The arrival of the holidays always meant the resumption of precious old family traditions around my household as I was growing up. Roasted Chex mix, putting the plastic ghosts and monsters up in the high windows, to be replaced with turkeys and pilgrims, then once again with reindeer and Santa, that little brass spinny thing with the candles and angles, driving to Hogansville for the Thanksgiving feast and the Turkeybowl immediately following, finding ever new and more inventive ways to scare little kids in search of Halloween candy, Christmas Eve dinner at the Grandparents… fine, heartwarming traditions all.
But there is one set of holiday traditions that is ever near to my heart — the holiday fighting. My parents would fight over the pumpkin to be selected, would fight for hours every morning-before-Thanksgiving while my sister and I sat on the steps waiting to go to Hogansville, fight over when to buy a Christmas tree and when to trim it, would have enormous rows over which tree to bring home, and then start up all over again when it was time to decorate, (in fairness, Mom once confided in me that she would sometimes deliberately piss our dad off before the tree trimming so that he would stomp away and sulk and she could decorate the way she wanted to) and of course they would fight again every time whenever it was time to clean up after any of these occasions. Finally, there were the Christmas afternoon recriminations stemming from “Don’t you like what I got for you? See, I told you he doesn’t care. I don’t know why we bother. Do you know how much that cost?” and other such fun pastimes.
After our first year together, I realized that there was no way Lena and I could ever hope to match my parents ferocious adherence to these precious family traditions. The second year we bought a tree together, we were standing in line waiting to pay, and Lena could tell I was feeling glum.
“What’s the matter baby?” she asked me.
I looked over at her and said, “I don’t know. None of this …feels right.”
“Do you want to have a fight before we buy this tree?” she asked. I nodded eagerly. “Okay. We can do that.” She cast her eyes around the lot and settled on a seven-footer still wrapped in twine. “I don’t want this tree. I wantthat tree. And you’re ugly.”
I grinned. “Well we’re not getting that tree. We’re getting this one!” I thumped the tree in my hand on the ground. “And you’re stupid.”
She hugged me. “Feel better now?” she asked. I nodded again. We paid for our tree and went home, getting drunk while we decorated and watched the Christmas specials on TV.
Lena and I are looking at our fourteenth anniversary in January, and we have now developed our own traditions. Several years ago we traded the ever-rising cost of live trees and pine needles on the floor for a pre-lit, folding branch, 3-part artificial tree and a Yankee Candle that smells like pine. We went ahead and paid a bit extra for the tree in order to get one that looked real, and in one fell swoop I went from being one of those people who mocked fake trees to being an absolute convert. Our Christmas decorating begins the morning after Thanksgiving every year with the playing of the Cthulhu Christmas songs on the iPod (It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Fishmen) burning the Balsam and Pine or the Christmas Berries candle, bringing the tree-box out of its closet upstairs and setting it up, and fifteen minutes later we’re hanging glass Micky Mouse heads.
Our best tradition is going to Orlando every year on a pilgrimage to the Disney’s Days of Christmas store in Downtown Disney for a new ornament. We each get to pick one. Then we go eat in one of the nicer restaurants there, and drive back home. (Lena and I dig our drive-time together. We almost always have a lot of fun chatting with each other in the car.)
I am writing this on the Saturday morning after Thanksgiving. We put up all of our Christmas stuff yesterday, and when Lena wakes up and gets moving we’ll be on our way to Orlando for this year’s ornaments. I’m hoping to convince her to stop someplace good for breakfast on the way out. And maybe, if I’m really lucky, I can get her to fight with me about where we eat!