Tag Archives: Christmas

An Electric Monk on a Bored Horse

 

IMG_4150An Electric Monk on a Bored Horse

I always go all-out at Christmas.  It’s a habit, perhaps a poor one, but a habit nonetheless.  The last many years that habit has been one where I give and never really think about receiving.  It’s not a bad thing, more end-of-Christmas-Carol Scrooge than “Humbug” Scrooge.

This year, though – and I promise, I made no allusions toward complaint or statement about getting no presents – my kids and others humbled me beyond belief.

I made a thousand treats throughout the last couple days.  I had a full cake I made; there’s homemade sugar cookies; there’s caramel fudge bars; there’s giant chocolate chip cookies.  Then my dinner came with my late wife’s sister and her family.  Ham, potatoes, corn and she brought rolls and wine and beer. You know, the essentials!

But as much as I prefer the season being about my giving . . . not getting gifts, I must share what was some of this year for me.  The gifts I received.

I got a gift from a friend and colleague that had the sweetest of cards and tons of treats and made me feel uniformly special and guilty that my gift for them was nowhere near as great.  Another colleague gave me an entire case of coffee to replace the small box of Peet’s Kuerig cups someone stole from our office at work.  While that may seem more a fun gift than “gift” it’s not.  We live off caffeine.

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My son took great pride in having the first present under the tree this year.  I was so happy because he was smiling, proud, and overly excited.  No talk about new video games, no thoughts about what he really wanted . . . he simply grinned looked at me and said “it’s for you Dad!”  In that present, one of my favorites, was a 2015 calendar he had made for me.  It was 12 Biomes of the World, all drawn by him.  I will hang it at my desk and use it proudly.  He’s had it hidden somewhere in our home for months just waiting to give it to me for Christmas.

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My other favorite was from my oldest.  She knows me well.  Exceptionally well.

Douglas Adams’ Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency was the series he wrote after The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  I’d never read it and looking at the yellowed cover I knew what immediately came out of her mouth.

“It’s a first-edition.  I read the first chapter and it was hilarious.”

As did I . . . then the second . . . then the third, which begins: “High on a rocky promontory an Electric Monk sat on a bored horse.”  It’s surreal, darkly humorous, insane and I found myself all day yesterday laughing out loud as I read, causing me to read it aloud to same said daughter who joined in on the laughter.  “Electric monks believed in things for you thus saving you what was becoming a completely onerous task, believing in all kinds of things the world expected you to believe.”

Presents from the man in the red suit delighted all.  Presents to Andrea’s sister, her family and all seemed to hit the spot as well.  Then all day yesterday . . . the boys played all day with the RC helicopters their aunt had given them (including hitting their Dad in the face with one when they weren’t paying attention.  Good thing I wear reading glasses)

The general consensus was this was a most excellent Christmas.  That wasn’t because it was filled with presents, we didn’t have any larger a gifts than last year, I don’t believe.

This just felt Merry.  I know that’s cheesy, it’s the word for the season, but past years were good, just not as joyful as this one.

Yes…I was completely exhausted.  Over the course of 3 days I made a salted caramel peanut butter fudge pie; I made a chocolate brown sugar butter cake; I made sugar cookies; caramel fudge bars and chocolate chip cookies.  Then the dinner.

My daughter asked why I wasn’t stopping.  “Good God, you’re going to kill yourself…and worse, you’re going to make us all fat!”

I did it for one simple reason.  This is what my Mom, my Grandma, her mother . . . this is Christmas for my family.  You make the house smell of homemade cinnamon rolls (did I mention I made those for Christmas morning?) and baking bread and cookies and . . . it’s magical.

It’s Merry.

With so many years of struggles to find calm and peace and wonder in the day . . . it was pretty cool to look up at the end of December 25th and realize we hadn’t felt sad or melancholy, there were so many laughs and music (my nephew got a guitar so I taught him some chords) and love.

And we didn’t even need an electric monk to believe it could happen for us.

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Humbug!

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Humbug!

It would be easy seeing the headline to think I’m turning Ebeneezer-ish on this week prior to the Holiday.  You’d be wrong, though.

No . . . Humbug is a person who behaves in a deceptive or dishonest way.  That’s according to my good friend Miriam Webster, anyway.  In Dickensian terms it’s a fraud or hoax.  “More of gravy than grave,” in other words.

