A Christmas Eve Tale

In the wee dawning hours of Christmas Eve (really, it was 1 am) I was leaving Kelly’s house after a lovely evening celebrating the holiday with her and her sweet family. I was just starting my drive and wanted to hear some Christmas music, being as it was finally Christmas Eve. I put on KOOL 108 (the local oldies station that plays holiday music from Thanksgiving to Xmas) and it was on commercial. None of the other local stations play Christmas music until about 6pm on Christmas Eve. Now, there’s always my iPod, but I was having trouble finding it in the bottom of my bag. (Turns out, it was in my coat pocket the whole time, which is why I couldn’t find it in my bag, derf.)

So, with no other options, I began scanning channels to see what I could find. I could not have been less in the mood to listen to pop music or country or anything. I wanted Christmas songs. With one final preset station left, I was feeling hopeless. No way was KQRS (the local classic rock station) going to be giving me what I need. Or so I thought.

I depressed the button and there was silence for a brief moment. Then, the opening piano chords. A Christmas song? No, not even close. Turns out, something much better. Somehow, in that moment, I was hearing the opening strains to my favorite song of all time. I couldn’t believe it. It is incredibly rare to hear that song on the radio. I mean, other than IN 1992, I can’t imagine I’ve ever heard it on the radio. And suddenly, here it is. We’ll leave the fact that a song from 1992 is now suddenly considered classic rock for another day, but it was my song. And it was exactly from the beginning. I got to hear every single note. I was driving home in the wee hours of Christmas Eve, belting out the lyrics, singing along with Axl Rose and thinking to myself that this was a Christmas present to me. From the universe, I guess. They played the full version, so it lasted the full 8 minutes and 57 seconds. Nearly nine minutes. That is half the time it takes me to drive home, and since I’d already been in the car for several minutes searching for a song, it drove me nearly to my front door.

When the final notes faded out and I was turning onto my street, I had a goofy smile on my face and I just felt so good. It is amazing how a song can do that, can make you feel so strongly. I rarely listen to KQRS, but this night, taking a chance became a wonderful story and a moment to remember. November Rain on Christmas Eve. Thanks, Universe, that was a magical Christmas gift.

My Favorite Christmas Posts

From the very first year I started blogging, even from when I was on Mindsay, here are links to my favorite blog posts I’ve ever written.

Stories:

Santa…an EOE (first Christmas-themed post I’ve ever written!)

Partridge in a Pear Tree (I had actually forgotten I ever did this!)

Stupidity of Youth (Probably the funniest holiday shopping story I’ve experienced)

Christmas Spirit (Written about the beautiful ways children think)

Christmas Spirit (Written in the same calendar year as the one above, about mostly the same subject, but two completely different stories, titled the same…by accident!)

Photos:

Christmas 2012

Mom and Simon

Christmas 2010

Arionna’s 1st Christmas

Simon and Arionna

Home

Lists:

Holiday Love List

Favorite Books

Favorite Movies

Favorite Songs

Happy Christmas Eve!

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve is always a conundrum. For my entire life (up until about 3 years ago) we spent Christmas Eve with my mom’s family. Appetizers and presents. That was tradition. Somehow, things got all mixed up and we stopped doing this. We now see those relatives after Christmas, which works out just fine.

However, this left a gaping hole on Christmas Eve. My sister sees her in-laws that night, as did Zack, before he and Kim broke up. So, this left my parents and me on our own. Well, that’s not entirely true. You see, many moons ago (about 7 years) I popped in to Tom and Mindy’s apartment on Christmas eve, during Clay’s first Christmas, to drop off a gift for him. Mindy was sick and Clay was sleeping and Tom…was working? It was odd. But, it started a tradition with them that lasts to this day. Before my plan, I always stop off at Tom and Mindy’s to give gifts to the boys.

Last year, they did a family trip to San Diego for Christmas and my mom commented that I seemed bereft. In the midst of my bereftness (that’s definitely not a word), I started a new tradition. Mom, Dad, and I would go to a movie. Then drinks and apps somewhere, then we’d call it a night. Last year, it was an amazing night. This year? We’ll get to that in a minute.

Mindy invited me to join them for Christmas dinner, which was very kind of her. The family Christmas Eve is with Tom’s mom and it is also when they do their family gifts. I feel honored that I’m allowed to take part in these special family traditions. I got to their house and the boys were bouncing off the walls. They had already opened a present (each) because they were driving their parents nuts and they figured it would give them something to do. Thus, upon my arrival, I got bombarded with the story of the brand new Lego semi-truck. It has a bed and a tv in the cab!

We played for a bit and then did presents. I got spoiled this year, with new fuzzy socks in purple, Christmas ornaments that hold the boys school pictures, AND a kickass bookend that you simply must see. I love it! It is exactly the kind of quirky thing that I love in the stores but rarely buy. Mindy said she was done for me, but when she saw it, she said, “that belongs to Olivia” and bought it. She was right, it does belong to me.

