Every family has their traditions when it comes to the holidays and mine is no exception. While I live far from my hometown now, those traditions have become a little more difficult to follow through with but I will never give any of them up completely because they are important and dear to my heart.
Mom loves Christmas. I mean, she is ALL about Christmas and don't you dare leave out the "Christ". She decorates with only about 100 candles, wreathes, garland, lights everywhere, one unbreakable Nativity scene so kids can play with the "dolls", mistletoe, angels, and of course the biggest and most beautiful tree. Mind you, it never looks tacky. Somehow she manages to maintain some mad skills when it comes to decorating with a whole lot of weird stuff to make it look nice. (Does anyone else have a three piece wooden train set with mice in it?)
Mom loves Christmas music. She plays every kind of Christmas music she can get her hands on and a lot of times it is weird music we've never heard of before. It has never been some of the quirky Christmas music that you hear on the radio, but always singers that want to praaaaaaaise Jesus!
It all began when my mom had horrible back issues when I was in my teens. She was physically unable to do a lot of things without our help or dad's. But when dad was up north working on the slope in Prudhoe Bay, AK…all matters that required help reaching things or getting up on ladders were left to me and my brothers.
Well, being that my brothers and I are assholes, we took advantage of mom's misfortune to our hilarious benefit. (Don't worry, she had fun with it too…after all, she raised us so in the end it's all her fault anyway.)
Our traditions had always landed on one day…the tree decorating day. It had always started by making a batch of Tom and Jerrys (and yes, ours had a dash of alcohol in them...don't judge), pulling out about 10 boxes of decorations, turning on Roger Whittaker's Christmas (Never heard of it? Neither had we.), and putting up that giant xmas tree that almost always reached the very high ceiling.
Our number one goal for our Christmas tradition was to irritate and almost upset mom. And we are a family of achievers so you bet your ass we succeeded every year. We'd have our hot drinks and start the music and everything would start off so innocently…setting up decorations here and there throughout the house, humming along to the weird music, taking out the ugly ornaments we made as children and confirming with mom that they needed to be in the back of the tree where no one could see our shitty art we made for her and dad out of love, stuff like that.
But then…we'd start singing along rather than sweetly humming. We'd sing off key on purpose or we'd try to match his very deep baritone voice and it was especially awesome that my little brother could actually pull it off, but it was disturbing when I'd try. We'd change the lyrics or emphasize the odd language that was being used in Roger's music and start talking about how weird it was. We pulled out the CD case and talked about the the cover used on the album and how real the snow looked.
I mean, it's awesome.
All the while, mom was usually saying, "Guys! C'mon. Stop it! You guys, knock it off. Don't ruin it." Which was always, of course, followed with one of us saying something along the lines of, "Yeah, Kathy. Stop it! You're ruining Christmas. You're going to upset baby Jesus." And we'd all start laughing…and we never did stop it. Again, the goal was to upset mom…not Jesus.
Decorating the tree was a big deal. We had ornaments that belonged to all of us kids from over the years, ornaments that my mom had from growing up, ornaments my parents had together throughout their marriage, and ones that were from family members that had died long ago and were over 100 years old.
One by one, we'd hang the ornaments and the tree would start becoming this beautiful piece of art. Mom loved this. But then when we noticed that things were getting a little too normal and how happy she was with all the hard work we were doing, we'd have to change that. We all had our tasks to begin the awfulness which started with taking our hideous ornaments from when we were in preschool and elementary school and bringing them directly to the front where EVERYONE would see our proud work. Mom wouldn't notice this at first, but when she did we would hear her exhale in slight frustration and start to try putting them towards the back (as if we didn't know what she was doing). The other assignment one of us had was to put about 10 ornaments on one branch, being sure the branch was barely hanging on and maybe shaking just a little from all the weight. It had to be bowed over completely and right out in front. Our hard work had to be where all eyes could see what we had done.
It was usually that branch that mom would notice and finally realize what was happening…and that's when we began our really awful behavior and when she was probably ready to sign any documentation she needed to emancipate each of us.
Mom would again try to tell us (unsuccessfully, of course) to quit it and put everything back the way it was. We'd play along while singing horribly with Roger and look as if we were fixing it. But what was really happening was we were now using the ladder to hang ornaments. See, with mom's bad back, she couldn't and wouldn't get on the ladder. Yeah. My brothers and I have a oneway coach ticket to go straight to hell for this.
Steve was usually on the ladder while Jeff and I would hand him the pile of ornaments that were stacked on one branch for him to put up on a branch that she couldn't reach. We'd also hand him our crappy paper ornaments with crayon scribbles, our school photos, and handmade salt dough ornaments painted exactly to look like a 4 year old did it, right where all the gorgeous crystals, blown glass, and expensive ornaments were supposed to be. She'd laugh and holler out at all of us to stop it. We didn't. We continued and we made it worse (or better). There was a Santa that would go on the tree, but we never really figured out how he was supposed to be placed as he didn't have a hoop to hang from. But we were a pretty smart group and managed to make it work…for our benefit.
Santa's boner. Merry Christmas!
We had an angel that had big beautiful wings that lit up and she was incredible. But it wasn't until we took the elf from Elf on the Shelf, and stuck his head up her dress and his hands down between his legs to really make Christmas amazing. Blasphemy, I know.
Sometimes, we'd hang weird shit up on the tree, like mom's slippers or a dollar bill. One or two of the dog's toys ended up there and we knew the dangers that went with that, but it was worth it. The cat loved batting at the ornaments, so we made sure the very noisy bell was right where she could get at it.
Did we ruin Christmas for mom? Maybe for a minute, but in the end she had a good laugh with us because she was a good sport. But I do have to say now that she has a good back again and dad is retired…it just isn't the same. Now, she has dad fix it. What? What was there and is there ever to fix? We made it perfect. So, now that we're adults and have helped decorate the tree the same way as it should be decorated…we come back on Christmas and it's ruined. Dad or mom, will make sure the one branch that is dying because of the weight from 20 glass balls is back to its perky self with ONE ball. Pshh. The ugly ornaments aren't even on the tree, and her slippers are on her feet. I call bullshit when I see that. The worst is she puts a star on top of the tree so the perverted elf can't do its thing.
But here's the thing…my brothers are the same and will never change that part of us. Come this Christmas, you bet we'll be listening to Roger Wittaker, singing loudly and horribly, changing the ornaments when neither parent is looking, and laughing the whole time. And now that we're older, we'll yell at mom if she tries to change it and tell her she's ruining Christmas. I can't wait!