New Traditions

If you don’t have traditions at Christmas, I ask you, do you really have traditions at all?

We always enjoyed putting up the tree, decorating the house and getting gifts wrapped in preparation for the big day. Now, to be fair, the struggle of shopping beforehand is somewhat of a tradition as well, but let’s not focus on the negative just yet!

This year, instead of stressing over parking spots and jostling through the crowd, on two separate occasions I just left the parking lot and returned home. I wasn’t up for playing bumper cars with overly stressed and aggressive motorists. I like my Jeep too much.

It doesn’t hurt that there aren’t as many gifts to buy as in years past. With some family members opting to go gift-free, it means less need to shop, haul and wrap. This is definitely a change. I will never forget the Christmas about 15 years ago when I sat up until 3 a.m. wrapping presents, only to get up at 6 a.m. to head to work. In.Sane.

There are other changes as well this year. First Born Son, who has been less and less interested in decorating in recent years, wasn’t around for this year’s exercised, which may have been for the best, because honestly, he was getting vocal in his dislike of being asked to hang Baby’s First Christmas decorations. Second Born Son, who always enjoys the trimming of the tree, not to mention the selecting and installation of the tree, was away for the weekend. We couldn’t put it off any longer, otherwise we’d decorating on Christmas Eve.

It was mid tree anchoring when The Big Guy and I realized that THIS is our new tradition. No guilt, no inflection. Just reality. Our kids are getting older and things will change – especially if we have done our jobs right and raised two confident, independent young men. It’s a change.

Another change this year is the addition of a third tree. Yes you read that correctly. Three trees, more than two, less than four. Never saw myself being a “crazy tree lady” but hey, it takes care of the decorating in the kitchen. It’s the only artificial one since it’s adjacent to the fireplace and if it was real I’d have to a) run a hose directly from the sink to make sure it stayed hydrated or b) be prepared to have chestnuts roasting on an open fire.

The other two trees are real. When we were picking out these trees at the local tree farm, I was chatting with one of the employees about our shared experience of man-children who may or may not have outgrown their youthful Christmas traditions.

She asked why we were getting two trees. I explained that I have one in the living room with the more formal, cohesive decorations and one in the basement where we break out the amazing ornaments from the boys’ childhood. Adorable baby baubles, John Deere tractors, Pirates of the Caribbean, hockey skates and handmade treasures from art classes all find their home on this tree. It’s in the rec room where we will play pool, throw darts and listen to music. I never want to forget these decorations. I want them out every year. The lady was impressed with our tradition and insisted she was going to do the same thing with her 20-something kids and their ornaments.

Not all traditions are good ones. For years the real trees we erected had a familiar pattern of behaviour. We’d put them up, decorate them and within an hour or two, they’d be on the floor – ornaments smashed and branches twisted. Eventually we smartened up and used a counter weight to ensure the tree wouldn’t land in the middle of the living room.

I also used to do a great deal of baking. Hours of butter, flour and chocolate. The evolution of our family has resulted in some dietary restrictions. No nuts and no dairy. That takes out a BIG chunk of Christmas baking!

One thing that hasn’t changed is my thoughts of my Dad during Christmas. He loved this holiday and went all out with decorating. Ironically, as The Big Guy strung the lights on the upstairs tree, he noticed a number of the bulbs were out. He smiled and said to me, “When you are talking to your Dad, can you ask him to take care of these lights?”

The moment brought a smile to my face. Dad has been gone for more than five years now. Invoking his name while we decorated was perfect. Dad would spend hours in his chair going through strings of lights, finding the burnt out bulbs and bringing back strings that had been destined for the landfill. We could have used him last weekend.

A couple of years ago was another change in tradition. My sister and I took over the tradition of hosting Christmas dinner. Our Mother had cooked for the better part of 45 years and we felt it was time to give her a break. At first it was a change for her, but now she’s glad to bring something to our homes, without the stress of planning and cooking for hours.

Moving forward we have decided to start a new tradition – to include the girlfriends of our sons. While we don’t expect them to join us on Christmas Day or Boxing Day when they have their own family commitments, we plan to have an afternoon filled with food, fun and festive movies. We will have memories thanks to the evolution of our family and our willingness to adapt.

It won’t be the same, but it will be awesome.

Merry Christmas to you and may you embrace your new traditions.

Ch Ch Ch Changes

Overnight a day changes. A month changes. A year changes.

I’ve encountered two kinds of people – those who reject change or find it difficult, and those who embrace it. For some, even changing a new hairstyle is too much. For others, they thrive on the difference that change brings to their lives. There is some easy change, like a new purse, and then there’s more difficult change, like losing a job.