Clay got his annual snowglobe, which he liked. He still tells me he’d prefer toys, but then his mom tells me that when it gets time to decorate, he cannot WAIT to get out his snowglobes and wind them up. So, it’s the small victories.

Lew got his annual M & M ornament, which was thoroughly unimpressive to a 4 year old, but he’ll like them someday. He also got a box of Sugar Babies, because I love giving that boy candy and his mother wishes I wouldn’t, which makes it fun. Then, I got the boys a game to share. Operation. They already have the game operation, but this is special. This is Star Wars Operation and you operate on the little robot. Dang it. Hang on while I look up his name. R2D2. Got it. They were very excited and played it almost immediately.

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They were going crazy. Mindy and I ended up talking about how much we liked Operation when we were kids. Once the boys abandoned the game, about five minutes after they started it, she and I played a game. We let Clay join us, because he saw what we were doing, and it was fun.For the family gift, I gave them something very special. This fall, I took a class in stained glass. I cut and designed an abstract piece for them and gave it to them with a display stand. I wish you could see it. I wish I had been smart enough to take a picture of it. It was beautiful. I liked it more than the piece I made for myself. Mindy loved it. She was astonished that I made it. Tom didn’t seem surprised at all.After Tom’s mom arrived, we had a wonderful dinner of roast beef and cheesy potatoes. After dinner, it was time for presents again. Normally, this was when I would leave, but my parents had decided against a movie. So, I stayed and hung out some more. Before more presents, we decided to make them work a bit. The boys were directed to plan a Christmas performance (this was my suggestion, to keep them busy so we could finish dinner in peace). Below, you will see the video of their performance. It was pretty adorable for a 7-year-old and a 4-year-old who threw it together in about 2.5 minutes


MOV06937 a video by okmoris on Flickr.

Earlier in the evening, I mentioned something about the NORAD Santa tracker. This was not something they knew about. I was surprised I hadn’t mentioned it before, we’ve been tracking Santa at our house for years. I showed them the website and the boys were enraptured. They couldn’t believe the could watch Santa delivering presents. We watched videos of other cultures and got to talk about how different things are in other countries. Clay wondered why he went to the countries he did and we got to talk about time zones. Lew enjoyed this, but 7 is perfect, I am thinking because Clay was obsessed. He stared at that all night and kept coming up to me and asking where a certain country was. I have a World Map app on my phone, so I kept pulling it up and we’d search for whatever country. The only one we struggled with was the South Sandwich Islands. (Off the southern tip of South America, near Antarctica, if you’re curious).

Later that night, as I was watching Santa head toward St. Paul, I text Mindy to see if he was still awake and to let her know that Santa was spotted nearby. I got a text back that said, “he fell asleep in front of the computer, tracking Santa”. Adorable!

After entertaining us, they were made to change into nicer clothes for pictures. One nice one with Grandma:
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And Mindy said, “I know you want to open presents, but I will make you do this over and over until you don’t have goofy faces or cheesy smiles, so smile nice the first time and we’ll be done faster.” It made me laugh because she was so serious. The boys took it to heart, though, and we got nice pictures.

Next, we did pictures with me.

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I have no idea why Lewie felt it was necessary to drape himself across me, but he did. And Clay is clearly not looking. So Mindy made them do it again.
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Now Clay isn’t smiling. I’d have been happy with either of these, I don’t have too many pictures of me with both boys. But, Mindy made them do it again. I was actually laughing at this point.
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And how perfect is that! I simply love it. As soon I can, I will print that and it will be framed in my house. I’m so glad she was being a stickler, totally worth it!

Then, just to torture the kids some more, we did a family picture.

I said, “just so you know, I will stand here and do this all night, until every one of you is smiling. And that includes your dad!” That cracked everyone up. Tom is notorious for never smiling in pictures. I took a picture of him smiling this summer in Chicago and Mindy loves it so much she included it in their Christmas card–but that’s a story for another blog. Of course, my humor got even Tom to smile.
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This was my first attempt, but Lewie was testing me to see if I was as tough as his mom (usually I am not), but I stood my ground and made them do it again.
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Now, Lewie looks a bit cheesy, but I think it is cute. And I love Clay’s hands clasped under his face–and Tom, look at that handsome smile. Worth it. I said this could be their Christmas card for next year!

Then, more and more presents awaited.
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Things not even fully unwrapped before they move on. Lucky kids.
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I love how serious he is. I think he gets nervous about whether he’s going to like it. At 7, he’s a lot more conscious of things like that.
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More and more and more!