I posted something on Rene Syler’s Good Enough Mother on Sunday talking about how you should read aloud to your kids.  It’s worth looking at if you want to hear my soapbox exposition, but for now I’ll regale you of the offshoot to that very post.

Every year, you see, there are two books that dominate the lead-up to Christmas in my home.  The last few days before Christmas, of course, we simply must read Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  We’ll dutifully watch the cartoon as well.

Grinch

Over the course of several days – ususally 5-6 of them – we read from a tearing, beat-up, 1900 American edition of Dickens’ Christmas tales.  It’s blue, the binding fraying, and we don’t care a whip.  It’s the kind of book printed on a real press, the letters and ink thick enough you can run your fingers over the page and feel the letters with your eyes closed.  There are things in that turn of the century edition that don’t appear in other more “modernized” renditions that you simply should not remove.

Sure, there are references to saints and holidays that nobody here in the US celebrates (and perhaps never DID celebrate) but that’s neither here nor there.

When the time comes to read from the book my sons will jump – maybe even leap – at the chance.  My daughters did in years past, yet they seem bored with it this year.
“We’ve heard it, like, 15 times guys…” is their response this year.  That has little change in my demeanor, though.

I take the blue book, open it gently, the spine crackling slightly, and read as the narrator for the open of the book.

“Marley was dead to begin with.  There is no doubt whatever about that.”
“Sheesh,” my son says, one line into Stave one.  “That’s a harsh opening.”
“Yes…it is a ghost story, though.  You’ll see why in a minute.”

Yet my sons are old enough now, resigned enough to the ritual as well, that they pay attention to the verbage.  Perhaps it’s reading A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or other intelligently humorous books, but they catch the sarcastic, droll humor in the book.

“Mind!  I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail.  I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade.”
“Well…yeah, what is dead about a doornail,” my soon asks.

About 5 interruptions into the first paragraph I inform them that if we keep stopping after every sentence we’ll be celebrating the 4th of July before we finish the book.

My point, though, is that sneakily, steadily and strangely enough I’ve inserted Charles Dickens in with JK Rowling and Jim Rollins and Eoin Colfer.  The boys watched the Bob Zemekis motion-capture movie of A Christmas Carol and have realized, very quickly, that it’s more faithful to the text than most other versions have been.

They also know terms like “ironmongery.”

Reading aloud to my children is something I simultaneously enjoy and wonder in as the kids listen.  The boys are 11, the girls 15 and 20 . . . but they still will sound off a line here and there.

“But the Grinch, who lived just North of Whoville . . . did NOT!”

Ghosts, Grinches, Whos and Cratchitts. . . .they all live in our house.  It would be easy to say that in the last three years the holidays would be melancholy.  The first had its moments, for sure, since we’d just lost their mother a few months prior.  But we lived the holidays not in spite of the loss but regardless of it.  The holidays didn’t disappear without her.  By the same token, I celebrated them before I met her.

So Christmas creeps in . . . along with literature.  And we’re all happy to participate.

My boys and me . . . taken by Hannah before the movies one night.
My boys and me . . .

 

You Hope and I’ll Hurry . . .

night before

You Hope and I’ll Hurry

The day after Thanksgiving brings about more than just the anticipation of the forthcoming season.  In my home, with my family, Christmas was always huge.  That hasn’t changed in my home, nor should it.

What has begun to sink in for me is just how much of my own childhood has snuck in and taken root with my own children.  I make no allusions about the fact that I watched entirely too much television as a kid.  Even in an era when we had 3 channels.  (Four if you included PBS, and I watched that every weekend for Monty Python and then Doctor Who)  I don’t pretend that I didn’t nor do I think that it is responsible for my brain filled with miscellaneous information.  My brain was going to fill with useless tidbits no matter what.  So yes . . . I can rattle off just about every line of the mental exchange from the movie The Princess Bride but never could commit the Periodic Table of the Elements to memory.  Thankfully the invention of Google and the proliferation of the iPhone and the internet have helped me to simply look up the atomic weight of Cesium.  (It’s #55 on the chart, by the way, with a weight of 132.9054519.  Told you!)

