Friday, December 18, 2009

The Right Way to Do Christmas

Lotsa talk about the “right” way to do Christmas – how to sing the songs, what kind of cards to send, what to buy, what to eat, what to do.

I come from a long line of “doing it wrong” Christmases, so these things don’t bother me. Plus, I actually make fruitcake* some years, and always send out a printed holiday letter. We’ve been sending out photo cards for 15 years, back before kids, when it was just us and two cats we’d affixed antlers to. You gotta have thick skin to do those subversive things. (Thick skin helps with putting antlers on a cat, too.)

One of my favorite memories is from the Christmas I was pregnant with The Boy. The Husband and I were in our little Austin house, my sister had just moved there, and The Husband’s younger sister had come for the holiday.

We knew that the next day was going to be a challenge. I won’t get into all the details, other than to say family members were coming in, and there was an affair everyone knew about, and a mean grandmother and …. well, you get the picture.

But Christmas Eve, it was just the 4 of us. At some point, we decided to go downtown and take a carriage ride up and down Congress Ave. What fun! We were singing some of our favorite holiday songs – Merry Christmas from the Family, Please Daddy Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas, and others of that ilk.

Our carriage driver was not pleased. “Look at the other carriages!” she hissed at us. “They’re singing things like ‘Silent Night.’”

See. We were doing it wrong. And having a blast.

Back home about 10:30 pm. I remember the time, because I pulled out my guitar and we began singing more songs. For some reason, about 11:15, I started improv-ing a song about the next day’s festivities. It was bad. REALLY bad. Have I mentioned that the affair-person’s name was Rick? Which very conveniently rhymes with what we thought of him that year.

To quote Arlo Guthrie – “Hey, I knew it wasn’t the best song I’d ever wrote.”

They kept goading me on. At some point, they decided that it would be real cool if I continued riffing until midnight. My fingertips have never quite been the same.

The next day happened and it was, indeed, stilted, stiff, and not great.

But that Christmas Eve was fabulous.

On the “right” way to do Christmas, I just laugh. Because I have my things, too. Thank goodness both The Husband and I came from families that opened presents Christmas morning rather than Christmas Eve. That might have been a deal breaker, there. There are certain things that really matter to me. But that’s a post for another day.

* It’s a dried apple cake soaked in brandy and it’s fabulous, too.

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