Next up is one of my favorite Christmas pictures of the year. Lewie, who is the sweetest boy, will always stop to smile if you point a camera at him. I love that about him. But, he decided to organize all his new presents by carrying them across the room–all at once.
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It was funny to watch, he’d taken approximately one step when I stopped him for the picture. He took one more and the pile collapsed. He stooped down and restacked everything and started again. Three tries before his mom just took half the pile and helped him out.

Clay and Tom headed downstairs to set up some new toys and I never went to look, so I have no photos of that, but Lew and Mindy were putting Legos together in the dining room.

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Legos are a LOT of work. Wowza.

I was teasing Lew about the names of his new Legos and he was laughing at me, he looked so cute I picked up my camera and said, “look at me, Lew”:
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Every time! I love that kid.

I left about 8:30 to head to my parents. Things were very low-key there. They were just hanging out. Then when my brother arrived, the four of us played music trivia until the wee hours of the morning. I really mean wee. I didn’t leave there until 4:00am. Then, I still had some presents to wrap when I got home. That was one long night!

But, it was a relaxed, calm and fun Christmas eve, full of family and friends. I sure couldn’t ask for more!

Christmas Eve 2010

Well, this has been a long time coming. Exactly 1 month today.

Yikes.

This was a very different Christmas Eve. Typically (as in my entire life) we’ve done Christmas Eve with my mom’s family. As we’ve gotten older and busier, that gets harder every year.

Last year, the “adults” (that’d be my parents and aunts and uncles) went out to dinner and we weren’t even invited! I really didn’t like that plan, so I decided (literally by myself) that we’d try out a new tradition. An early Christmas with the family on a Saturday in December.

Since I have a new house–I’d host first. More to come on that story later.

However, making that sweep change to a holiday tradition left some of us at odds and ends when Christmas Eve rolled around. My parents had no plans. I had no plans. My siblings were all elsewhere–doing sibling things.

Genius struck once again and we decided that my mom and dad and I would go to a movie.

This is the point when I’d like to note that my dad–not a big movie goer.

As a matter of fact, I can tell you the last four movies he’s seen in the theater.

4. Jaws (1975)

3. Titanic (1997)

2. Death to Smoochy (2002)

1. The Fighter (2010)

4 movies in 35 years in a theater. And if you look at that list, it says something about my dad. Not really sure what, but it definitely says something.

So, upon suggesting that we see a movie, I was a bit hesitant. When it comes to holidays, I’m looking for tradition. I’d love to make this an annual event, a movie on Christmas Eve. But it had to be good.

I immediately narrowed my choices to two. The True Grit remake and The Fighter.

Of the two, no doubt I’d rather see The Fighter. I’m all about Mark Wahlberg (Wahlberg’s in general, actually) and have liked pretty much every movie of his that I’ve seen. True Grit. Meh. The Coen Brothers helps, of course, but Westerns are so not my thing. Still, if it helped dad become more comfortable, I was game.

The night before (maybe two nights–) my mom caught my dad watching the original True Grit on tv. When she and I spoke, she said that we should probably go see The Fighter because he just watched True Grit. I loved it! I checked the times and we were all set.

I met at their house and we got all ready to go. I said something to my dad about Mark Wahlberg and he said, “I thought we were seeing True Grit?” I told him what mom said about him just watching it and he said, “I watched the original to STUDY so I’d be prepared for seeing the new one!”

Oops.

We both felt guilty about that, it never occurred to us that was what he was doing. Luckily, he was game, and he also likes Mark Wahlberg, so we headed out to see the movie.

I loved it!

Great story, amazing acting, really quality film. I was happy with that as our first choice.

Dad slept through the beginning (he works a lot of hours during the holidays) but what he saw he liked very much. Mom said she liked it a lot, too, but her enjoyment was tempered a bit by guilt at not taking Dad to see True Grit.

I offered to make it a double feature….

After the movie, we went to Applebee’s for dinner because Zack was working. Due to his house arrest, he wasn’t going to be at Christmas, so this was our chance to see him for the holiday. When we got there, it was P-A-C-K-E-D. Evidently, the managers thought it would be a slow night and staffed for it. It was busy like a Friday night in there. Waiting list of an hour+, no seats at the bar, food was taking forever, it was crazy.

Zack was the only bartender and he was way in the weeds.

When we walked in and he saw us (it was a surprise) he looked at us and made a disgusted sound. Such a warm welcome! It’s no wonder we go there.

Eventually, things calmed down and we were able to get seats at the bar. My food was atrocious, which was unfortunate, but I survived. Mostly, it was fun to hang with Mom and Dad and make fun of my brother. A classic night.

My mom said that her favorite part was that she didn’t have to spend all day cooking to get ready to go to a family party. She just relaxed and prepared for the next day, so that she could enjoy that day more.

Christmas Eve movie/dinner was a hit!

That’s the plan for next year. Let’s hope they release something good–we owe my dad.