Every Christmas, for the weeks leading up to Christmas Eve, my brothers and I would wait in anticipation of the “Big 3” networks to run their competing Christmas programs.  I don’t pretend this was some “golden era” of cartooning.  We certainly have a lot of great animation today – my sons adored The Box Trolls in theaters and Pixar certainly raised the bar for motion picture storytelling.

Still . . . that’s film.  Television has a thousand channels, generally nothing on them worth watching.  The fact that cartoons are on all…the…time makes it hard to cherish any one of them that awful much.

So when Christmas comes around, the lack of repeating the classic Christmas cartoons I think gives them the same luster and anticipation they had when I was a kid.

The picture up there is from the Joel Grey centered cartoon ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.  To this day, at any time, in any season, for any reason, a member of my family might burst into that phrase . . . and end with “even a miracle needs a hand!”

There was Rudolph with our favorite guy – Yukon Cornelius: “I’m just loading up on supplies.  Hamhocks, gunpowder and guitar strings!”  (How can you not love a guy carrying THAT combination on his sled!)

There was The Year Without a Santa Clause which inspired my son’s Halloween costume this year: Heat Miser!

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But the granddaddy of them all was always A Charlie Brown Christmas.

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We play the soundtrack every year.  I even found it on vinyl and we use the turntable and listen to it.  The vinyl’s green!

“I never thought it was such a bad little tree” is the go-to phrase for any pathetic looking thing, be it a tree, a cookie, a pie or a toy in our home.  “It’s not bad at all, really, it just needs a little love!”

It’s not religion; it’s not sentiment; it’s not nostalgia . . . it’s just great fun.  We love the season.  I put too many lights on the house.  I let the kids go nuts . . . even though there are clumps of decorations in spots on the tree rather than neatly arranged here and there.  I give presents to my close friends because I thoroughly enjoy seeing the look of wonder when people open that present.

No, the animation wasn’t always great.  No, the mouth didn’t always sync up with Fred Astaire’s words in Santa Claus.  But . . . my kids, like kids and their parents the world over stay up late or beg to sit and eat dinner in the living room . . . because Charlie Brown will cry “learn the true meaning of Chrismas?!  Win money, money money?!”

So watch we will, live, in real time, commercials and all.  Because…

Christmastime is here.  Happiness and cheer.

 

Do Baby Bears Sit in Chairs?

Christmas came and went and it was a great experience.

We didn’t have a lot, not like years past, when there were two incomes in my home.  Not at all.  But we did have things that meant a lot, and that was worth its weight in gold.

Santa brought stuff that all the kids could appreciate, things that I’d kept in mind and called the head elf during the week to extol what virtues my children held that deserved such presents.  There was stop frame software so my son could make movies.  A telescope.  Music abounded and coffee and hot chocolate with a breakfast I’d made the night before.

I don’t ask for anything from my kids.  I don’t expect it, either.  It’s one of those things, if they wanted to buy me presents I’d have to give them the money anyway and I’d already cut things really close to the vest so we could have Christmas.  They don’t seem to mind.  The boys are young enough that it doesn’t really cross their minds.

The girls got me stuff.  I went to see a streaming Shakespeare play with David Tennant in the lead with my oldest, a week before Christmas but thoughtful just the same.

Then came the gift from my middle daughter.  She’d been excited for two weeks, moreso than if she’d been getting the Mona Lisa as a present, I think.  She kept telling me she’d looked for a long time to find it and was thrilled to find it.  She hoped that the fact it was a little beat up and not in pristine condition didn’t bother me.  It was flat and small and looked almost like a comic book . . . but she knew I wasn’t a comics kind of guy so I just couldn’t figure out what it was.

Since she was a tiny little baby I called my daughter my Baby Bear.  Still call her that, as a matter of fact.  It’s not a teddy bear kind of thing or a stuffed animal or anything like that.  In fact, it’s mainly due to the fact that my Mom read me a book when I was little and it was one of several favorites.  It was called Do Baby Bears Sit in Chairs?

IMG_3342[1]It’s a pretty simple, first book for kids:
Do baby bears sit in chairs?
Comb their hair?
Wear underwear?
NO!  But they roll down the hill, just as I do!

Roll down the hill.  My daughter the tomboy was always in the dirt, rolling down the hill, playing around, fighting the fancy clothes and the bows.  So Baby Bear fit better than anything.

