Treasured Traditions of the Season (12/17/14)

Holiday season’s magic shines for all ages

A series of unexpected events led my family to celebrate Thanksgiving untraditionally. Last month, I didn’t cook a turkey or run the annual Dana Point Turkey Trot. Instead, I watched strangers gnaw on turkey legs and logged 13 miles at the busiest … I mean happiest … place on Earth.

Our unconventional holiday, combined with my mildly melancholy mood, has me planning a festive Christmas celebration filled with time-honored traditions from my boys’ childhood, despite their entering adulthood.

Two weekends ago, and in need of seasonal decorations, I wandered through a store’s sparse aisles of holiday lights and décor. Nearby I noticed a dad and son searching for old-fashioned wire hooks used to hang ornaments on trees. When they couldn’t find any the dad asked a passing clerk for assistance who replied, “Sorry dude, this is all we have left.” The dad questioned why inventory was so low the first weekend of December. The clerk shrugged and said, “This stuff’s been up for two months.” Then the crusty curmudgeon suggested the dad use paperclips to hang his tree ornaments.

It’s no secret the holidays are big business and bids for hard-earned bucks begin earlier each year. December ‘tis the season of added expense and additional work; and, this year I have several friends opting to forgo the work and enjoy the expense. One girlfriend convinced her family to skip traditional gift giving and instead booked a cruise. She reasoned the wonder of the season can be found anywhere, especially in a tropical climate, so she and her family will set sail for the holidays.

Coincidentally, after hearing her plans, my college kid called to say his friend won’t be hosting his annual ugly sweater party this year since his family is swapping their sweaters for swimsuits. I suggested something similar saying next December we should trade stuffed stockings and pretty packages for plane tickets and secluded togetherness. My son replied saying something sounding like, “Scrooge that!”

My melancholy mood is attributed to my younger son completing the process of sending out his college applications. Having been through this experience once before, I know how it ends. Next holiday season my younger son won’t help to trim our tree, he’ll spend his December days in a dorm room with collegiate stickers as decorations.

This year in particular, I pine for the days of my tiny tots climbing onto Santa’s lap pleading for Pokémon cards. I miss Christmas mornings spent together constructing Hot Wheel tracks and building LEGO landscapes. This year I’ll watch as my boys rip open electronic gifts they plug-in to disconnect.

I’m trying to stop morbidly marking every ‘last’ of my younger son’s senior year, but this time of year  that’s about as likely to happen as a fat man sliding down my chimney. The thought of next holiday season and the reality of decking the halls of an empty house—not technically if you count my husband and dog—motivates me to pull out all the stops and make this a jolly holiday worth remembering.

Sure, it’s a lot of work to recreate the same holiday hoopla season after season, but it’s one of the few traditions in my boys changing lives that they can count on every year. Just as, each year, I rely on counting down the days until my older son’s homecoming. The December day my son finishes finals he arrives for his short stay and reunites with friends attending far-flung colleges. With both my boys home, for a few fleeting weeks, our house is again filled with spirited celebrations, merry laughter and joyful smiles—making this truly the most wonderful time of the year.

With Christmas one week away the stockings are hung, gifts are wrapped and the tree is trimmed. Only one last childhood tradition remains: seeing my sons’ eyes shine bright Christmas morning. That never gets old even if they do.

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