December 9, 2011

Merry Christmas & The Family

Let me say upfront, this post will probably come across a little crankier than intended. I just want to complain discuss how blogs have influenced the holidays, at least the blogs that I read. If you're here (and aren't my husband) you very likely read and love many of the same design/lifestyle blogs that I do. And I do love them, but at Christmas, they make me feel a little stressed and (even more) unworthy and inadequate.

There's just so much emphasis about traditions, and making new ones, and special, meaningful decorations and hand-crafted advent calendars. The artfully hip family portraits, the images of baked goods and white twinkling lights as children tackle the messiest, most difficult crafts with supplies brought forth from well-stocked crafting rooms. The trendy gift guides for young and old, which never mention the big brands my family actually love, like "Nintendo" and "Pokemon" or "Nordstrom," (um, that would be me, on that last one). The holiday blogging scene, taken as a whole, is a bit...much, for me
My own home is pretty much all decorated now, with the exception of the tree, which we'll pick out later this weekend.  But my house is also messier than usual: boxes, bags, receipts, coupons and school fliers are invading almost every counter.  While I've pretty much got the shopping wrapped up, I haven't begun any actual wrapping. I haven't yet baked a single cookie, and there's been no crafting to speak of. My daughter was home sick for a couple of days this week though, and she was happy to sit at the kitchen table with a box of crayons and a Christmas-themed coloring book. Good enough.

Good enough. I do agree with the unspoken premise of the life-style bloggers, which is that Christmas is all about creating new memories and honoring old ones.  It's hard for me not to indulge in my own vivid nostalgia for those hazy days of the early-to-mid '70s, when I was just as wide-eyed and filled with anticipation as my own children. My birthday is exactly a week before Christmas, so the whole season seemed a time of gifts and cake and punch from the glass punchbowl that my mom ringed with candy canes. (To this day, nothing evokes the sensory memory of those holidays faster than the taste of thick red buttercream frosting, but its rare to experience an actual bakery-purchased cake these days.)

But most especially, Christmas meant family.  Surrounded by my close-knit mother's family, and even my dad's parents (divorced, but it was "complicated"), all hanging around at our little house.  We didn't have any other yearly tradition beyond that: just family.  A live tree, yes.  A Christmas "open house" that was often on my birthday weekend, so my parties were all really adult parties: cake and presents for me, then moving on to music, drinks and cigarettes for the adults.  There were no precious decorations brought forth and hung with any particular meaning.  There were just a couple of boxes from The Broadway department store, labeled "Christmas."  Each year, my mom hung not a wreath on the door, but a tree made from green melted plastic, similar to this one  (and it was awesome):
There was also a tabletop Santa made of folded and spray-painted copies of Readers Digests.
Whiskey-spiked eggnog, big green jugs of Gallo red wine, bean dip and Ruffle potato chips and massive glass ashtrays, overflowing with the detritus of conversations and off-color jokes. Johnny Mathis and Ray Coniff on the turntable.  A small girl weaving in and out between the legs of all the grown ups she loved, and who loved her the most.  Those are my own sweet Christmas memories. And it turns out, no matter how much effort or creativity I do or do not bring to the table, Christmas memories are being created in my own family. Year after year, the memories are piling up for my children, and the chance to make more of them, for as many years as possible, surrounded by as much of my family as we can still assemble, is all I really hope for. 

In that spirit, I bring you a song from great Texas songwriter Robert Earl Keen, 
"Merry Christmas From the Family."  While my own family wasn't quite this uh, colorfully rural, it really is a celebration of family togetherness. And I'll take an overflowing sink of plastic cups and a run to the Stop N' Go for more booze over a fancy sit-down meal with a gleaming, creative tablescape any day. 

Last stanza of the song:
"Carve the turkey, turn the ball game on
It's Bloody Marys
Cause We All Want One!
Send somebody to the Stop 'N Go
We need some celery and a can of fake snow
A bag of lemons and some Diet Sprites
A box of tampons, some Salem Lights
Hallelujah, everybody say cheese,
Merry Christmas from the Family."


  1. I have to be honest, it's a bit much for me too. Plus I'm experiencing gift-guide saturation.

  2. Hila, thanks for stopping by. Design blogs just set the bar so high, it's my nature to get a little reactionary and say "ah, screw it all." I really do love so much of the trappings of Christmas.


Thanks for commenting! :)

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