When it came time to open gifts on Christmas morning my daughter handed me the present and after each of the kids opened one she asked me to open my present.  I pulled off the candy-cane looking wrapping to find a sealed bag with two pieces of cardboard inside.  When I opened it and pulled it out . . . there it was . . . Do Baby Bears Sit in Chairs?

“It’s a first edition,” she said, meekly.  I wasn’t sure if you’d like it.

I went over and kissed her on the head an gave her a big hug.
“I love it,” I told her.

That, you see, was what Christmas was about in our house.  It wasn’t the stuff, we didn’t have a lot of stuff.  It was the memories.  My daughter harkened back old ones for me but also memories of a fun and silly rhyme I still tell her when I say her name.

And she still rolls down the hill . . . just like I do.

Christmas Memories

Spritz cookies - shaped like little Christmas trees!
Spritz cookies – shaped like little Christmas trees!

I spent the majority of my time tonight baking.

That’s not new, I don’t suppose.  I bake treats for all my kids’ lunches every week.  Cookies, candies, all of it homemade.  Before you think I’m being a martyr or something it’s not that.  My kids just seem overly sensitive to something in the store-bought treats.  If I make rice-krispie bars they’re fine.  Buy them in the store and they’re climbing the walls.  It’s that simple.

But this is different.  This is Christmas.

My oldest, Abbi, might remember Christmas in my home in Nebraska.  While I realize that you might call the holidays there a throwback to a Mad Men era . . . men sitting in the living room talking all day and the women doing all the cooking . . . our homes were different.  My Mom made a ton of stuff for Christmas, from cookies to pies to what have you.  I don’t call this “her job” because it wasn’t.  It was tradition.

If my Mom made tons of stuff . . . my grandma, Lanone, made truckloads.  The fact that the Midwest is so cold in the winter, she would bake for weeks and weeks and there would be treats on her back entryway, off the porch, where it was below freezing.  Sugar cookies were my favorites.  She made chocolate-coated Lincoln logs; pecan sandies; divinity; fudge (God the fudge was good) . . . my Mom was the best pie maker so that was left in her hands.

Growing up, my late wife had similar memories, but they centered around her Mom.  Butter softened so that she could carve it into roses.  The table was set with placecards and she always made some kind of gourmet meal.  She was Martha Stewart before Martha stole everyone’s ideas and got rich off of them.

But this last year has removed so much of those things and made me more than a little melancholy.  I made a third pie tonight, then pecan sandies after calling my mom for the recipe.  I made molasses/cardamom cookies.  I prepped to make sugar cookies and my oldest looked at me saying “why would you do that, Dad?  You already made cookies, just take a break!  We have 3 pies and cookies that’s enough.”

I paused, considering it.  I looked at her and said “I want you guys to have what I had . . . just a little anyway.”  My grandma passed away this year.  So did Andrea’s Mom and Dad.  We’re a two day drive away from my folks and my brothers.  The only thing I have to bring some of that home to them is to show them what I had growing up: treats, foods, and all of it with the best intentions in mind.  I wasn’t complaining because, like my grandma, I wanted to do this.  I never remember hearing her or my mother complain or moan about it.

“That’s a lot of work,” my daughter said.  I admitted as much.
“Your Grandma and great-Grandma did it, though I admit . . . they didn’t work a day job then do this, too.”

But this isn’t about treats.  It’s about tradition and love and Christmas.  This is the house filled with pleasant smells and spices and that reminds me of growing up where the nip in the air bites your nose and reddens your cheeks.  As an adult you curse it and as a kid, bundled up like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man you adore it.

I don’t know how my kids will remember these days . . . but I don’t want them to think the day centered around their Dad coming home and sitting in front of the television.  This is Christmas.

And I want them to make new memories.

Merry Christmas, everyone.  

A Merry Christmas Indeed

The only thing we needed was snow.

Really.

That’s all we needed to make it the perfect holiday.

I get it, there are those of you who might tell me that perfection would have been having my late spouse here with me and the kids, and perhaps they might have said the same thing at certain points in the day.  But only at certain points.

I devoted the end of the 24th and all of the 25th to them . . . and the random pictures, texts and messages to others to wish them their happy holidays.  I didn’t blog, I didn’t write, and I didn’t take time away from them . . . until now, when everyone is in bed.  No mice stirring, just the ants who’ve somehow invaded Abbi’s bathroom and the kitchen.

