Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Advent 2013


             It was the year we had Christmas in the playroom.  We had just redone the basement and it looked great with the new carpeting and the free-standing fireplace.  I think my mother just wanted to do something different and inaugurate the new space in style.  The trouble, as far as I was concerned, was that we just never did Christmas that way.  No, Christmas was set.  We had the main tree, the one with the musical instrument and angel ornaments, in the livingroom.  Grandma and Granddaddy would arrive early Christmas morning, upset that we kids were all still asleep.  We would eat Mother's cranberry coffeecake, Daddy would go into the livingroom and light a fire, and then we would open the French doors and process in to open presents.  I had thought it radical and different the year we moved the tree from one end of the livingroom to the other.  This change was unacceptable.  It was not tradition.

Determined to be miserable -- I was in my early teens after all -- I found fault with the idea every step of the way.  We went to my grandparents' farm as usual to cut down a cedar tree and found the perfect one -- for the livingroom.  By the time we cut it down to fit in the basement with its much lower ceiling, it looked more like a bush, a caricature of a Christmas tree.  Everything seemed to be against me that year.  Even the weather fought tradition; it was the warmest Christmas I can remember, so we couldn't even light a fire.

So why is it, that of my Christmases growing up, that is the Christmas for which I have the clearest memories?  I can even tell you at least one gift I received.  I was in my Agatha Christie phase and my brother gave me a shoe box, full of Agatha Christie mysteries.  The answer is, of course, I remember it because it was different, and I think there is a lesson in there somewhere.  Looking back, I realize I must have been a real pill that year, determined to be miserable.  I just hope I didn't make everyone else miserable, which I'm sure was my intent at the time.  We should be childlike at Christmas, not childish, and if you can become someone so bent on doing something the same way every year just because that's the way it has "always" been done, maybe it's time to start new traditions.

The year we had Christmas in the playroom is now decades past and I like to think I have matured to the point where tradition isn't more important than the holy day we are celebrating.  I try not to sweat the details as much as I once did and I'm determined to get the most I can out of Christmas, even if I'm celebrating the birth of Christ in a different place, in a different way, or in the face of new traditions -- just as long as I can start Christmas Day with cranberry coffeecake.


- Christopher Hendricks


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