This past year has brought some of the more challenging types of change. I do enjoy change, and like to have goals I’m working toward because I like the feeling of moving forward, progress, evolution. I haven’t liked all the changes this past year has brought. I lost sight of the evolution that happens to all of us and it’s not always timed the way we want it to be. Some people leave our lives and we struggle to see things the same way without them. Some people come into our lives and because they are new, it can be difficult to fit them into our world. Status quo is comfortable. It doesn’t challenge us. We are lulled by our comfort.

Christmas is a time that brings changes to the fore. Changes that don’t matter in July are overwhelming in December. We need our traditions to give us a sense of continuity over time, starting when we are children. Change at this time can be especially difficult. It’s been remarkable how many times change has come up during this recent holiday season. Anything different is painful and hard to accept. If we don’t ¬†have Grandma’s china on the table, is it still Christmas? If we don’t gather on the 25th of December, can we still celebrate?

Change, even the hard change, is good. You can’t flip through any family photo album and not see the changes. Children grow, new family members join the photos, older members leave seats around the table, which are then filled with new children. Do we not want things to change? No, we want the good stuff, but it’s the uncomfortable change that we’d rather do without. Unfortunately, we don’t get to pick our change a la carte. It’s ordered for us, delivered to our door and there is no returning it to the kitchen.

So what’s the answer to adapting to the shitty change? Flexibility and perspective. I look back at my own life and can see the times that the times that I was part of change may have been difficult to people around me. Some of them were gracious and accepting. Some of there were not. Some of them were downright cruel. I am not going to be one of those people.

I am going to look at all change as a challenge in flexibility; witnessing my family and friends evolve and grow. Someone new coming for dinner? BRING IT! Changing a tradition we’ve had for 40 years? Guess it’s time for something new.

I’m looking at 2018 as a year of growth and success. The past several years have had their fair share of challenges. Last year felt like pushing Jell-O over sandpaper. It’s time for change, either brought to me or created by me.

I’m looking forward to that change, very much. ¬†Happy New Year to all of you!

Without Tradition, We Have Nothing

Anyone who has read The Bowery Girl for any length of time knows that we really like Christmas and take our decorating rather seriously.

When it comes to Christmas trees, we like them big, and we like them to be real.

And we aren’t above risking life and limb to get the “perfect” tree!

It has involved going out into the wild yonder with a saw in hand. Then there was the task of getting it into the house.

But this year’s tree was truly unique. As Little Sister now lives at my parents’ former home, we didn’t think it would be cool to hike back and steal a tree. We’ll let them get their boxes unpacked before we start helping ourselves. You know, manners.

So we went to the neighbours of my parents’/my sister and brother in law, who, ironically, own and operate and Christmas tree farm. I’ll let you think about that. Yes, we have been slogging trees out of various bush areas for the past several years when we could have simply selected a pre-cut tree while sipping hot chocolate and cider under twinkle lights while being serenaded by festive music.

Yup. That’s how we do things around here. The hard way.

Which takes us back around to this year’s tree. Once again, we needed the “perfect” tree. Something that had the ability to inspire the Christmas Spirit even in the most jaded of Grinch-like hearts. It needed to be the one thing that people remembered about The Bowery Girl Christmas, because, once again, we were hosting at least one side of the family.

Yes, we were asking A LOT of one tree.

So when I came upon a stunning blue spruce, full and lush and standing well over 7 ft tall, I   knew I was in love. The Big Guy questioned whether or not it was too tall. I think he forgot about this tree…

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To be clear, that tree is above the eavestrough.

First Bon Son was not nearly as convinced.

“I don’t like it,” he declared, no particular reason given.

Second Born Son was more accommodating. He gave it his blessing.

To appease everyone, we purchased a smaller, Charlie Brown-like tree in a pot that we can plant in the spring. The boys agreed they would put one single decoration on the tree, although I did lend them a star and some garland so it didn’t look so naked.

After the appropriate pruning and trunk trimming, the blue spruce was in the corner of the living room awaiting embellishment. I was particularly excited because TBG agreed to a new colour scheme for our Christmas decor. Instead of the red, green and gold we had used for the past 22 Christmases, this year we would go gold, silver, white and rustic – burlap bows and pine cones.

FBS left before the decorating began, declaring that he had contributed enough to the family tradition. It was his silent protest since he still didn’t approve of a perfectly beautiful blue spruce.

This left SBS and TBG to help put the new decorations on the tree. I strung the new ornaments and the two of them placed them on the tree. When it was done, it was stunning.

