Saturday, December 26, 2015

Christmas Gift!

We hope you had a very merry holiday.  We did and so there's a lot to tell, so let's break the last few days down into bite-size chunks.

The kids had a half day of school, so I ran the last bit of my errands and then finished wrapping presents.  I delivered the pink scarf I made to my friend for her daughter and we shared a coffee.  Otherwise, it was a lot of traffic and rain.

At some point, I lost the tv remote control.  I had been wrapping presents (about which I am very proud--it's been a long time since I could sit and to the wrapping, but I could this year), answered the phone while pausing my annual viewing of Love Actually, and then couldn't find the remote later to unpause the show.  I joked on FB that I must have wrapped the remote into a gift.  Wrapping gifts in silence was an interesting exercise, for awhile.

The kids got home in jovial spirits--the real holiday had begun!  They stayed up til midnight, a kind of free-for-all, playing games and such.  See, they didn't need the tv remote to play their games.  I bribed them with extra screen time if they could find my flipper, to no avail.

Mama couldn't find it later either.

Merry Christmas Eve!

It didn't feel at all like Christmas, except maybe Christmas in Texas, very warm and wet.

Mama was off to work long before the rest of us even woke up but only had a half-day.  At home, we wrapped some gifts, had a deli lunch, and watched some Doctor Who--not only were we counting down to Christmas but to the Doctor Who Christmas special as well.

Mama got home midday and did a lot of her own wrapping, helped me make gumbo, and watched some Simpsons Christmas specials.  We also had a long nap, while the kids played Minecraft.

Then it was church for carols and candlelight, one of our favorite Christmas and Unitarian Universalist traditions.  We sing lots of songs (I love "In the Bleak Midwinter"), hear a few short and uplifting remarks, light each other's candles during "Silent Night," and eat some cookies.  It's a nice, quiet pause in the middle of the chaos of the hectic holiday, as encapsulated in this reading:

Christmas Prayer by Lois Van Leer 
Let us still the world for a moment
Let it be blanketed by a soft darkness that quiets
Let us be brought to our knees
By innocence
By hope
By peace
In this night
Let something be born in us
That heals all brokenness
That does not bow down to hatred and fear
But rather meets them gently and offers them love
Let us chose all the gifts of life we are offered
Tonight is about the impossible
But no more so than any other impossibility
That fills our days
So let us embrace a story, a myth
If for a moment
Let us be carried away in its arms
Held tenderly, rocked, comforted
Let this night, these stories transform our hearts
That we may become
May it be so. Amen.

It was the first Christmas Eve in a long time that we didn't have Goo, who had to work the day before and the day after Christmas.  With all the food made and all the gifts wrapped, we didn't have much to do, except straighten up for Santa.

Ah, Santa.  He's been the topic of discussion several times this season.  It all started with the "sad, nostalgic" hug Bud gave me at Old Sturbridge Village, which I believe he meant in reference to growing older and not believing anymore.   Since then there have been more indirect queries and discussions.  On Christmas Eve, another one arose.

It was actually a double-whammy.  We were sitting listening to the soundtrack of Fun Home, break from carols, when Bud turned to me and asked, "How do two men have sex?" in reference to the song about the father and his high school crush.  Deep breath.  And I calmly explained the simplest of mechanics, to some discomfort.  There was a question about how that would feel good and I basically said that if sex didn't feel good--that it made them mentally or physically uncomfortable when they were older--that they needed to stop, because they were dong it wrong.  It was about pleasure.  Sis quietly leaned over, "So then how do two women do it?"  It was only then that I blushed.

Sigh.  Not the Christmas Eve discussion I thought I'd be having.

Then, in less than five minutes, Sis asked me, "Is Santa real?"

I think I liked the sex question better.

I asked if they really wanted to know.  Bud said unequivocally no.  But Sis did, so I took her into the kitchen and said.  "There is no one Santa.  All the adults in your life are Santa.  We all make the magic of Christmas.  And now you are growing up and can help make the magic, too.  But don't tell anyone the secret; it's part of the fun and the responsibility."  I reassured her that nothing would really change--we would still do cookies, and oatmeal for the reindeer, and stockings.  Christmas was still Christmas.

