Friday, December 26, 2008

The Christmas Eve tradition....

Christmas of 2001 (like, totally forever ago) was the first Christmas that I spent out of my parents' home. It was a somewhat surreal experience. I was 23 years old, three months pregnant, and living in sin with Skippy while we sang Jingle Bells and coordinated plans for our I-refuse-to-call-it-a-shotgun-wedding, which was just a little over three weeks away.

Skippy being the sensitive soul that he is (stop laughing) knew that I was feeling out of sorts. At twenty three years old, I was still fully into waking up on Christmas morning in my twin bed at my parents' house, and opening presents all over the family room while mom made her signature blueberry-muffins-from-a-box. It was TRADITION. And I loved it.

So he rolled up his sleeves and endeavored to make my first Christmas out of the 'rents house a smashing success, embracing his mile wide romantic streak (seriously, stop laughing).

He was determined to spoil me. We tackled the mall, drank sparkling cider, and wrapped gifts. Two nights before Christmas, we went out and got the most Charlie Brown-i-est looking tree you'd ever seen from Frank's Nursery in Naperville (alas, no longer in business) and decorated it with white and red lights that we found in the bargain bin at Target - the very same lights that made me almost burst into tears when I went to put them on the tree this year and realized that two strings were now officially half dead. He made every effort to cater to my mood swings, meet my cravings, and hold my hair back when morning sickness struck. He was the poster fiance and Daddy-to-be. And deep down inside, he still worried that I'd find my Christmas lacking. It was the only one we would ever spend as "Skippy and Amy" - by the time the next one rolled around, the bump in my belly would be six months old. And he wanted it to be special.

Somewhere in the craziness, we began a tradition that has survived almost seven years of marriage, four residential addresses, and three kids. We began our Christmas Eve gift exchange.

Skippy absolutely can NOT keep a gift a secret. I mean...he CAN, but he wiggles around like a squirrel on pixie sticks and taunts you from the moment he makes the purchase until the last ribbon comes off on Christmas morning. The man loves to give gifts, and adores coordinating surprises. And as his legal spouse, this has its perks.

That one single child-free Christmas Eve night, we decided that we would each pick one gift for the other to open. This felt like sacrilege to me - immediate family gifts were to be opened on CHRISTMAS DAY AND NO OTHER in mom and dad's house. But it was sweet and romantic and fun to begin a new tradition while we teetered on the cusp of a life and a family together. And as the years have passed, it has become one of my favorite few moments of the holiday season. We always wait until all of the kids are in bed - then it's just the two of us like it was during that first Christmas Eve night. Sometimes we make a few drinks and open gifts by the red and white lights of the tree. Sometimes, we grab them haphazardly a few minutes before midnight while in the midst of baking cookies together or arguing over the consistency of the fudge.

And sometimes, Skippy still manages to outdo himself.

This year inspiration struck my sweet husband. I think he was really striving to do something special to shake me out of my holiday funk. Admittedly, Christmas wasn't as sparkly for me this year, having lost my holiday motivation in my quest to mope about being in a house for a second Christmas that I swore we'd only spend one Christmas in. I didn't do much decorating and I'm still up to my ass in chocolate chips from all of the baking I didn't do. And Skippy being Skippy, with his huge heart and his romantic streak, went out of his way to make me happy.

We arrived home from Laura's Finger Food Festivities around quarter to six on Christmas Eve night. I had my Mother-in-law's favorite potato soup simmering on the stove and Skippy rushed me through a bowl of it, saying only that we had a time constraint that we had to meet.

So feeling somewhat annoyed, I slurped my way through the soup and bread as quickly as I could. My kids were giggly - they weren't in on the surprise but they knew that something was up. My Mother-in-law kept grinning at me. I burned my tongue on the last bite and wondered what would happen next.

A package appeared on the table at my place. It was small, and it was cold. Later I found out that it had been in the fridge. I glanced around at all the smiling faces and unwrapped it while Skippy slipped outside and started up the minivan.

Inside was a bag of apple slices and a note:

Your Instructions:
1. Put on your boots.
2. Put on your hat, gloves, and coat.
3. Put these in your pocket.
4. Get in the van.
5. Don't ask questions.

Totally intriguing right? I quickly followed my directions and slid into the barely-warm passenger seat of the van, next to a grinning husband.

If you know me, you know that I absolutely suck at receiving surprises. Of course I started asking questions and of course, they weren't answered. But after a few moments, a light bulb as bright as the dang old star of Bethlehem went off inside my head.


He raises an eyebrow at me. "Why would I do that? It's Christmas Eve. Fred's is closed Ame."

"BECAUSE THERE IS A HORSE AT FRED MEYER!" Apparently I was trying to shatter the van's windows in my excitement.

Mr. Cool-as-a-cucumber replied, "Why on earth would there be a HORSE at Fred Meyer? It's a grocery store silly!"

Of course by then we were only blocks away and everything was as clear as the three foot icicles hanging off my porch at home. I lowered my voice several octaves and played along, answering "Because the horse at Fred Meyer gives CARRIAGE RIDES!"

And sure enough, there they were in the empty and snow covered parking lot at Freddie's, waiting for us. Skippy treated me to a half hour horse drawn carriage ride around town, with his arm warm around me and cozy blankets over our laps while we admired the miscellaneous holiday decorations everyone had up. People waved from inside their houses, and little kids squealed, "LOOKIT mommy, it's a horse!" and pressed their noses up against car windows as we passed in intersections.

And after our ride, of course we fed our trusty steed his apple slices.

Skippy may rarely get his underwear in the laundry basket. His favorite computer game annoys the hell out of me. He doesn't always help with the dishes and he has a knack for passing along a poopie baby.

But the man knows how to keep a Christmas tradition alive.

Love you babe.

More holiday blogging to come!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Okay scored some points with this one. Thanks for taking care of my girl. My soon to be 31 year old girl....DON'T FORGET!!!! Love Karen