Breathtaking, wouldn’t you agree? The colour and textures were spot-on. We wrapped up the Sunday evening in our jammies, admiring the afternoon of work we had put in. I take a photo and text it to FBS, who is back at college. He begrudgingly admits it looks good.

TBG decided he was ready for the nest around 10:30 p.m. and, as every good owner of a real Christmas tree knows, he unplugged the lights. While he was under the tree, the festive masterpiece went from a 90 degree angle to a 45 degree angle, only saved from further horizontalness by the black leather love seat that broke it’s fall. This sudden stop, however, launched the brand new glittered star from the back corner of the living room, clear across to the opposite end of the space. The TV dogged a bullet…as it were. A third of the ornaments were on the floor. Of those, half were broken. We could tell because the shards were floating across the hardwood laminate floor in the water that had been in the stone filled bucket we were using to anchor the tree.

TBG swore, jumped up, grabbed the tree and yanked it upright. It fell over. He swore again. More broken ornaments. More ornaments the floor. 98% of the water is now creating a tsunami across the living room. TBG said all the words. ALL of them.

SBS launched from the couch and grabbed dry towel in our house. Unfortunately, due to an old war wound, my back prevented me from doing anything other than holding the tree, which seemed to be incapable of staying vertical.

Upon inspection, it became clear that the tree was rather off balance. Almost all of the ornaments are on the front side of the tree. When TBG unplugged the lights, he disengaged the only thing keeping that thing upright.

SBS is moping the floor like he’s getting paid. I’m trying to evaluate how many ornaments have been lost, how many I can salvage and how many are still on the tree, when TBG turns to me and asks to hold the tree. I oblige. HE SHAKES THE TREE. FOUR MORE ORNAMENTS FALL ON THE FLOOR AND SHATTER.

I look at him in disbelief.

“Are you FREAKING kidding me?!?!”

Without missing a beat he replies, “I wanted to see if the trunk shifted in the bucket.”

I shoot him the death stare.

It took another half an hour to get everything picked up, the floor mopped up and the dehumidifier strategically placed in the middle of the room. Ever my son, SBS made the perfect observation.

“You know, it could be worse,” he said, “this could have happened at 3 in the morning and we might not have heard and woke up to the tree on the floor and the floor would have been ruined.”

So proud. He was absolutely right. Except his father begged to differ. He was heading back to the shower in an attempt to de-adhese himself of all the sap on every square inch of him. TBG is in the pit of despair. It’s like someone gave him a lump of coal after telling him that  there was no Santa Claus. And that he’s allergic to chocolate. And there’s no gravy for Christmas dinner. It was THAT BAD.

Which I understand, because the tree is a sad shadow of it’s former self.

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You thought I was exaggerating, didn’t you. I sent this photo to FBS. He texts back, “I told you there was something wrong with that tree.” He’s lucky he’s an hour away.

Back on the home front, we have glitter in the floor, in the loveseat, in parts of our bodies that we didn’t realize were exposed to glitter. I’m fairly certain I’ve eaten more than a peck of glitter.

TBG’s foul mood continued once he was re-bathed and tucked into bed. He relived the moment over and over again. Ranted about how upsetting the incident was. How his ENTIRE CHRISTMAS WAS RUINED!

<PAUSE> Not kidding. He said that. You should note, he’s weeks away from his 50th birthday. Not 5. Forty nine. <PLAY>

Throughout this so-called Christmas Catastrophe, I’ve been the voice of calm. THIS is when I finally lose it.

“SHUT UP! I’m the one who picked and bought the ornaments. I’m the one who will have to replace the old ones. I never yelled or blamed you for making it front heavy. SBS is absolutely right; we could have found it in the morning and the floor would have been ruined!”

“Well,” he said, “we won’t know about the floor until the morning.”

I take a fist and drive it into his stomach.

I then remind him about the real trees we had before having kids when we were at our previous home. It always fell over. There was the decorating of the tree, and the redecorating of the tree after TBG picks it up off of me. The answer was to anchor the tree in the corner to the hinge of the front door we never used. We simply had to find another solution for this house.

Three days later, when TBG had finally cooled down enough to discuss the “tree situation”, and I had purchased the replacement ornaments, and it was certain that the floor wasn’t ruined – just really clean; we tried decorating 2.0. And counter balanced with a tractor weight wrapped like a gift.

Some families have traditions of eating certain foods at Christmas. Some have specific songs they always play. We have a collapsing Christmas Tree.

Hope your Holidays were magical, and dry…..