Monday, December 29, 2008

A Tale of Two Christmases

I thought that last year was the end of the old traditions and this was the beginning of new ones. We have always gone to my parents' house in Dallas to spend Christmas (or a date near enough that fit everyone's schedules) with most or all of my family. This year, though, we decided to stay home for Christmas for the first time so that Thumper could have his joyful morning discovery of what happens when Santa Claus breaks and enters one's home. Mom said she was ready and willing to let go of hosting Christmas and would be happy to travel wherever else she might be invited, so we decided to host a Christmas this year. Big Brother, Social Worker Sister-in-Law, Freckles, and Robert McGee were going to be in Dallas anyway to visit SWSIL's family, and one of Aerie's sisters has a sick baby and wasn't visiting, and Biggest Brother and his family weren't able to make the trek to Austin, though. But Gummas, Gumpa, Mungo, and two of the three New England Aunties would be able to make it.

We had Gummas and Gumpa over Christmas Eve. We had dinner and let the baby entertain us. Then Christmas Day came. Thumper arises like clockwork at 7:00 a.m. every morning, so we invited everyone in both my family and Aerie's to come any time after 8:00 a.m. We kept that first hour to ourselves so we could have our own little family moment watching him emerge from his room. It was sort of anticlimactic, though. He came out, demanded "moke!" (milk) and "bye-tuh-nin!" (vitamin. We've experimented. Given the choice between vitamins (generic chewable Flintstones) and chocolate, he takes the vitamin. And then the chocolate), and didn't even glance in a tree-ward direction. With a little prompting, he noticed the giant pile of stuff, but he was in no hurry to open it all. Gummas and Gumpa came over, and we let the baby entertain us. We munched. We munched some more. Mungo and a couple of Aunties came over, and we let the baby entertain us. Then we munched some more. By bed time Christmas evening, he still had 4 unopened presents that we "helped" him open.

We tried to keep the munchies more or less healthy; at least, we eliminated most of the sugar and the fat. I didn't make my mother's secret family recipe for fudge that has been passed from generation to generation. Or cookies or candy or cakes of any kind. We did buy a grocery store pumpkin pie and some Cool Whip, for old time's sake, though. And we did have a delicious loaf of some sort of pound cake that one of Aerie's co-workers gave her. But we also had spicy roasted artichokes and sauteed spinach and mushrooms and a giant tub of the traditional Christmas tabbouleh. But healthy or not, the munching, munching, and more munching starts to add up.

And then on Saturday, because Biggest Brother, who's had more than a little turmoil in his family over the past year, wasn't quite ready to give up on the old traditions, we drove to Dallas to spend a second Christmas at Gummas and Gumpa's house. We sat around and munched and chatted and waited until Freckles couldn't stand it anymore and made us open presents. Then we went to the Chinese restaurant that we first went to back on Christmas of 1897 because Mom wasn't cooking, and there weren't a lot of choices in open restaurants on Christmas Day. And thus, a tradition was born, and thus was it honored again on Saturday. And we ate, and we ate, and we ate some more. And still there were leftovers for Skinny Fashion Model Niece to take home. So, much eating. But I'm not feeling too guilty. I've gained a few pounds this week, but I'm still on track. I worked out this morning. It's not the End of the Diet if I eat like a pig over the holiday.

And once again I learned the lesson that never seems to stick with me: the anticipation is never congruent with the actuality. I dreaded driving 3 1/2 hours twice in two days with the boy, who has demonstrated a decided disinclination to sleep in the car recently. In actuality, he fussed for a combined total of about 10 minutes, and otherwise slept or played or sang or laughed or chatted the entire way both directions. I also dreaded a night in a motel with him, as the last time we did this (oh, about, hmm, one year ago) he kept me awake all night with his thumping and tossing and turning and various other nocturnal noises. I also dreaded trying to get him to sleep in his Pack 'n' Play, in which he has demonstrated a decided disinclination to sleep recently. In actuality, he fell asleep in the short car ride from Gummas and Gumpa's house to the motel, awoke as soon as I unbuckled him, and then spent the next hour exploring, with no sign of the exhaustion he should have been feeling, every inch of the joint. Then we pinned him down, turned out the lights, and forced him to sleep. And sleep he did, almost completely silently, until 7:15 a.m. the next morning. So again, not as bad as I was anticipating.

In fact, I couldn't have asked for a better toddler through the entire holiday season. He was a joy. And it always does me good to enjoy him through other people's eyes now and then and remember how remarkable he is. He skipped his usual afternoon nap on both Christmases and never melted down. He sat through nearly two hours in a hard wooden high chair at the Chinese restaurant and was just a little bit restless and now and then forgot to use his indoor voice. He was a joy. And even my fifteen-year-old nephew remarked, "He's really smart. I didn't know one-year-olds were that smart." In fact, he's so smart, he even knows to wear safety goggles when using power tools.

1 comment:

Jennie said...

HA! What a cute picture! (Obviously, I react to cute babies like a fourteen-year-old girl.)

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