I worry, sure.  I was terribly worried about this Christmas.  I over-compensated last year and bought way too much stuff with money leftover from an old retirement account and stock options.  We needed a new car, the old one dying, and the money left over from that went toward paying for all their Christmas presents.  This year I didn’t have much.  We had to pay for college applications and doctor’s bills and auto repairs.  There wasn’t much left over for presents.

Still . . . I needn’t have worried.  The kids, in their infinite wisdom – wisdom beyond their years, by the way – just didn’t ask for much.  They didn’t want much.  They really didn’t.  I had bought some presents . . . Hannah and some books for the kids . . . months ago, just hadn’t wrapped them.  We considered opening gifts late on Christmas Eve, but the kids wanted to wait.

So that night I took the boys up and all the kids sat as I read How the Grinch Stole Christmas rather than our normal book routine.

I had a tradition – only my own since my wife fell asleep every year waiting for Santa – watching Jack Lemmon in The Apartment as I prepped for the next day.  I did it again this year, just because it is comforting to me.  I didn’t feel alone, I just mapped out where the big man in the red suit would put everything.  You know, to help him out.  It was about 1:30 Christmas morning by the time I went to bed.  That, of course, led to the inevitable 5am wakeup by the kids.

But the things they got from Santa were more than they had asked and therefore more than they expected.  They played their new games all day and I didn’t stop them.  They ate too many sugary treats and I didn’t stop them.  We had cinnamon rolls for breakfast and then opened our gifts.  Where I worried I hadn’t gotten them enough . . .their favorite gifts were from their grandparents anyway.  Three of the kids’ favorite things were stocking caps.  They wore them all day long!

Angry birds for Sam:

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A green hat for Hannah:

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And the most successful – a sock monkey hat for Noah.

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We made cookies, Christmas cookies, the kind Abbi’d been dying to have for months.

Spritz cookies - shaped like little Christmas trees!
Spritz cookies – shaped like little Christmas trees!

I made a Christmas dinner, a turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes . . . everything you’d expect, I supposed.  No china or silver, but we ate in the dining room, the first time since last year, I think.  We laid out the table and even the boys ate more than they should, which is rare.  It was a great day.

At the end of the day we watched two shows recorded . . . and that we were dying to see.  The kids all went to bed and as they were going they all looked at me and said “this was the best Christmas, Daddy!”  They weren’t doing it to make me feel better nor themselves.  They truly liked their day.

And you know what . . . so did I.  It wasn’t a Christmas their Mom would have prepared or tried or even thought about.  The presents were ones I’d come up with (with some help from Abbi).

Then we got word that Abbi had been accepted to one of the schools she’d been hoping to attend.  It made her Christmas.

None of today was the kind of Christmas we’d have had two or three years ago.  Didn’t matter . . . we were really happy.  The year’s almost over, but that’s okay.  It’s really been a good year.  It’s been a good Christmas.

And now I go to bed, not with sugarplums, but my smiling kids’ faces dancing in my heads.

Merry Christmas to you all.

It’s Christmas . . . Don’t Be Sad for Me

There’s a recurring phrase that is uttered throughout this time of year.  Not to each other, it’s not a common phrase like “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” or “Happy New Year” . . . nothing like that.  It’s a phrase that I hear a lot . . .and it’s not just me.  I know others who lost their spouse and they get it too:

“It must just be so hard this time of year.”

Well . . . sure, it’s kind of hard.  But the thing is it’s not as hard as you think.

I know, I know, I’ve written about this before, here and on Good Enough Mother.

Still, I think it’s worth exploring just one more time.

A photo of one of our early, chaotic Christmases . . .
A photo of one of our early, chaotic Christmases . . .

Fall and Christmas are my favorite times of the year, they always have been.  I absolutely marvel at the change in the scenery, the firey red leaves and the muted earth tones that nature herself foists upon us as the weather turns colder.  The hardest part of the year . . . and it’s no coincidence that the blog started right then . . . was the fall that first year.  I love the crisp change in the season and the ability to put on a warm sweater and then find the person you love and just hold them.  It’s not sexual, it’s not lascivious, it’s sensual.  It’s loving and close and just . . . warm, inside and out.  I loved walking and hearing the leaves crunch under our feet.  I loved making drinks after and warming up and relaxing and starting a fire and just enjoying the season.

