Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve

I admit I haven't been feeling very Christmasy this year. I don't know if it's because my kids are older or if I just have lost the capacity for that much excitement, but I just don't feel it.

Even listening to Christmas music or Christmas shopping hasn't helped. Maybe it's all the major negative economic news we keep getting. It's hard to lose oneself in a holiday when the news is all bad. Nevertheless, we are ready.

Every Christmas, I tend to reflect back on past Christmases. When I was a kid, I had this advent calendar. It was really a long strip of felt with yarn ties. On each tie was a Hershey kiss. You took one off each morning until Christmas.

My mom used to make home-made hard candy which my dad would take to work for his secretary and anyone else to whom he felt he had to give gifts. One morning, as he walked outside with a jar of candy, he slipped on the ice and it broke into a million pieces. Dad always had a bad back so it didn't do much good for that either.

I would be home from school for vacations, of course, and I always liked to watch Captain Kangaroo. Keep in mind that by this time, I was way too old to watch Captain Kangaroo, but there was something about his voice that was soothing. It was particularly so when he read books for us. At Christmastime, he read holiday-themed books so it really put me in the mood.

One tradition we had was that in the week or so leading up to Christmas, we would get out one of our toys from a previous Christmas. It was particularly fun to get out something we didn't play with much. It helped build the excitement leading up to the day.

Another tradition was that we were allowed to open one of our presents under the tree on Christmas Eve. That helped take the edge off the mania. You had to be careful though. If you didn't pay close attention, you might accidentally open up a sweater or some Avon gift my grandmother would get for us. No, the ideal Christmas Eve present was a toy. The success of that tradition varied from year to year, but I remember one year I opened up a GI Joe footlocker. This was a wooden box which could house GI Joe's various uniforms and weapons. You could also fit Joe in the bottom of it, so it was very cool.

When our family lived in Virginia (1971-1978), my grandmother, Nan, used to come stay with us for Christmas. I don't know why she didn't stay with my grandfather, but he only came with her once. The year he came, we lived in Lovettsville on a farm. My grandfather took me and my brother hunting. We were trying to get a pheasant for Christmas dinner. I wasn't really old enough to have a real gun, so they let me take a BB gun. I nearly got my head blown off when we flushed the pheasant and I inadvertently stepped in front of it. If my grandfather had worse reflexes, I wouldn't be writing this now. Fortunately, he didn't shoot me in the head and I lived to tell the tale. Instead, we bagged a rabbit, which my mother dutifully cleaned and served for Christmas Eve dinner. My great aunt Sue (Nan's sister) and her husband Daris were also there. Right as we sat down to bless the food, it started to snow. This would be a better story if the snow had stuck, but it just snowed for a while. Still it was a perfect moment.

My grandfather made a big noise before bed that my brother and I better not wake him up first thing in the morning because he needed his sleep. Of course, he was awake at about 5:30 a.m. screaming, "JINGLE BELLS! JINGLE BELLS! JINGLE ALL THE WAY!" at the top of his lungs. He was a big kid at heart.

Of course the most memorable Christmas eve was in 1989: the year John was born. I was still in college and we had only the barest insurance coverage It covered the birth and a 12 hour hospital stay. We were all sick that year. Shauna and Trevor had pneumonia and I had mono. John was born early Christmas Eve morning.

We took him home at about 9 that night. Trevor was two and a half so he was really super excited for Christmas. He was so excited and we were so determined not to traumatize him, what with the new brother and all. He woke up at about 3:30 in the morning and wanted to open presents. He was the first and only grandchild at the time (besides the recently born John) so he had a mountain of presents. He could only open so many before he was exhausted and we went back to bed.

At about 6:30 in the morning there was a hammering at our door. It was our pediatrician. He didn't explain or apologize, he only said "Where's the baby! I need to see him." I was dazed and led him in to where we had the basinet. He mumbled something to himself about his color and pulse and then said, "Get his coat on and come with me." He then explained that John had tested positive for Beta Strep. I'm still not exactly sure what it is, but it's very dangerous to babies. We took John to the hospital where he spent a week in intensive care. Shauna stayed there with him and I stayed home with Trevor, who needed a nebulizer about every two hours for his asthma complications and pneumonia. Luckily, Shauna's dad came up from California (we lived in Utah at the time) to help us out. It was pretty overwhelming for a while, but he pulled through.

He turned 19 today.

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