Saturday, December 18, 2010

Keeping up with the Christmases: Memories for my Brother

Living in “Christmas Crazy” for over two decades beginning with decorating drama that includes my Christmas tree decoration and light negotiation which took ten years to win and ending in the official one-sided family gathering (Mom’s family) which includes the annual sometimes semi-annual question and/or reference to future events that include what seems like foreign vocabulary words such as: marriage, children, settle down, house. For someone who just last month started the “two more years of twenties” and a brother who is just now entering that “quarter-life crisis”, year which in my case took 3 years to overcome, we have formulated some interesting answers using his innovative mind and my persuasive communication skills. I do believe we might be close to having our traditional, Christian, old-fashioned, redneck, and crazy loud family understand what my brother has been saying now for the past ten years every time we are thrown into the bunch. As we sit there side by side observing the festivities we have the same thoughts in our mind watching the craziness unfold, he will say the phrase or sentence or even just make a comment that I wait to hear each year.
“Kristin, I don’t think we fit in or belong in the family sometimes, how did we turn out like we did?”
“We are different and have our own opinions, open-minded, laidback, where did we get that from?”
“We are the only two not married or having kids and the only two who went to college. I don’t get it”
“Do you think Mom is mad or thinks we don’t love her because we aren’t like the rest of the family?”
“Let’s just go sit in the car so we can smoke and listen to music.”

And this year on the phone Thanksgiving morning: “Yeah I don’t want to go alone. Man I don’t even feel like going. I’m so tired. Gosh. I really just want to go and see Mom, eat, and then leave…..After Thanksgiving my brother mentions hanging out with our uncle. ”Tom is more normal like us, but that’s why everybody thinks he is kind of crazy and different, but he’s not even really from the family, he just married into it”

Dear Jonathan,

It took me 20 years, but now I can answer most of those questions for you now. We only learned 50% of who we really were being with only one side of the family. We are so much alike and we only had one other person who could fully understand us, each other. We did however end up living with the 50% that is crazy, neurotic, goofy, loud, anxiety induced, fast-paced, friendly, overly hyper and dramatic, procrastination and stress was learned along with love, family values, kindness, and being thankful and appreciative for every single things. We were different because we were the only two that would actually say out loud all the things everybody else was thinking or hiding. Hiding imperfections wasn’t being the real people we really were, plus we like to laugh and talk about the problems first and then try to fix or accept them. When we said the family was crazy, we weren’t trying to be unique or different. We were actually just being real and honest plus being crazy would make our family fit in with the rest of the world more.
Remember how I used to get impatient trying to help you open your gifts. Mom majored in Christmas Holiday Management at the North Pole which included a certificate and in depth study of gift wrapping. More specifically she gained experience working with Santa one year as an official gift wrapper in the mall. With red and green paper, tape, and ribbon, along with double layer wrapping techniques and ribbons that could lock up a gift like Ft. Knox, she would always know if you had tampered with any gifts pre-Christmas morning. If you were searching for a hole, tear, or slight opening that might give you the smallest indication of what she was hiding, you would never find it. She was really good at hiding the gifts too. Well second thought her strategy was a familiar trait that I can relate to. Procrastination and being late are not always such a bad combination depending on the event or circumstance. In this case especially, I believe she would wait until the very last week until she would go and fetch toys from her hiding places and then spend hours the last two nights wrapping a majority of the gifts.
This gift could be me making up for not helping you out all those years. I finally found the scissors and I have cut the ribbon and I was able to carefully cut through some of this wrapping paper. I basically have given you a head start and a chance to see what is inside. The only problem is you won’t fully be excited or happy about it until you open it up all the way and take it out the package. Of course many of your gifts required your ever so helpful and bright big sister who would take over the mechanical and set-up by thoroughly reading the directions, laying out the necessary parts, and working to make sure its perfection would receive a 100% if graded. The memories that I’m going to share for you are only my version, only the part of the gift that I am going to help you open. On Christmas morning, I’m going to let you be the one to tear open the rest of the present and even take it out the package. As you read through the rest of this gift, you are going to see, remember, and feel the memories in a totally different way and have even more to add which is going to be your gift back to me. Since I was so serious and perfect and you were so fun and getting in trouble, your memories are going to be so much more fun to me! Enjoy 20-something years of Christmas!