Christmas was the same.  It was stressful, painful, difficult, expensive, and just plain ridiculous.  I loved every m

Getting the Tree
Getting the Tree

inute of it.

That first Fall and Christmas were really hard for me and I don’t remember much about them.  Sure, I remember the presents and how the kids reacted, but the season?  Nothing.

But we made it through the cold.  It was a hard fought year, not one without its own stresses, but we made it.  We’re okay.  That’s hard for people to understand or believe, that we could possibly be okay.  I get that, it’s hard to imagine what you would do if the circumstances happened to you.  I didn’t have to imagine.

Still, last Christmas was great.  This one . . . though we don’t have as much money and I couldn’t get us out to visit my folks . . . it’s still great.  Why?  The kids and I are together and that’s all that matters.  We’re stronger together than when we’re apart.

As much as I love this time of year, last year I still woke up every morning having to adjust to the emptiness next to me in the bed.  This year I get up and do my routine.  That’s not losing her, that’s living with living without her.

It was important to me . . . the kids . . . all the family that we not lose the holidays to our loss.  It would be so easy to despair and make it a horrible time of year.  Instead, we embraced the holiday.  We bought the tree, we listened to Vince Guaraldi’s Christmas record, and we didn’t let little things get to us.

Tonight I made two pies, tarts and cookies.  We have the stuff for Christmas meal.  We have the stuff we need for the holiday.  I’m not sad, I’m excited.  The routines that could have killed us I embrace and enjoy.

So tomorrow night . . . well, tonight, since it’s now after Midnight as I write this, I’ll prepare for the big guy in the red suit to get credit for being the Christmas hero.  I’ll do what I’ve done every Christmas Eve since we lived in Texas . . . I’ll turn on one of my favorite movies – The Apartment with Jack Lemmon, and ready the house for Santa’s presents.  I’ll take a moment to realize my own Miss Kubelik isn’t here but still love every minute of the exhaustion that the season brings with it.  Sure, I’ll have twinges and memories.  That wound inside will always have moments that hurt.  Sights, smells, songs, even routines and traditions will bring that.  But it’s about remembering and honoring as much as it is moving forward.  The kids and I deserve to have great, happy, Merry Christmases.

It’s not about loss, you see.  It’s about life.

 

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

It wasn’t really a good day the way it started out.  Noah has had some sort of allergic reaction for the last couple days.  Nothing that made his face swell up or anything, but a horrible, red rash that made his cheeks look like WC Fields.  My day started with consoling him that he’d be okay and took him to school.

But that led to a day of the car being nearly empty, missing my first train out to work and getting a ticket on said train because I actually had forgotten my pass on the endtable by my bed.  I managed to get a bunch of work done and turn the day around only to have to head home early because the rash had come back with a vengeance.  It’s almost like hives . . . almost like he’d eaten something that caused him to react.

So I got home, put some more prescription cream on his little arms and cheeks and gave him a Benadryl.  It should have been the end of the day.

But . . . it wasn’t.  This was also my kids’ Christmas play night.

Of course it was.

Kids right after the play
Kids right after the play

You’d think that would stress me out.  In the last few years the Christmas play had been a source of constant consternation for our household.  Andrea had gotten to the point her knees hurt so bad that she couldn’t walk very well.  If we didn’t get to the play at least 40 minutes early there were no seats.  If you had known my wife at all you would realize that there was no feasible way that we’d get anywhere early . . . we were lucky if we were only a few minutes late.  So standing at the back of a church to watch the play wasn’t something that she would have been able to do.  I was in a catch-22.  I’d save a seat if I got there first – which happened a lot – we might get a seat.

Tonight, though, the boys were dressed.  Hannah stayed at the Extended Day Program and was already at the church in her costume.  I got there a half-hour early and even then had to stand at the back of the church and watch the play.  I didn’t mind, not really.  The kids came out, and like every year the littlest ones were adorable.  Kindergartners and first graders singing with their tiny voices.

In the last few months I’ve been good.  I’ve had good times, I’ve laughed, and I’ve even enjoyed the moments that I have together with my kids.  I’ve talked with friends, renewed friendships and even gotten close to people.  None of it hurt, in fact it’s been good.

But tonight . . . tonight I heard her voice for the first time in over a year.

