A non-traditional Christmas

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.

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For fruit’s sake!

Every week when I was pregnant, I looked forward to reading about the little person growing inside me and what type of produce he or she was the same size as.

Some websites were a little more accurate, giving precise measurements, like 13.5 cm. But I am not a wizard. I cannot imagine how big that is without a ruler in front of me.

So, sure, oranges vary greatly in size, and saying that my baby is equivalent to an orange was probably not particularly accurate, but it was very easy to relate to.

Plus, it made trips to the grocery store way more fun; “Look honey,” I could say as I was holding up a watermelon next to my belly, “our baby has a twin!” Classic.

As a woman, comparing body size to that of fruits and vegetables was nothing new to me. Although we ladies all want to be that hourglass shape (right?), most of us fit into one of the other three (tastier) categories: apple, pear, or banana.

I spent a great deal of my life as an apple – a short squat apple like a Macintosh, not even a tall dignified apple, like a Red Delicious. For a while there after I lost some weight, I was rocking it as a pear – small on top, but plump on bottom.

But now that I’ve given birth, my body has changed again. My top half has mostly recovered – it’s back to being small, just a little, erm, fuller. My bottom half, on the other hand, has grown wide enough to host an entire family’s worth of Christmas presents underneath it. I have tried on some of my pre-pregnancy pants, and while they fit just fine in the legs, the gap around the button where there should be overlap is about 13.5 cm wide.

What I’m telling you, Reader, is that I have discovered a whole new category of produce: the butternut squash.

Pining for a Christmas tree

I got laughed at the other day for a “southernism.”

I met an acquaintance at Canadian Tire, and as acquaintances do, we discussed our purchases.  She was there to get a Christmas tree stand, and I told her that reminded me that my husband and I would need to go buy our tree soon.

“Hahahaha,” she replied. “You’re in Northern Ontario now. Just go into the bush and cut one down!”

As we talked to a few other people, we determined that this tactic is prevalent and encouraged.  I tried researching on the Internet to make sure we weren’t doing anything illegal, and it seemed from one article that I found that the Ministry of Natural Resources is fine with it. In fact, a representative is quoted as having said it’s more sustainable than going to buy an artificial tree. Umm.  Okay!

So then we looked up a map of Crown land in the area to again make sure we weren’t doing anything illegal (pretty important when one of you is a police officer and the other one is married to a police officer), and we noticed that there’s a lot of it just a few hundred metres down the street from us.  (Yes, I considered renaming this blog.)

So Mr. B packed up his best lumberjack outfit, complete with a few different sharp-looking tools, I packed Baby E into a snow suit, and we set off on a slow, bumpy, methodical hunt for a Christmas tree.

We knew what we wanted: something thick and full, something that was not right off the side of the road (it wouldn’t be much of an adventure if we didn’t have to travel far, now, would it?), and something that looked short.  That last criterion was heavily emphasized by a number of people who have done this sort of thing before.  “It will look A MILLION TIMES BIGGER in your house,” they told us.  I figured that might be a bit of hyperbole, but just in case, we looked for something extremely petite.

Finally, after driving the same stretch of road a few times, we settled in on a grouping of trees a couple hundred feet from the side of the road.  There seemed to be about ten hearty-looking trees, all house-appropriate size, without too much bush in between them and us (important for the part where we get the tree back to the truck).  So my husband climbed out of the truck, baby and me in tow, and headed for the evergreens in question.

He didn’t get very far.

It turns out that when it’s been snowing for nearly a month straight and people haven’t been along to clear a path, snow can actually get kind of deep.  My husband crossed the ditch, certain he was standing on the tops of trees, and then quietly conceded that maybe we should have brought the snow shoes.

Yes, honey, I know.

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Plan B!  Across the street, right beside the ditch, there was a wimpier looking tree standing about six feet above the snow.  We decided we could settle for that evergreen – a wimpier tree for a wimpier effort, of course.  So my husband got in there with his axe, digging away the snow around the trunk so he could cut it down.  From my perspective, this took a long time.  I quickly realized this was because the tree simply did not stop.  This tree was a monster! There must have been another three feet of snow packed around its base, and getting to the bottom of it would have been tiring and pointless, since it would be way too big for our house.

Okay, Plan C.  At the end of the street, we had spotted the tiniest of trees right by the side of the road.  “Let’s take that one,” we had said when we first saw it, delighted at how hilarious we were because obviously taking a tree that size home would ruin Christmas.  Well, our first two attempts didn’t work, so it was time to ruin Christmas.

We drove back to the Tiny Tree and my husband once again dug to the base. He was a seasoned expert at this point and had the tree cut down without incident in under five minutes.

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He loaded Tiny Tree into the back of the truck and we returned home.  On the way back, I remember saying that once we got it in the tree stand and put a giant tree topper on it, it would look fine – not tiny at all.

HAHAHAHA.

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We’ll have to rename our tree to something a little more appropriate (and possibly punny – Spruce Willis, anyone?). And maybe forego the tree topper.  And also listen to our Northern friends  A MILLION TIMES BETTER next time.