1. Christmas Decorating Day

Christmas Decorating Day, a day that was once scheduled during the Thanksgiving holiday and would be moved up at least one day each year. I believe this year’s “holiday house on high street takeover” occurred the 2nd week in November and if my calculations are correct, I believe our children will be on holiday decoration duty with “Mimi”, the modern and unique name Mom has pre-selected to replace the traditional “Grandma” or “Nanny”, at the end of each summer vacation before returning them back which would put an end to the summer party/traveling that would occur during their absence. I recommend that we initiate an unofficial holiday and name it “Season Decorating Day” or “Holiday House Day”.

2. Christmas Decorating Disorder (CDD)

After the Happy Thanksgiving, they start coming out daily. If Bravo had a reality show for those with CDD then they could film in our hometown with all “The Real House-Elves of Colonial Heights”. Better yet, if they were selecting for the cast based on decorations, my mother could possibly be an easy finalist. Christmas Tree, mistletoe, dozens of Santa’s, reindeer, and snowmen, several Nativity Scenes, located in multiple areas of the house. The kitchen and bathroom get makeovers as well with a selection of themed towels and kitchen decorations. The radio is set to station “Nothing but Christmas 24/7 and I’m sure it is not turned off before New Year’s. My personal favorite was "Feliz Navidad". Is it a coincidence that our future step-dad would in fact be fluent in Espanol and Mexican?

The “holiday-card doorway” is also an annual favorite. What my mother would do if she received a Christmas card from someone and she had not mailed one out to them? Send one out immediately of course as this would be considered a “Santa Sin” that she had made. I don’t know if she ever kept any of the cards as memories? But I do know that I would ask her for them and she would let me have some and I would reuse the pictures to create some masterful artwork or collection that I’m still wondering more about. I honestly believe that I made my own cards for the following year. Yes, I was a natural born Christmas Card Recycler saving one more “Real Christmas Tree” at a time that I still have never had before.

3. Stockings and Stuffers

Trying to figure out whose stocking belonged to whom as they slightly differed. Who has the teddy bear in a stocking and who has the teddy bear in a sled? I believe it was agreed that the sled represented a sport in which we could use gender make the final decision. While my brother’s teddy bear was having fun sledding in snow, my dumb bear was sitting up a stocking? This same debate occurred every year. Could we not afford to have our stockings with embroidered names on them? No we could not. We would also not label or remember for the following year which would result in another teddy bear sled versus stocking debacle. Not! I’m so much smarter than that. I am pretty sure that I always remembered, but I wanted the sled so bad I had to test out their memory every year. I would have tied a pink string or labeled the stocking the first year, but then again “is that your stocking or mine?” made it on my memory list. Stockings are carefully emptied out and sorted through first thing Christmas morning. This is the official “first gift” I assume. Of course my mother is also a “certified stocking stuffer”” and has made certain items official “stocking stuffer must haves” each year. Gum, chocolate candy, lip gloss, nail files for me, baseball cards/etc for my brother, pens, small travel items like toothpaste and lotions and random items that I’m still not sure about but often find months/years later and still don’t understand. Somehow I feel obligated to keep them around for a while at least. My Barbie key chain is actually an item received via stocking last year.

4. The Crazy Christmas Tree

It all started with a fake Christmas tree that was once short enough for our mother, who stood heel-less at exactly five feet, to finalize the Christmas tree using just a stepping stool as she carefully placed the Angel or Star at the top. Blue, yellow, green, red, white lights filled the tree up. My mother was a true professional and would take on this task individually. I just realized the reason for this a year ago when I attempted to light my tree and failed miserably getting tangled in the mess and having issues with outlets and extensions. Garland, ice cycles, even old school style popcorn, we have done it all. Consider the Christmas tree to be the end of the year craft project that represents our family and we experimented each year to make it better than the year before.

