Christmas is steeped in tradition. For many of you, I bet your mother put up the tree in the very same corner of the living room with the very same tacky-ass ornaments. You eat fish and go to church once a year on Christmas Eve. You open your gifts in the same general routine as always. You get deodorant in your stocking. (Clearly, you stink.) You stuff yourself with turkey at precisely the same time on Christmas Day and blah blah blah…
And now as mothers yourselves, you have brought much of that tradition into your own home, to your own children. The magic your parents created for you, you create for them. Maybe you even have a few old family heirlooms around, warming your cockles, casting their shadows of Christmases past. Myself, I have a little ceramic tree that is illuminated from within by a lightbulb. It used to be my Nan and Pop’s. For me, it’s symbolic of a simpler time, when Christmas was no work, no worries, all joy. It sits less than two feet from where I now type. A few of the coloured pegs are missing, the result of frequent moving. If my house were burning down, I’d like to think I’d have enough room in my arms for that little tree. Ironically, it may be the tree that causes the fire.
I have fond memories of Christmas, I do. But nothing was set in stone. I have traditions that I savour, but I am not attached to anything specifically. If I don’t have a tree in my living room, I’m not going to feel like an empty vessel. If I don’t get a bunch of presents, I am not going to have an epileptic seizure. I’m more than okay with imperfection – when it comes to Christmas, at least. (My hair is another story.) Which might explain why I had a very untraditional Christmas this year. Or maybe it was something else.
The fir tree, killed and dragged from the mighty forest by my handsome hunter husband, stood in my living room, undecorated, until late on Christmas Eve night. Appalling, isn’t it? And when I did finally hang the bulbs, I may as well have worn a blindfold. The tree lights – that’s the husband’s job. Because if it were mine, I would toss them on there from three feet away and wherever they land, they land. When I told my friend Robin about my bare bush, er, I mean tree, she told me she had decorated five trees already, three in her own home. And she is on maternity leave! When I was on mat leave, I showered once a week, sometimes with water.
Maybe there is something wrong with me. Or maybe there is something with her. (Oh hi, Robin!)
We didn’t put any lights on the house. I could have nagged at the husband to hang them, but why bother picking that fight? Our lights suck reindeer wang anyway.
Maybe my lack of jolly gusto is because, this year, I have a three-foot, 28-pound bulldozer running through the house. Unfortunately none of my holiday décor is made of rubber.
Or maybe the fact that my dad is not here just makes everything else seem petty. Who gives a flying fuck about trees and lights and gifts?
Don’t get me wrong; my state of disillusion did not deter me from creating magic for my boy. We sing to Christmas music in the car. (He doesn’t say too much yet, but he sure can bust a move, and when I crank the car tunes he sways to the sound of the chimes.) He awoke on Christmas morn to a new wooden train track assembled under the tree. And on the night before Christmas, he met Dustin Nolan, his first (and only, if his father has anything to say about it) Cabbage Patch Kid. Max combed Dustin’s hair with the attached brush, gave him a little squeeze, then flicked him facedown onto the hardwood floor. I’m fairly certain we’re raising a heterosexual.
My holiday attitude occasionally conflicts with my husband’s. See, he was raised in Santa’s village. The mother-in-law has toned things down in recent years, especially since the arrival of the latest batch of grandkids, but a few years back… wow. I remember going there for the first time during the holidays. The front door swung open to unleash a sea of red, green and white. My eyes were as big as saucers. Not a square inch of white space to be seen. On every mantle or shelf sat a maddening elf or singing angel. From every nail dangled a dancing Santa or psychedelic stocking. And they’re Catholic (seven children, hello), so there were at least a couple Baby Jesuses around for good (like, really good) measure. And to top it off, there she be in her fur-trimmed red apron and sleigh bell earrings. It was like Christmas had thrown up right there in the Pearl. And ya know, I liked it. I really liked it. More trifle, please.
But I didn’t like it so much that I was going to replicate it. Hell no. And Andrew is okay with that. Sort of. Hey, it spares him from having a list of “things to do before December 25th.” But there are a couple of times when I must bow to tradition to refrain from shattering his childhood. Take the stocking thing. At Chez Murphy, the stockings were more exciting than the gifts. So last year, when I expressed to Andrew that I wasn’t going to bother with stockings, he was like whaaaaaaat. We may as well have not put up a tree, or gotten up in the morning. So his mother scrambled to put one together for him. Bad, bad daughter-in-law. This year, I stuffed his stocking with condoms and cash.
Long story short, I am clearly not grounded in tradition. I’m adaptable. And that’s a good thing. Because the people and the things around us when we were children don’t last. Things break. People break. And life goes on. We must make new traditions. Ride the winds of change. And not lose our shit when things don’t come together with glorious perfection. We just do the best we can to find joy in this crazy world, and create it for others – whether that be through long-standing tradition or frequent change. As long as the love is a constant.