Valentines before Christmas. What the…?

walmart-valentinesIt’s Not Even Christmas!

Am I the only one who thinks America’s retailers need to allow us to enjoy one holiday before they usher in the next one? I mean, who shops for Valentines Day gifts and cards before Christmas? Or is giving Valentines gifts for Christmas the latest trend?


Fruitcakes and Silver Icicles

silver-iciclesSilver icicles.

            The first time I broke away from my grandmother’s Christmas traditions was the year I got rid of the silver icicles on our Christmas tree.
            My grandmother believed that traditions help make holidays special. This was most apparent when it came to her Christmas traditions.
            She had to have a Christmas fruitcake that had to be made before the first of December so it could age properly.
            Even though the same items could be found in local stores, she had to order at least one thing from the Sears Christmas catalog.
            And she had to have a Christmas tree covered in silver icicles.
            As long as these three traditions weren’t broken, we had a merry Christmas.
            When I was old enough to stand in a chair, I watched her make her fruitcake, wrap it and place it in a holiday-themed cake tin, then open the tin every few days and sprinkle the cake with brandy.
            By the time I was ten, she had taught me how to fill out catalog forms and call customer service numbers to place her Christmas orders.
            And as far back as I can remember, I decorated our Christmas tree as she sat in a chair directing.
            When my grandmother moved into a new house in 1988, she started a new tradition. Instead of directing me how to put up the Christmas tree, she told me the task was all mine. I was excited for about fifteen seconds.
            “You can decorate the tree by yourself this year,” she informed me.
            “Really?” I asked, trying not to let my excitement show.
            “It’s all yours,” she replied. “But, you’re going to have to get a new tree, new lights, bulbs, a star, and icicles.”
            I knew what that meant. The task was all mine, but she still wanted her tree done her way.
            I was moseying through a store gathering the items for my grandmother’s Christmas tree when I suddenly felt the urge to rebel, to break with tradition. I asked myself what she would do if I changed things up a little. Throw the tree out on the trash pile? And me with it?
           “She might,” my good sense answered.
            But I didn’t listen.
            That evening, my grandmother sat in her chair and watched as I put up the tree. She nodded pleasingly as I draped the lights around the tree. She said how pretty the bulbs were as they dangled perfectly from the branches. When I took the red bows out of the bag, she asked, “What are you going to do with those?”
            “Hang them on the tree,” I answered.
            “I don’t think those will look good with icicles,” she said.
            “I didn’t think so either,” I responded. “That’s why I didn’t get any icicles.”
            My grandmother tried to hide her frown, but it was hard to hide a frown that covered her entire body.
            When I was done placing the bows over the tree and placing the star on top, my grandmother’s frown turned upside into a smile.
            And we all had a merry Christmas.
            Last year, I broke the Christmas tree tradition again.
            Out went yesteryears glistening ornaments and colorful ribbons and bows. In came fall foliage and white doves.
            As I put up the tree, I couldn’t help glancing over my shoulder to see if my grandmother was sitting in the chair watching.
            If she had been, I’m sure she looked over the rims of her glasses and wondered when they started making pre-lit tree. I thought I heard her say how pretty the bulbs were as they dangled perfectly from the branches. And when I reached in the box and took out the brown, yellow, orange, red, silver, and gold leaves and then the white doves, I know she frowned and asked, “What are you going to do with those?”
           When I was done placing the foliage and doves over the tree and placing the star on top, her  frown couldn’t help turning upside into a smile.
            And it turned out to be a merry Christmas.

Santa, I’ve Been Good

black_santa_ap_mediumI have. I really have.

All I want for Christmas is to be put back on Santa’s list.
            Even though I haven’t lived with the threat of being scratched off of Santa’s list in a rather long, long time, I’ve still tried my best to be nice. I’ve brushed my teeth, washed my face, and combed my hair every morning like I was taught to do. I’ve respected my elders and stayed out of the way of our young (to avoid the fate of that grandmother who got ran over by a reindeer). And I’ve dreamed of a white Christmas, wished everyone a Merry Christmas, and waited for the Christmas when Santa would deem me fit to be put back on his list.
            Christmas is and has always been my favorite time of the year. As a child, it was even more special because, although Christmas Day came only once a year, Santa always came twice.
            Santa’s “big” visit was on Christmas Day.
            My brothers and I would wake up before dawn to a living room that looked like the toy sections of TG&Y, Western Auto, and Southern Auto combined. Even though my grandmother and mother had threatened to have our names scratched off of Santa’s list, it seemed the jolly old elf had dumped his entire sleigh at our house. A few years, when my cousins also lived at our grandparents’ house, Santa needed three sleighs to haul the toy list for the twelve of us. We were so excited about the toys Santa had left on display that it was usually noon before we got around to unwrapping the presents under the tree.  Santa’s other visit, a sort of prequel to Christmas, usually occurred the week before Christmas.
            My brothers and I never knew how we got on Santa’s other list – the one he put the local Rotary Club in charge of, but we were glad to be on it. The Rotarians didn’t keep as watchful eye on us as Santa, so we didn’t have to worry about being scratched off of their prequel-to-Christmas-Day list. And, because our grandmother and mother appreciated the club’s acts of kindness, we didn’t have to worry about them threatening to have us taken off the Rotarians’ list.
             The invitation to the Rotary Club Christmas Luncheon arrived a few days before the event, which was held at various locations around town. The days leading up to the luncheon were just like the days leading up to Christmas. We couldn’t sleep. We couldn’t sit still. And we couldn’t stop talking about the gifts we hoped Santa would leave for us at the luncheon.
“Just be thankful for whatever ‘he’ leaves you,” my grandmother would remind us. And we were thankful.
              The luncheon that stands out the most in my mind was held at the Boys and Girls Club facility on Washington Street. It looked like the Rotarians’ Santa had unloaded two sleighs of gift-wrapped toys for all the “good” children on their list. My brothers and I needed a dufflebag to carry all the gifts we received.
              Several years later, I was disappointed to find out my brothers’ names made the Rotary Club’s Santa List but mine didn’t. Apparently, I had reached the age limit for their list.
              A few years ago, when my name stopped appearing on the gifts under the tree, I surmised that I had reached the age limit for Santa’s list too.
             But, I haven’t given up trying to get back on it.
             This year, I’ve tried not to cry. I’ve tried not to pout. And I’ve tried to be good and it wasn’t just for goodness sakes.
             So, if I wake up Christmas morning and find that my name didn’t make it back on Santa’s list, there’s only one thing left for me to do – spend the next twelve months searching for the elusive Fountain of Youth.