The time is almost here.
We’ve spent countless weeks building up and going in to debt for Tuesday morning. Christmas is about to start.
It has taken a lot of hard work to transition directly from Halloween in to the start of Christmas but with the help of major retail chains we’re here. No doubt, most of you have risked life, limb, and having to use your short term disability benefits to string lights around your house. You have dumped an entire life’s worth of vulgarity into the 45 minutes you spent trying to get the last string of lights to actually light.
You have heard the ringing of the Salvation Army bell for so long it has now become like the Tell Tale Heart ringing while you’re at the dinner table. My suggestion would be to drop a dollar in to the bucket. The ringing goes away after that.
You have come within a heartbeat of fisticuffs at 5 am during a Black Friday sale because you were the first one to grab the 52” LED television. Yes. You were.
You stood up a tree in your living room and assured your significant other there were no living creatures in the tree (even though you didn’t really check). Or maybe you spent a few hours trying to remember how your artificial tree gets put together and possibly bargained a piece of your soul away just so you had it together correctly before you put the lights on the tree.
Your house has been remade from post-modern decor in to an exact replica of Santa’s workshop.
You have reminded everyone within earshot of the true “reason for the season” and thereby sounded like the guy who reminds you why everyone should own a Prius.
You have done all of this in the name of kick starting the Christmas season.
I have too.
I’ve embraced the holidays by hanging garish decorations. I have endured the torturous loop of Christmas songs seemingly being played on every channel of the radio, fought with my wife over where to hang the 700th ornament for the tree, thought about punching the old lady who picked up the last Angry Birds Star Wars toy, made sure there was enough rum in the house for the gallons of egg nog in the refrigerator, and tried to remind my kids about the “reason for the season” as a way to pave the way for fewer gifts (to no avail). I have done all that is asked of me to begin the season.
Yet despite doing my holiday season duties, Christmas hasn’t begun for me. There is still one more thing that I have to do before Christmas truly begins at my house. It is a tradition I learned from my Dad.
Every year growing up, no matter how many lights were hung, how big our tree was, how many times we heard Nat King Cole sing the Christmas Song, Christmas only began when my Dad called my sister and I down from our perch upstairs.
He would make us stay at the top of the steps, agonizing, until he and my Mom got settled downstairs, made coffee, and no doubt laughed at our pleading and groaning. On his command, we came down to whatever it was he and my mom had put together for that year. That was how every Christmas I spent at home began.
It is with that memory of my Dad and Christmas that I have begun every Christmas with my kids, since they have been adept enough to walk down the steps themselves. They plead, they beg, they groan (and the circle of life continues) to come down and I laugh and make them stay upstairs longer than I should until I call them down. But when I do, Christmas begins.
I don’t know if I could recall one gift my Dad ever bought me for Christmas but I can hear his voice as clear as that Salvation Army bell calling for me to come downstairs. I can see the smile on his face that, looking back on it, I’m not sure if it was just because it was Christmas or it had something to do with us convulsing as we waited? Either way, it is that memory that boils to the surface of my mind every year.
I am sometimes overcome with tears when I think of Dad. I call on him for help (usually when I’m halfway under the sink trying to fix a pipe). I turn to his spirit for strength when I don’t have any. I wait for him to come through my door even though my mind knows better. Every other day, I miss my Dad more than I could ever put down in words but every December 25th, those feelings are replaced because I don’t want to miss my Dad on Christmas.
There will be plenty of time to miss him the rest of the year. On Christmas I want to hear his voice, as clear as the Salvation Army bell ringing in my ears, as he calls for me to come down the steps. I want to feel the same exhilaration I felt as a kid. I want to see his smile as my sister and I walk down the steps. I want my Dad to be remembered on Christmas, not missed.
Christmas is all about 1/2 off sales, lights, trees, decorations, and virgin births. It can also be about tradition. About remembering loved ones no longer with us and rejoicing in those memories. Its because of this reason why my tradition continues on. It allows me to not miss my Dad but remember him a little more clearly (at the groaning and convulsing of my impatient children), and because Tuesday morning is going to be here soon and its how I like to start Christmas.