‘So, what are you doing for Advent,’ someone asked me a good while back. Probably at the beginning of the month when there were still more than 3 days of Advent left.
Because I had, in previous years, tried to make a big deal about counting down the days before Christmas. What with watercolored calendars, colored envelopes and daily activities. (Not to mention semi-regular blog posts about it all.)
‘Um, nothing really,’ I replied. ‘The boys have a Lego Advent Calendar, and I got a book that we read from every night.’
Ta-da! Advent 2013.
[Full disclosure for my 2014-self: as of December 20, we are 7 days behind on the daily Advent readings.] Though, in defense of my new, less-is-less self, I’m not sure we ever did all the prescribed activities of Advents past either – since one can’t very well sled on days when there are no snow. Or cut down a Christmas tree when it’s 30 below.
It’s not that I don’t want the envelopes and the good intentions, it’s just that we seem to have exited the phase of life where 5 minutes can feel like 5 hours and traded it for the phase of parenting/life where 5 days feels like 5 minutes. ‘How did another week go by already?’ I think to myself most Sunday nights.
In these life-on-crack days, I figure the things we manage to accomplish in the days leading up to Christmas are probably the things that will happen in the years to come, i.e. Tradition.
Like the annual Griswold excursion to find a tree.
This year we drove to Kananaskis on the last day of November because the weather forecast indicated we’d be temporarily relocated to Siberia for the first part of December. As with most memory-making endeavors, these events are best remembered rather than experienced.
Because it sounds like the epitome of love and goodness: a family of five piling into an unfashionable minivan, driving into the forest to cut down a tree. Sipping hot cocoa while they traipse through snow-covered territory in search of that perfect tree.
And maybe that is how it will be remembered, time erasing minor details like the unfashionable minivan getting stuck on an incline and Mrs. Griswold getting mad at Mr. Griswold because he refuses to buy winter tires. Or Mrs. Griswold trailing five minutes behind everyone else, carrying 3 styrofoam cups of chocolate-water through the forest, along with a 40-pound ‘baby’ who doesn’t care to walk more than 30 paces. All while Mr. Griswold and his two blond sidekicks march ahead looking for the least spindly, wonky tree under 8 feet tall.
‘[Anonymousfriend] has a nice tree,’ I told the professor last night as I gazed upon our Charlie-Brown experiment awkwardly laden with crystal and plastic. ‘Oh yeah,’ the professor inquired, ‘where’d they get it – a tree lot?’ ‘No, a box. It’s pre-lit!’ I marveled, while Clark shuddered.
It being ‘the season’ which compels educational institutions everywhere to squeeze in some sort of seasonally-appropriate activity, I found myself at Percy’s preschool doing my best not to cry as he sauntered to a stage dressed as a lamb. This was, I’d realized earlier in the week, to be my last.preschool.Christmas.concert.
When you think about it that way, it doesn’t matter if said concert is good or bad (it was kind of lame) you’re going to cry. And when they start singing ‘Jingle Bells’ holding the little bells in their hand you’ll remember the time the Gort (roughly the same age as Percy is now) did the same thing for his preschool concert (and started crying almost immediately; overwhelmed by the room full of overeager parents.)
Speaking of overeager parents, this was my view during Percy’s lastpreschoolChristmasconcertever.
That same kid who cried during Jingle Bells six Christmases ago, sat on a stage surrounded by hundreds of too-hot parents and children in a crowded gym, accompanying singing third graders on the guitar.
(Maybe Santa should get me a zoom lens I can use in low-light conditions for future performances….)
Speaking of ‘Santa’, another ‘highlight’ of this year’s advent, one for which I have no visual documentation…..
A girl slightly older than Percy was spending the day with us. For posterity’s sake, I should also mention (to compensate for what I’m about to disclose) that this was the first night I can remember in my 9.75 years of parenting that we all sat at a table, ate our food (mostly) without complaint, and lingered at the table afterwards, playing that game where you go around the table and everyone throws out a word, creating a ‘story’.
People with very-young children, take heart. Nine point seven five years. That’s all it takes! (Alas, it hasn’t happened since.)
But this was supposed to be about how I emerged from the basement, and found all three boys telling said four year old girl that Santa does not exist.
I’m not sure what’s worse, having the kid who tells everyone else’s kid about sex, or having the kid(s) who tells other kids that Santa isn’t real.
‘Is Santa real?’ the confused little girl asked me point-blank. ‘What do you think?’ I attempted some damage control. ‘Well, I saw him once and he asked me what I wanted for Christmas and I said a mermaid (somethingorother) and that’s what I got!’
And every year, at some point, all five of us end up at the same table decorating cookies. It just seems to happen without any coordination or advance notice. Like earlier this week, I happened to have a chunk of sugar cookie dough in the fridge after some cookie-decorating with friends. I rolled out a few (nice) cookies and let the boys do the rest. And somehow by the time we sat down at the table to decorate, the professor had returned home from work and there were five people at the table, each with five cookies to decorate however they chose.
(And one child crying his eyes out when his monogrammed cookie broke during decoration.)