but with examples of kindness, class, hospitality and plenty of food.

When she died in early November, I knew Christmas would not be the same. And it hasn’t been. I’ve missed her deeply at every turn. But we’ve still enjoyed ourselves, and remembered her often along the way.

My grandma made may fine dishes at Christmas, including her famous cheese ball, ham and persimmon cookies. My favorite, though, is the most simple: Lit’l Smokies sausages heated up on the stove in Kraft barbecue sauce. And yes, it has to be Kraft. I can remember as a little kid, about the age that A. is now, chowing down on on Christmas Eve on these little bits of comfort. So we made sure we had them on the stove this year, and boy were they good.

As Christmas approached, I wasn’t really in much of a mood to celebrate. Yet with kids, you just sort of trudge forward sometimes.

I got in the holiday spirit along with way through little things we did, like when A. and I stopped a week ago at Peet’s at J and 20th for some hot cocoa, only to follow up with an unplanned skating session at the cool outdoor ice rink right outside. He was so enthusiastic about skating that it was hard not to smile.

And seeing little C. play with her new dollhouse really made my Christmas morning. She couldn’t wait for me to get it out of the box and set it up. She could have stopped opening presents right then. She was so happy.

Later in the day when we sat down for Christmas dinner, we set a place at the table for my grandma. She would have loved the pot roast, which L. cooked in red wine and garlic for hours. The warm scent filled the house. And as we all gathered around to eat and talk, and I thought of how much my grandma would have enjoyed it.

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