She said she'd guessed a few years ago because she found the "Santa" wrapping paper.  I knew it!  I knew she'd guess from the paper; she's just so observant.  We had tried to keep them separate and specific, but we must have faltered.  She wasn't upset though, just curious.  "So who buys your Santa presents?"  And her eyes grew wide--with envy perhaps?--when I told her that we bought our own presents!  She also wanted to know who ate the cookies.  We do, of course.
And Albus helped.

At some point, Bud peeked in but didn't really want to listen.  He knows but doesn't want to know.  Fine.  He's struggling with a lot of big emotions about growing up right now and there's no need to push.  He fears loss now that he better understands crisis and mortality (my surgery, the deaths of Aunt Sis and our friend Sunny) and struggles with change.  Last night, he looked at a selfie we took in front of the tree--"my face has gotten thin.  I'm not chubby anymore."  He isn't quite ready to get bigger.

So, we did Christmas Eve just like all the others--books and pajamas, cookies for Santa, reindeer food, staying up too late.  We eventually tucked them in and finished up Christmas prep.  There's always the last few gifts to locate and worries about whether it's all balanced (quality vs. quantity, you know.)

And then we got to go to bed, too.

Oh, it was our 7th wedding anniversary, but we don't pay much attention to this one.  The August 23 date is more our celebration time.  But we do try at least to remember we got legally married, in CT anyway (at the time not federally recognized, until 2014, then nationally legal in 2015.  Which doesn't include our Civil Union date in October 2005, a week after that was legal), on Christmas Eve.


Christmas Gift!  (as my dad's side of the family says.)

The kids slept in, or more specifically waited patiently and quietly, until 7 a.m. to get us up.  Ma, Gong, and Goo arrived shortly thereafter and we all circled round the glowing tree.  We actually had some of the windows open and had discussed turning on the AC; it would get above 65F, with high humidity.  Most of us were in t-shirts.  And our only fire was a video on the tv!

But the warm weather didn't melt the spirits.

We started with stockings as we always do (when I was a kid, we read the biblical verses of the nativity, but since we hear those at evening service, we don't read them again now.)  And from the very beginning, it was a Star Wars:  The Force Awakens Christmas, just like I had a few times as a child; with five of us really devoted and all of us having seen it, everyone but Ma got some SW stuff.   Throughout the day, there would be SW ornaments, SW figures, SW magazines, several SW books, SW Legos, SW trading cards, SW, car windshield cover, SW measuring cups, SW micro-machines, SW Infinity figures, SW wall lights, SW t-shirts, SW bobbleheads, and, the two biggest of all, real flying Millennium Falcon drones and actual robotic BB8s.

There were some non-SW things.  I think.  Lots of Warriors books and horse-themed gifts (pillow kit, painting kit, plaque) for Sis; the Doctor Who Lego and a refurbished iPad for Bud; a Lego Dimensions game set for the kids; a Playbill organizer for theater programs and Shaun the Sheep and Felines of New York book for Mama; and some Great British Bake-Off books and Mandala coloring book for me.  As a family, we also got a guidebook to Colonial Williamsburg, where we'll be going for a slightly extended February school break.

And I got a Tile, which is a GPS-like locator system to avoid losing things.  Like the remote control.  Which Goo found wedged behind the small couch, where we'd already unsuccessfully looked.  But, yay for him! And for me.

We laughed about the Tile, now intended for the peripatetic flipper.  And about the empty gift I got.  Mama had gotten me an iPad stand for when I cook from the computer.  Except when I went to look at it, the box was actually empty!  We thought this was funny and referred to it again and again; she took it well, though was aggravated by now having to go deal with the store.  And I celebrated each time Mama opened a gift that she didn't know about (you know, since we buy our own presents.)  I think there were three--Playbill binder, Shaun the Sheep, and  Felines of NY.  That's a good year.  We also continuously pelted her with paper "snowballs" (since it certainly wasn't a white Christmas), because she was sitting next to the recycling box.  I'd say we rarely made the box, mostly on accident.

