Friday, December 09, 2005

Family Tradition

My parents are regular folk. And like regular folk, they celebrate Christmas. Now by no means are we Christians, but it's the thought that counts.

Our first Christmas with a tree was in 1996/7. My dad found it in the basement of his store. It was one of those "fit wire branch into corresponding slot" type things conveniently left over from the previous owners. Filled with generic decorations, my dad loaded the cardboard box into his trunk and drove home, beaming. It was the find of the century.

The first time we put our tree together, my mother and I carefully inserted each branch into the appropriate colour-coded hole. The final product was reminiscent of God's patchy green pubes. The second time we put the tree together, we decided to fill only the left side and stuck the whole thing in the corner so its obvious baldness could not be detected by the casual viewer. We figured no one would notice its shabby appearance after it was decorated.

We dressed it up with the familiar embellishments: garlands, ornaments, outdoor lights, and pinecones; plastic globes and dollar store Jesus, two-year old ginger bread cookies and action figures; glitter crafts, popsicle stick cabins, paper stockings and unrelated children's art taken from the fridge to hide that other gaping cavity in the tree. It was beautiful really, like a nativity scene re-created by a blind person from a yuletide dumpster.

Every December my mom would take us shopping to pick out our own gifts. We'd drive up to Costco and scan the coupons, hoping something we liked would be featured. "Ooh!" we'd say when we did, "jumbo crayons and a tarp!" Typically though, my mom would find a sweet parking space near Toys R Us and let us go crazy (assuming whatever it was we chose was less than 30 dollars):

"Can I get this, please? Mommy, can I? Can I, please?"

"Ice cream mak-ah. Why you make ice cream? I buy for you, why you make? You crazy."

Afterwards, we'd go home and enjoy our presents for a few days before gift-wrapping them in time for Christmas. We'd wake up the next morning and they'd be under the tree and we'd tear open the packages and act really, really surprised before running to the kitchen to thank her. (*Note: My mom's not very touchy-feely. She'd wrestle, yeah, but until recently, I'd get an awkward pat on the shoulder following, "Why you touch me? You crazy.") Frequently, we'd see stuff we bought months ago there too, like puzzle boxes and shoes or a newly washed blender.

We were known in the neighbourhood as that family who had their tree up by November and didn't (still don't) take it down until some time after August. People thought we were weird when they saw our flashing beauty through the window, but it was just practical: We simply didn't have any other light source to watch TV with. My friends would be surprised to find me plugging in the artifical Christmas tree whenever they came by to hang out -- I'd switch off singing Santa to be considerate during the Simpsons.


Thanksgiving was the same tree with handprint turkeys.

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