My favorite memory and one of my first Christmas memories is making ornaments with my mom and brother. I must have been only four or five at the time. My Mom was cutting out shapes of trees, gingerbread men, ornaments, snowmen. We colored with markers and crayons; glitter was obviously involved as it is in most of my artistic work, other cut out designs, stickers, maybe even stencils were involved in our “Christmas Craft Collection”. I remember the exact feeling I had when she lifted up the masterpiece which I’m sure she was 95% responsible for creating. Somehow I felt so accomplished and successful. We had made a beautiful ornament out of some scrap paper, glue, and glitter, and it was more beautiful than any other ornament. Basically I learned that day that I could turn nothing into something incredible. It was imagination.

Note: I will appreciate these ornaments making it to the tree this year. Thank you.

5. Snowflake Sweaters and Jingle Bell Earrings

Wearing crazy outrageous sweaters and sweatshirts with all forms of holiday print and decorations to include sequins, glitter, bells, and more was once considered a Fashion Must Have. You would be busy at work making noises with bells or any other holiday gadget that could draw all attention on yourself whether it be positive or negative while I would be carefully selecting a pair of Mom’s trendy Christmas earrings which I could easily call ornaments based on the color, size, and/or flashing red or green light that would compliment my entire holiday look as I paired it up with the perfect sweater/sweatshirt, socks, etc.

6. Christmas Concerts and Costumes: Solos and Halos

Attending countless rehearsals for the star role and solos/duets in the several Christmas plays both at church and school. These performances in which robes or halos were worn included several weeks, days, and nights of practice as the performance would be the highlight of the entire year. I have a certain memory of you as an "Angel” Is this correct? Did you ever have the role as "the Angel that visited Mary to tell her about baby Jesus?" My memory is hardly ever wrong even when it is as vague as this one, but I do somewhat recall a “garland halo”.

7. Part-Time Piano Player (Christmas Carols and Background Dances)

I would be playing/practicing several Christmas carols on Mom’s keyboard which would be replaced in roughly three years by a piano via step-dad in which I would perform several solo numbers which have been recorded and even mailed to my fans and viewers aka family members. Using my ever so incredibly awesome "Christmas piano book" which remains to be 1 of the only 3 piano books I ever had before I moved on to my next creative/artistic interest or hobby.

8. Managing The Gifts Under the Tree

Watching you shake presents under the tree and contemplate which would be the lucky winner to be selected as the infamous "night before Christmas gift" (The annual holiday tradition in which we would select one gift to open Christmas Eve night) as I in my what is now known as ADD/OCD/Perfectionism state would frantically rearrange the gifts hourly as if our tree was somehow being graded using a grading scale that include “bonus points” or perhaps be selected as the Christmas trees to stand in the mall beside Santa Clause in the mall in which every child’s picture throughout the tri-city area would be affected by the exact placement of each gift that lie below it. (We’re are parents using this as a form of teasing or was this merely a smart way to help build the excitement?)

9. Watching “A Christmas Story” at least five times. This deserved its own memory! Didn’t you try to get your tongue stuck on a pole one time?

10. Final Round (literally) The Fight in the snow.

I recall a certain 12-year old young blonde girl successfully perform the perfect head shove into the snow of her 8-year old brother which was followed by an immediate retaliation in which a young WWA fan used his frequent practice and rehearsals along with the revenge that remained to be his primary motive. (My face buried in snow for at least 10 seconds compared to my 3 second win against you) Using my ever so impressive communication and persuasion skills passed along by our father, I skillfully crafted the ever so perfect “tattle tale” within seconds sprinted inside the house. The one-sided story was tragically ruined by the ever so clever use of “The Mom Cam" This should be viewed during the holiday festivities in honor of my absence.

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