My parents, THE WIFE, and I stood together in the living room on Christmas Eve. The kids were asleep. We had toys to assemble. And it was already eleven o'clock. My parents were calm. They've been there before. My dad's reaction was unsurprising and amusing. "Ah. (pausing) You got a dry red? Merlot?" I ran to the basement and snagged a bottle of Chuck Shaw. We got to work - on the wine and the toys.
From ages 18 to 33, I appreciated the time spent with my family during Christmas of course. But the supposed magic or aura of the actual holiday gradually decreased with time. The religious aspect never did it for me. The songs stopped appealing to me. The movies ceased moving me. I'm indifferent about cookies. And though I loved giving presents, I rarely enjoyed receiving them. I don't think I was necessarily a Scrooge by any means, but the holiday hype was more bothersome and irritating than enjoyable.
Then, Greta was born. Last year, she was too young to have any palpable reaction to the festivities. But this year was a whole different story. All of those fun things about Christmas that I forgot re-emerged and reintroduced themselves.
We kicked off the season by riding on a Polar Express train ride excursion with both of the kids, her cousins, and the little ones of THE WIFE'S Carver neighborhood friends. The kids were all dressed in their pajamas. After caroling, dancing, and looking at lights, we got off the train and strolled around. A little reception hall had hot chocolate, face painting, and a place to make ornaments. Greta was eating it up.
The highlight of that night was when Greta walked right up to her new BFF Frosty the Snowman. She waved at him fearlessly while beaming with adoration. It shocked me because our experience with Santa the year before didn't go as smoothly. Granted, Frosty was probably a stoned teenager on break from college underneath the costume, but I was grateful nonetheless.
A week later, we put up the tree. G loved hanging the ornaments, which she dangled almost entirely on one branch at the very end. Classic.
Of course, the tree stand I used was too small, which caused the tree to fall over twice the next day breaking several ornaments, making Greta cry, and resulting in my curse-filled, frantic drive to Lowe's, but Greta and THE WIFE were relieved as the tree rose again this time with something like 20 more strands of lights. (Still standing, by the way.)
While her fear of real-life Santas continued like the Real Wives of Beverly Hills fear normal sized lips or faces that move, Greta became a huge fan of cartoon caricatures or small version models of St. Nick. Rudolf is cool but probably only because of his resemblance to Bambi. We even waved at baby Jesus together when passing by the town center's Nativity scene.
After a few weeks, the seasonal songs began to take reawaken my Christmas cheer's soul. Listening to Gigi sing Jingle Bells or Frosty the Snowman comprised the best five seconds of my days leading up to the big event. Greta only knew the first four words of each song but it's all I needed to hear.
Then, the other little things also began to impress: the outdoor light displays of any quality (the inflatable jobs are her fave), Christmas cookies (she baked some with Mimi), wrapping paper, and even just playing in the snow. I hadn't paid any attention to these things since Teenwolf was dunking on the Dragons or Gizmo got fed after midnight.
On Christmas morning, Greta's new trampoline, toy kitchen, and chalkboard/drawing easel sat freshly assembled. (The Grandparents and parents gratefully sipped their coffee or tea.) All three gifts seemed to be big hits, though the trampoline probably had a slight edge. As Gigi bounced gleefully, I understood why my parents were so quick to accept our invitation to sleep over. I think I felt that old-school Christmas magic again.
My only gift to Greta - a set of hers and hers ice skates (a pair to Greta and a pair to THE WIFE) - got pushed aside immediately after opening so she could go back to the trampoline. Poetic justice! That was fine by me, though. I was just happy the kitchen's appliances all beeped properly. Now if someone wouldn't mind telling Greta that the decorations and tree have to disappear for a little, that would be great. Thanks.
Have a happy and healthy 2011 everyone!