It was a big, indulgent, materialistic Christmas; the kind we actually always talk down but often seem to then create.  I figure it won't last much longer, as the kids' wishes for toys decrease (though Mama's wishes increase.)  It also brings so much pleasure to Mama to spoil the kids.  And that makes me happy.  We just try to throw in extra charitable donations and acts of kindness to somewhat balance it out.  All the while, talking about it.  Not ideal.

I will say that one of my favorite gifts was actually unwrapped today:  handmade gold-painted pasta ornaments in the shape of symmetrical mandalas with the kids' photos in the middle, which they made at school this week.  LOVE these.  We don't have many school ornaments and so these are extra treasured, along with the ones from preschool.

We ate, too, though it's never the focal point of Christmas.  I gave up the big roast dinner a few years back and have been much happier ever since.  We had a corned beef hash and also orange biscuit breakfast, followed by gumbo and muffulettas later in the day.  Not many snacks, just some Christmas cookies.  And cheesecake.  A big, delicious, plain cheesecake that I bought a few years ago  from a friend at an auction for another friend but didn't collect until now (the cheesecake is not years old; the idea of the cheesecake is.)  And it was so good!  Best part was the crack, seriously, which signified the crack in the Whovian universe for us, perfect on the day of the Whovian Christmas special.

After opening gifts and eating, we spent the rest of the day playing with said gifts.  Ma and Gong helped Sis put her horse puzzle together.  Bud put his Doctor Who Lego together.  Mama, Gong, and co flew the drone outside.  Everybody drove BB8s around the living room, intriguing the cats.  Goo played video games with the kids.  I read and crocheted.

And at some point, Sis went outside to the neighbors and took a rope climbing lesson.  In short sleeves.  Our neighbors are Jewish and were having a non-Christmas gathering of family and making a lot of food.  So they invited us over for some; we took cookies and cheesecake.  And Sis got a lesson in rope climbing from the dad of the house.  I can't explain exactly what she did--there were clamps and belaying lines and carbiners and a full-torso harnass and she was supposed to bend a knee while extending an arm, then stand up on a rope and start again. Harder than it looked, I'm sure.  But she had a good go at it and then swung around and hung upside-down.  Goo tried it too, but Bud took a pass; I didn't even think about it.  Some of the other kids and adults tried, too.  And all we could all talk about was how warm it was.  Most were in a single layer, not a coat in sight.   The mom was even in flip-flops!  It was a quirky but welcome addition to our Christmas day.

The cats stayed mostly upstairs, though, when Albus and Hermione did venture down, they were rewarded with the big cardboard cat tree Mama had made for them.  Mojo eventually came out and sat in his spot in them middle of the couch  under a crocheted blanket most of the day.  At one point, he somehow slipped out from underneath his blanket and Goo gamely remarked, "You left the cat open."   Mr P couldn't handle any of it and hid on our bed upstairs.

Ma and Gong left soon after and ran into a ton of rain that never made it to us; they did get home safely, though.  Goo stayed until Who-time, playing games and eating dinner.  We're so glad he could join us.  He really makes the holiday special and is an integral part of our family celebration, for both Mama and I and the kids.

And then it was Doctor Who time.  The return of River Song, after too many sad episodes saying goodbye to Clara (who, thankfully, we learned in the last of three episodes, didn't actually die.)  It was great to see Alex Kingston in the role again and it was delightfully funny, with some great one-liners but also some touching twists and speeches.  The only tears were happy ones.  (Yep, I'm still hormonal.  Cried at carols on Christmas Eve, cried reading my SW magazine, cried watching DW.  Blah.)

The kids stayed up late, as part of their Christmas celebration, playing with their toys and snacking all  over again.  I think we were all asleep after midnight.

I don't know how many magical childhood Christmas we have left.  It definitely changes as children age, not bad and in many ways perhaps less frantic and more reflective, just different from the joy and exuberance (and yes, greed) of the first decade or so.  But this year at least, they still didn't sleep and they still squealed and hugged in gratitude and laughed and were merry the whole time.  And that, for us (since we aren't Christians anyway, but Unitarian Universalists celebrating family and the wonder of every child), is the reason for the season.

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