In my little family, we have never had a tradition of putting up the Christmas tree at any particular time. You know, like those With It people (of whom I am not one) who say, "Oh, we always put our tree up at Thanksgiving! It's a family tradition!" -or- "We always put our tree up the first Saturday in December!" (La la la la la! Whoop-de-doo!) Nope. We're basically a put-it-up-whenever-we-have-time kinda family. We're busy. Life is hard. And, quite frankly, I'm tired.
This year, we managed to get the Christmas tree up the first weekend after Thanksgiving, but that, in itself was a frustrating and simultaneously heartwarming experience.
Wait! How can something be both frustrating and heartwarming?
(sigh) I promise I'll get there.
Anyway... We had this adorable little 4' tall artificial tree. We've had it for years. Every year we'd put it up, decorate it, enjoy its sweet glow, and after all the magic faded, the little tree got stuffed back into its storage bag and returned to its 11-months-out-of-the-year home in the attic.
This year, we attempted to put up said little tree only to find it was beyond saving. Girl child and I spent far too long cleaning up fake pine needles which were in a race to the death for jumping off the tree. The needles were coming off, the branches were breaking and warped, the lights didn't work... The kids and I spent 40 minutes or more trying to resurrect it for one more season, but alas, it was not to be. Finally, I'd had enough. I threw up my hands and said, "That's it! I've had enough! Let's go get a new tree!" Said announcement was met with cheers of joy from my kiddos.
We gave the old tree a modest farewell, got into the car, and headed to our local Home Depot.
There was a lot of oooooh-ing and aaaaaah-ing from the children as we perused the selection of trees and all the while the small humans in my charge were trying to convince me we needed the 7' tree. No, really. We NEED the 7' tree.
Against all my protestations, we got the 7' tree.
And it's perfect.
Once we got the tree home and set up, the kids went to town and I had zero to do with the decorations. The kids worked hard, worked together, and hardly a snippy word between them. It was its own kind of magic.
Boy child said, emphatically, he would remember this moment forever. Which brings me to my second reason for this blog post.
I realized last night that we have very few family traditions. No stuff we do every single year just the four of us. Yes, we go to visit family for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Yes, we have a bucket of chicken on Christmas Eve (though I'm not thrilled with it, it sure is simple). Yes, Boy child always gets his own little shaker of parmesan cheese in his stocking. But are those really traditions? I'm thinking not.
Now is the time for hubby and me to begin making those traditions. I want the kiddos to have more memories of the holidays with us than just fried chicken in a bucket and parmesan cheese in a stocking.
I guess I need to begin baking in earnest?
Which brings me to my last reason for this post.
I tend to say - which may be somewhat misleading - that I don't have too many truly happy memories of my childhood. While on the one hand this statement is absolutely true, on the other hand, it is not. I've come to realize some of my happiest memories are kind of mind-boggling to me. I cannot believe these memories, among all the memories I have, are the ones which stand out. But they do.
My father used to have a workshop in our basement. I remember the smell of the wood and metal shavings, the oil, the acrid, ozone scent left behind after soldering or spot-welding. I remember, on more than one occasion, my father handing me a piece of copper piping, the pipe cutter, some flux, the flint spark lighter, the blow torch, and some solder and telling me to, "Make something." I remember how the loud and sudden, "POP!" of the blow-torch flame taking hold startled me every time. (Side note: to this day, the sudden "POP!" of the Pillsbury crescent roll or biscuit can reminds me of the sound of the blow torch coming to life and I'm still startled by it.) I remember the heavy, cast iron vice attached to the thick work-surface of the bench would crimp the copper piping if I put too much pressure on it. Though sometimes I crimped the ends of the pipe on purpose because then I could use the spot-welder. I loved the spot-welder. That was probably my favorite. It was so satisfying to suddenly have two completely separate things inexorably joined.
I remember how all the tools felt in my hand. The feel of the wood. The feel of the wood plane, the vintage hand drill, the old metal file. The cool stickiness of the wood glue if I got it on my fingers.
My father taught me well. I have no memories of burns or any other serious injuries. A few splinters here and there - sure - but nothing serious. I was good with my hands. I still am.
I wish he were closer so I could still play with his tools occasionally.
OK - I guess all that isn't tradition, but it is a vivid, and very real memory. So strong as to elicit an emotional response from me in the form of tears. Not for the memory so much as for lost time. I'll always remember my father's workshop. I want my kids to have memories like this, too.