Friday, December 14, 2012

Christmas Sneakers

Family traditions come in different forms; here is one of my favorites.

If you read last week’s post you know that as a kid I got excited about Christmas. Really, really, super, duper, turbo, crazy excited about Christmas. So much so that I would make myself almost sick with the anticipation of the big day. 

My two younger brothers and sister were generally on the same page that I was at that time of the year. We would spend the months leading up to Christmas pouring over the glossy pictures in the Sears catalog Wish Book dreaming about Barbie townhouses and remote control cars. 

Christmas Eve was the highlight of the season. There was always dinner and a “program” at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Once our bellies were full of brown sugared ham, potatoes, and buttery rolls smothered in homemade jam we would move to the living room and gather around the fireplace. 

The program then began. 

This consisted of all of the grandchildren performing in some way at the piano, singing, and squeaking out elementary versions of O Christmas Tree and Jolly Old Saint Nick on miscellaneous band instruments. All was greeted by uproarious applause from the audience. Then would come the singing of carols and re-enactment of the Christmas story while Grandpa read out of Luke, complete with towels on our heads and whichever littlest grandkid was present laying in the manger. 

Then we would open the gag gifts Grandpa had collected throughout the year and wrapped in plain brown shipping paper. Little toy dogs that could back-flip, a singing trout, Santa as Elvis were among the usual suspects. 

After the party my parents would bring us home glowing with anticipation and get us into bed by telling us that “Santa can’t come until you are asleep.” It worked… for about 30 minutes. I’m not sure how Santa managed in such a short window of opportunity, but he always did. 

At exactly 1:16am my eyes would pop open and I would stare at the digital alarm clock on the bedside table. The rule in our house was that you could not get up until 6:00. No exceptions. I’m a firm believer that time is relative. It speeds at a much increased rate for parents and slows to a virtual standstill for kids on Christmas Eve. It was an eternity from 1:16 to 6:00.

By 2:00 my siblings were awake as well and we would carefully sneak to a central location (my room) for a planning session. The bedrooms of our house were connected to the living room by a long hallway. The tree and Santa’s delivery were located there, as well as a sleeping father on the couch. Dad knew we couldn’t stand the anticipation and so he spent every Christmas Eve sleeping there like an MP guarding the entrance to Fort Knox to keep us out of the area until the designated time. 

We would spend the next 4 hours slithering on our tummies down the hallway an inch at a time in hopes of getting past our Christmas sentinel. As soon as one of us would make it past the foot of the couch a gruff “GO TO BED!” would ring out over the silent night air and we would scurry back to central command.

As the years went by we made some innovations to our raid plans and equipment. This was mostly the invention of my brother Scott. By the time I was twelve we had moved up to painting our faces, dressing in all black, and taping plastic cups with a pin hole punched in the bottom over small flashlights so we could see better. We looked like a band of vagabond jewel thieves. We also had an elaborate hand signal language worked out to pass messages back and forth. 

All this was to no avail as the grumpy man on the couch was very good at his job. Looking back on it I think dad probably enjoyed those sleepless nights as much as we did. How much easier it would have been to stay in bed and just let us walk out there and peek. 

Time passed and as brothers and sisters we grew up and moved away from each other. Life has separated our family to different geography and political views. Over the years there has been joy but also disagreements between us as we have had to make the adult choices of our lives. Things have not always been rosy as we’ve walked the pathways we have chosen but down deep I know that the four of us are still that little band of Christmas Sneakers. 

I believe deeply that families are put together for a reason. There are things to be learned from each other. There are mistakes to be made, there is forgiveness and love to be educated in. Heaven knows my family has not had an easy progression in this area but this Christmas I have hope that it can improve and maybe it just starts with simple memories of tradition.

So here's a shout out to the Christmas Eve Sneakers. Happy sneaking this year! 



1 comment:

  1. Oh, that Sears catalogue and the dreams it could bring. I could totally picture every line of your descriptions. You are so good at this! Thanks for bringing back some wonderful memories of my own Christmas sneaking. I love you!


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