Hannah and her classmates
Hannah and her classmates

When our sons were singing, and our daughter stood there in a townspeople costume, I heard her voice.  When the little kindergartners – even though we know none of them – started singing off-key I felt her hand squeeze mine and her voice swoop up to falsetto as she said “oooohhhh!  They’re so cute!”

It should have hurt.  It should have made me tear up . . . and it did a little . . . but I smiled in spite of myself.  I missed her, but it didn’t hurt me like it used to.  I remembered how much she loved me and in particular our children and as the program ended I smiled.

I found out it truly is the most wonderful time of the year.

The whole crew
The whole crew

Abbi’s Life Lessons

So I decided not to post today . . . instead, I figured I’d share something Abbi did.

I write every week – many times twice a week while I contribute to the Good Enough Guys and then I re-post.

But my writing all started when I filled out a questionnaire for her segment by the name up there in the headline.  This week my daughter Abbi filled it out.

It was so good they posted it today.  I put it here for your perusal, please take the link to her segment.  She’s a great kid and I must have done something right.

http://www.goodenoughmother.com/2012/12/life-lessons-abbi-manoucheri/

Abbi

Through my Son’s Eyes

I got home tonight with barely enough time to put hamburgers on the stove and throw together dinner.  It’s the price I pay for not having planned the week better, but between Christmas trees, decorations, and already being behind on Christmas, I wasn’t able to really get things going.  I still had laundry in the hamper that was more than a few days old.  It’s still up there.

We didn’t eat at the table, though it was clean.  The exhaustion of the day and the stress of trying to budget for Christmas presents – which I still haven’t finished getting – has been getting to me.  So we ate hamburgers and tater-tots on the living room floor and watched the original version of Miracle on 34th Street.  My sons were already moaning about the fact some “old movie” was going to be on and that they had to watch it.

As we watched, I put up the stockings, the five of our names embroidered on the tops.  They’re one of the holdouts from my wife’s decorating scheme, something that cost a pretty penny.  My oldest, Abbi, looked and said “we have enough we put them up and we can put Mom’s here.”

Our stockings - 5 of them
Our stockings – 5 of them

It took me back a year ago where I had this debate with myself – what do I do with Andrea’s stocking?  It was last year I made the determination that we just shouldn’t put hers up.  It’s not being mean and it’s not trying to hide that she was part of our lives, something that people had speculated we were doing.  No, I didn’t put it up because I didn’t want to confuse the kids.  If you put the stocking up and it’s filled by Santa . . . what is that telling them?  Is Mom still here?  Can the 9-year-old’s mind handle that Santa still fills her stocking?  And what if it’s not filled?  Is that just another message, again, that Mom isn’t here any more?

I looked at Abbi and said “I didn’t put it out last year, kiddo.”
“You didn’t?”
“No.  I thought it’s the wrong message.  What do you tell Noah, Sam and Hannah if it’s not filled?  Or worse yet, if it is?!”
Abbi stood there and thought for a really long time.  I could see in her eyes she wanted to put the stocking up but the logic of the debate was raging in her head.
“I see what you mean.  We don’t have to, I mean . . . ” and the conversation tapered off.

But the movie was on and the key scene was coming . . . men in the post office saying how the “dead letter office” was filled with letters from Santa and they should get rid of them this way.

“Hey!”
My son Sam had suddenly registered what the postmen were doing.
“They can’t just throw out kids’ letters to Santa, that’s just mean!”
I looked and Abbi burst out giggling.
“Awww.  I love you, Sammy!  They’re not throwing them out!”
I chimed in here.  “They’re saying that Kris is Santa, so they’re giving him the letters. ”
“Oh.  Okay, that’s fine, I guess, but why didn’t they just send him the letters in the first place?!”

It’s amazing how a little boy’s innocence will steer you on the right path.  We put the five stockings in their places and left the last holder blank.  It’s not like we ignore Andrea, she’s always here.  She’s hard to ignore, even when she’s no longer with us.  But it’s also part of moving forward with our lives.  We can’t expect that she’s going to prod us to Christmas or help.  The ideas she’d have given for Christmas presents are gone.  The life we were supposed to lead is gone as well.  We had to write a different story, basing it on what we already had of  our life together.

But it’s always great to see that no matter how rough things get, there’s a certainty that hangs in the air, and all I have to do is look every once in awhile through my son’s eyes.