Posts Tagged ‘presents’

When it comes to Christmas Eve, our family has several  traditions.

Growing up, Christmas Eve was always the night we would travel (OK – it was only 1/4 of a mile) over the river and through the woods (OK – there was one culvert and a tree strip) to Grandmother’s (and Grandfather’s) house we’d go.  This was the night my brother and sister and I had waited for all year.  This was the night we would get to open our presents.  

Now don’t get me wrong, our family wasn’t wealthy.  Far from it.  We didn’t get huge mountains of extravagant gifts but we never went without.  In fact Christmas was always the best time of the year because early winter was when the money came in.  Calves were sold and the neighbor who rented some of our land always paid at the end of the season so Christmas was the one time of year when we actually had real cash money in the bank.

Christmas Eve has always been filled with traditions.  My Dad’s side of the family would all go to Grandma & Grandpa’s house.  Grandma Lulu would cook a big meal and we would eat on her pink depression glass dishes.  Oh how I loved those dishes!  We would eat everything from prime rib to sloppy joes on those dishes and when people would comment on them Grandma would just smile and say “Oh, they’re nothing fancy – they just came in with the flour we bought”. 

After supper we would have to wash the dishes.  It took fooooooooorevvvvvvvvvvver!!!  I was sure we washed, dried and put away every single pot, pan, glass and dish Grandma had in her whole kitchen.  It was kind of like spring cleaning in the dead of winter.

When the kitchen was finally in order we would find a comfy spot in the living room and listen as Grandma read the Christmas story from the Bible.  I can still hear her voice and picture her, sitting in the corner near the huge Christmas cactus which was always covered with bright pink blossoms.  Grandma always did have a way with plants.

If we were lucky, Grandma only read the Christmas story.  But some years she would decide to read some (or all) of the Christmas cards and letters they had received.  What torture for small children!  I’m sure Grandma didn’t mean it that way.  She was a good, Christian farm wife who didn’t have a mean bone in her short little, arthritic body but I’ve always wondered if she didn’t secretly enjoy watching the kids squirm as she carefully read each letter, always taking the time to remind us which long forgotten friend or distant family relation had written it.

After every last card and letter was read and all the kids began to edge toward the pile of gifts my father (who incidentally always wore the same red, black and white Christmas sweater) would announce “I guess it’s time to go home now”.  He definitely had a mean streak! 

Everyone would laugh and at last, it was time to pass out gifts and rip our way through the wrapping paper.

The gifts were mostly practical with a few fun and frivolous ones thrown in.  Some years we had unusual gifts that would forever burn that particular year into our memories like the year Grandma sewed ties for all the guys.  The home movies Uncle Don took that year clearly shows every man in the room sporting the same wild tie over sweaters, shirts and even Grandpa’s bib overalls.  It was great! 

And then there was the year I gave my brother a pool cue.  It was cool – it came in it’s own case and had 3 sections that screwed together.  He loved it but ended up giving it to Grandpa because he had held it all evening and obviously wanted it more than anything in the world.  That was a good year.

Even though the gifts changed as we grew there was one tradition that we could count on like visits to the dentist and paying taxes to the IRS – the tradition of the ugly underwear.

We’re not sure where she found them…  Maybe she had a secret source that mailed them to her in plain brown wrappers…  Or a friend in the local department store who ordered them just for Aunt Korky.  We don’t know where they came from but they were there every year like the pink depression dishes.  Cleverly disguised with some wonderful gift like a box of hand-sewn Barbie doll clothes or the cutest little suitcases you ever saw – they were there.  Every year we received the wildest, most colorful and unusually printed underwear you have ever seen.  Thankfully, this gift was reserved only for the female cousins and my sister and myself.   I’m not sure what we would have thought if my brother had pulled out a pair of tye-dyed whitey-tighties.  Like the rising of the sun, there they were.   Every color of the rainbow condensed into a small pair of silk panties.  This was underwear to wear proudly.  Underwear that could turn any 8-year-old into a rebel without a cause – these were the ‘James Dean of undies’.  And a few select pairs of them will live on forever in the home movies we still watch.  They will haunt me till the day I die.

I don’t remember many of the gifts but I do remember the traditions that led up to them.  And thankfully the traditions continue. 

Grandma and Grandpa have passed on.  The farm has been split up and sold.  Now we go to my folk’s place and the tradition of reading the Christmas story has passed down through my mother who no longer is able to read it because of Alzheimer’s, to my sister and myself.  Thankfully, our children have grown up hearing the story every year that reminds us what the season is really about.  They too have endured the dreaded dish washing marathons and their Grandpa who still tells us its time to go home when it’s really time to open presents.  He still has a mean streak! 

And yes, the tradition of ugly underwear continues, only now we wear them on our heads for the annual Christmas photos.

And proudly display them even though we’re usually laughing so hard we can’t take a good picture to save our souls.

The traditions continue and this year we may have even added a new one or perhaps two.

 This will be known forevermore as the year my nephew brought his first batch of home-made beer.

And the year of the tape measures.

Perhaps this may  have added to what happened next – I wonder?

It started out innocently enough.  Dad purchased a 12 pack – a case of tape measures.

Within 5 seconds of passing them out this is what the livingroom looked like.

And it got worse.

As the evening went on records were set and broken:

Indoor Unassisted:  105″

Indoor Assisted – with up to 3 other tapes holding another one up:  139″

Outdoors Unassisted:  113″

We may have the making of a new Olympic sport.

Today they come to our house for Christmas dinner.

I hope they bring their tape measures!

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