There are a lot of strange and scary realizations as one moves from childhood to adulthood (a process which, at 27, I am not ashamed to admit I am still experiencing). Realizing that you’re going to have to – for the rest of your life – pay someone an exorbitant fee so that you can have clean water in which to poo is a bit of a downer, for example. The understanding that no one really knows what they’re doing is as much surprising as it is terrifying. And as much as we CAN have cookies and chips for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the haunting whispers of cholesterol and heart disease lurking around every corner make the thought a lot less appealing than it perhaps once was.
This year, a new one hit me; traditions don’t just happen.
When I was a kid, Christmas morning was chock full of tradition. First, my sisters and I snuck into each others’ beds super early since we weren’t allowed to be up yet. We cuddled under the blankets and talked dreamily or excitedly (depending on just how early it was) about whether we thought Santa had been to visit and what he might have left behind. Eventually, when the magical number (was it 7 a.m.?) lit up the clock, we rushed into my parents’ bed for the ambush. All three of us jumped in – a tradition that we continued until we strained the carrying capacity of the bed frame – and opened our stockings together. Then, as a family, we went through to see the tree and marvelled at how lucky we were to have presents from one end of the room to the other. We got to choose one present – just one – to open before breakfast; this was probably my favourite part of the morning. My mother made pancakes and cut up grapefruit and we sipped on orange juice and were merry. Finally, once all the breakfast dishes were washed and put away, we gathered back in the living room and opened presents, one by one, until they were all gone.
I’m sure your family had their own traditions, and that they’re engrained in your heart as fully and warmly as my family’s are in mine.
And of course, I have little recollection of any one Christmas. But I remember Christmas as a whole fondly because each year there was little variation, and so it feels like one big continuous conglomerate memory. And I love it.
But that didn’t just happen. Maybe it happened like that one year accidentally because of a horrific bicycling accident (or some equally unlikely set of circumstances) and my parents decided to keep it that way, or maybe they sat down five years before they even had kids and hammered out exactly what Christmas morning would look like. Either way, they were (and still are, right Mum?) in charge of every aspect of our existence, and so we did things the way they wanted.
And now, my husband and I are in charge. He has some traditions; I have some traditions. Together? We have none. This was stressful and scary to me because I want Baby E to become a fully-functioning adult with lovely memories from when she’s young.
I have asked him a few times how he envisions Christmas morning – what order would we do things? When would we eat? How would we do stockings? He offered a few (mostly food-based) suggestions, but for the most part shrugged and reassured me that we would figure it out.
Well, Christmas came and we still didn’t really have a plan. Baby E and I got up and did some dishes and read some stories until Mr. B woke up at the crack of 9:30 a.m. Already things were a little different than when I was a kid.
We each had some coffee – yes, this has the makings of a new tradition – and sat down on the couch and said, “Time for stockings? I guess?”
(Our stockings, of course, were full of things that we purchased at the last minute while out together, when we realized that otherwise, we’d have nothing to open. It was mostly chocolate. I mostly decided what was going in them.)
Under the tree, we had a generous handful of gifts that my parents sent up and a few things that we picked up for our daughter out of a sense of obligation, not because she needs anything. We also had a few things each from each other – items that we had selected at the last minute from things already in our house to give to each other.
I asked my husband if maybe we should wait to open everything until after we’d had breakfast.
“Sure,” he said. “But make sure this is what you want. Because whatever order we do things in this year, we’ll have to do it that way forever.”
Yikes. Do you think he’s got me figured out?
After that, I thought maybe I should lighten up a little.
So we had breakfast – banana chocolate chip pancakes, thanks for asking – and then opened our presents one by one. I did a bit of spontaneous baking in the afternoon and we went to a friends’ house for dinner.
Nothing we did is a tradition yet, of course, because this was just our first year together as a family for Christmas. By my math, traditions need at least three years before they can be considered as such. I guess next year we’ll continue the stuff we enjoyed – specifically, chocolate, pancakes, coffee, and sleeping until 9:30 a.m., and maybe try some new things since our baby will be more of a person and less of a blob then.
And I don’t really know when we’ll firm up exactly what we’ll do and when we’ll do it for it to live on warmly in our child/children’s heart/s forever, but I know my husband will tease me until we do.