Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Past and Present

Another Christmas come and gone.

In years past, before the age of responsibility, I would have spent today, Boxing Day, sprawled out on the floor with the latest additions to my collection of Star Wars action figures and accessories, or, as time went on, pounding away at my newest Nintendo games. Sadly, those days are long gone, and instead today marked a return to the grind of work after a four-day weekend that barely felt like a weekend at all.

Like so many other kids, Christmas was such a big deal that I often had a hard time sleeping on Christmas Eve. Instead, I'd lie awake in bed, wondering what would be under the tree for me in the morning. Often I'd stare at the sliver of light that ran down the side of my window shade, waiting for it to turn red with the glow from Rudolph's nose. Strangely, no matter how awake I felt, I never managed to stay awake quite long enough for that to happen.

In the days leading up to Christmas, I always liked to turn off the lights in the living room and just sit in silence with the only illumination coming from the colored lights of the Christmas tree. I still like doing that, actually. When I was a kid, though, I'd often lie on the floor with my head underneath the tree, staring up into it.

Christmas festivities always kicked off with a party at Uncle Mike and Aunt Billie's house on Christmas Eve. The highlight of that celebration was always a visit from Santa Claus, played by Uncle Clarence. The last of the kids to figure out who was behind the beard was my cousin Rachel, the oldest of the kids by a few years...and Uncle Clarence's daughter.

I talked to that same Santa Claus on the phone one year, and told him that what I wanted that year was the Millennium Falcon. Perhaps not surprisingly, that's what I got. That was one of my prize possessions for the rest of my childhood, and yes, I still have it.

One year I got up on December 26 to find another present under the tree. There was a note attached from Santa (my parents this time) saying he had accidentally missed it in the bottom of his bag, and so he had to come back on Christmas night. That present was a Star Wars sleeping bag, and yes, I still have that too.

These days, Christmas is a lot less magical and a lot more hassle, due to simple aging, the drastic reduction in time off, and the travel required by the addition of another person's family into the mix. It's still a special time, though. Brandi and I generally put up our tree shortly after Thanksgiving, and we also have a small Charlie Brown-type tree (a gift from her parents last year) that gets one ornament added each day leading up to the 25th. We watch A Charlie Brown Christmas, which we have on DVD, one evening shortly before Christmas. We travel up to her hometown a couple of days before Christmas to spend some time with her mom, then the big celebration with her family is at her dad and stepmom's house on Christmas Eve. We have dinner there and then head down to Troy for the night before spending Christmas Day with my family at my parents' house.

...which seems to get more and more interesting from year to year. My 16-year-old niece recently found out she was pregnant, and with this being the first family get-together since that news broke, it was a fairly popular topic of conversation. Also, one of my nephews, who apparently isn't old enough to know better, brought along his girlfriend and her small daughter (not his, at least not so far as any of us know), who, for the second year in a row, wreaked enough unsupervised havoc to reap the wrath of my mom, who minces no words.

Ah, family. Ah, Christmas. Until next year....

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