Wasted Words 12: Holiday Edition

In tribute to the holiday season, I’m straying from the normal musical topics of my columns.

So the Holidays are upon us. Thanksgiving has passed. We’re onto Christmas and soon after we’ll be ringing in the new year. Minus the cold weather and snow, I’ve always loved this time of year. Spending time with the family. Going to holiday dinners and seeing grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins that you don’t get to see often. That’s what has always made the holiday season so great for me. I won’t lie, the Christmas gifts are a nice addition, but they’re not what makes this time so special. Family, it’s what it’s all about. I remember as a kid, we would drive around town looking at all the Christmas lights. My parents would play that awful Christmas music. I hated it! The music, I mean. The lights were great. There was one Christmas song that I liked, which was Grandma Got Ran Over By a Reindeer. Every time I heard it on the radio, I’d call her up on the telephone and tell her it was on so that she could listen to it. She got such a kick out of that, as did I. Setting up the Christmas tree together was always fun too. Untangling all of the lights that had been packed away for the past year. Placing the ornaments on the branches, with each one seeming to bring back a memory or two. Remember those shiny “ice cycles” that you put all over the tree? Those were fun, but made one hell of a mess. Oh, and can’t forget putting the lights on the tree and turning them on, only to find out that a bulb was out and they wouldn’t work. Talk about frustrating! But when you’re a kid, you didn’t have to worry much about that. Let the parents handle it, right?

Going to see Santa was always fun. Here you are, sitting on some strange mans lap, telling him about all the toys you want. What does he do when you’re done? Gives you a candy cane, of course. Sounds like an evening with Michael Jackson, I know. But it’s a lot more innocent than it sounds.

We can’t forget about the anticipation of the big day either. You know, when Santa Clause drops by, slides down your chimney, and leaves you a big pile of toys. It seemed like the closer it actually got to Christmas Day, the further away it seemed. The presents already wrapped under the tree didn’t make the wait much easier. On Christmas Eve, my brother and I would beg my parents to allow us to open one gift before going to bed. Sometimes it worked, most the time it didn’t. I guess we thought it would help us sleep better if we could open just one gift. Yeah, right. As far as I can remember, I probably averaged about three to four hours of sleep on Christmas Eve. I’d lay there and try to go to sleep, but it wouldn’t happen. Late in the evening (or early in the morning, however you look at it), I would get out of bed to see if the big guy had been there yet. If he hadn’t, I’d stroll back to bed and try to catch some sleep. See, me and my brother had an agreement as far as getting up to get our gifts from Santa. If he got up and the presents were out, he’d wake me up. If I found the presents and he was sleeping, I would wake him up. Teamwork my friends, teamwork. Upon getting up, we’d check out each others swag, whether it was the latest Ninja Turtle action figure, or the latest Nintendo game.

Christmas Day usually went something like this for me and my family…my brothers and I would get out of bed around 5:00 am, play with our toys that Santa had left for us for a few hours, then wake our parents up to show them what had been left for us. Little did we know there was a big secret about those gifts that Santa left, but we’ll discuss that later. My mom would then cook breakfast and we would all eat. After breakfast, we’d all open a new clothing outfit so that we could wear them to my grandparents house for Christmas dinner. My dad didn’t like opening all of our gifts that morning. Instead, he opted to save them until after dinner at the grandparents. He claimed it was to make Christmas last longer for us all. We didn’t care much for doing it that way, but that’s how he wanted it. After opening our new clothes, we’d all get cleaned up and head to my grandparents. We would spend the day there, eating dinner, spending time with the rest of the family and opening gifts. We would also sing those dreaded Christmas songs that I hat…err, loved so much. Well, I pretended to like them anyway, for grandmas sake. She always enjoyed singing them together. I don’t know how many of us kids actually enjoyed singing those songs, but we all went along with it. After leaving my Grandparents house, we would head home and open up the rest of our gifts that were waiting for us.

Looking back at holidays of the past, a lot of things have changed. The secret of Santa Clause is out of the bag. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and GI Joe’s have turned into compact discs and clothes. The day full of aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents has turned into my mother, my two brothers, my daughter, and myself. Things seem so different at Christmas time these days. Several years ago, around this same time of year, my grandmother passed away. Remember those Christmas songs I hated singing on Christmas Day? I’d give about anything to be singing those same songs alongside my grandmother right now. No longer do we pile up in the car and go to grandmas house anymore. After my grandmother passed away, it seems that no one sees any reason to get together for the holidays. It’s sad really. This past March, my father passed away after just turning forty-nine years old. This is the first Christmas we will spend without him here. As much as I hated waiting all day long to open the rest of our gifts, I wish he was here right now to tell us to wait. I’d put off opening all of my gifts for an eternity if he could be here right now. I’d give anything to go back to how things used to be. Believing in the magic of Santa Clause. Going to grandmas house and spending time with the rest of the family. Having to wake my dad up from his Christmas morning nap so that we could open up that one clothing outfit. Oh, how I miss it all.

I’m twenty-four years old now, and I’ve started my own family. All of the things I enjoyed as a child, I now get to pass on to my daughter, Ashley. We put our Christmas tree up as a family, just as we did when I was a kid. She loves the Christmas lights, so we drive around searching for the houses with the most lights. She sits in her car seat and yells “pretty” as we drive by each house. Of course, I’m still not too fond of Christmas songs, so you won’t find any in my CD changer any time soon. She knows who Santa Clause is now, and she’ll wake up on Christmas morning to find the toys that he leaves for her. She sat on Santa’s lap at the mall the other day, and did so without screaming her head off as she did last year. Of all the things I will teach her about Christmas, one thing stands above all else. The importance of family. Not just at the holidays, however, but all year long. Most people, myself included, tend to take for granted the people who love them most. Most of us assume they’ll always be there, until one day we wake up and they’re not. An old Cinderella song comes to mind. I know what you’re saying…What does cheesy hair-metal have to do with family and Christmas time? Nothing really, other than as the song says, you don’t know what you’ve got, ’til it’s gone. So this holiday season, hug your loved ones a little tighter. Tell them you love them a few extra times. Call that friend or family member you haven’t talked to in a while and let them know how much they mean to you. Take care, and Happy Holidays.

Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m out.