Friday, December 24, 2010

My Christmas Wish

I spent this afternoon writing...something that makes me VERY happy! Merry Christmas!

My extended family has always been close (remember, we’re the bestest family EVER, as I told you in Web of Family). These days, we keep in touch via or Facebook, with streaming video and digital pictures…but in the ‘old days’, we sent newsletters to family members each month. It was a monumental task to gather the letters written by each family member, copy them many times, and then bind them together. We would stuff envelopes and send them from Washington to Florida and even overseas in some cases.

We also included a feature story each month. We spotlighted the experiences of returned missionaries throughout the years, told the birth stories of each family member, recanted the “how we met” stories of each couple, and talked about the multiple sets of twins that we have in the family. It was a labor of love for my mother and I to work on together.

My indulgence was to write a Christmas story each year. There’s something so magical about the season, when miracles can happen and anything is possible. One year, I wrote of forgiveness, another, belief. My favorites were the stories in which I tried to mention each family member by name.

My first attempt was about a small girl at her Grandma’s, admiring the Christmas ornaments. Each one represented a member of the family, and was tied to some trait or story that Grandma could share about them.

I wrote a story about the family performing a play about the birth of Christ. Each member had a part in the production, from costume and set design, to music, to acting, to hosting the event. This was particularly sweet to write, as I studied the stories of His birth in the Gospels to be sure that I was writing it correctly.

Another year, I wrote “I’ll be home for Christmas”, and talked of how we would be returning to the family homestead to celebrate with the entire extended family. The things that we would do, the places that we would go…and ended with “yes, I’ll be home for Christmas…if only in my dreams.” (My grandmother began reading the story and went into a panic, thinking that I was really coming and she hadn’t cleaned the house properly!)

It’s been many years since I had the time…TOOK the time…to write one of these stories. They rattle in my brain, but always get shoved aside by the bill paying, clothes washing, and other day to day concerns that really waste the creative time that we have!

The story most wanting to get out at this time is my ideal Christmas.

Much as my “I’ll be home for Christmas” story, it involves the ENTIRE family! (I’d throw in the friends and family members from the other side of the family, but for the sake of tradition to our newsletter, I include only Mom’s side of the family)

The family that began with just two people who fell in love has now blossomed into 109 individuals. 7 of these have left this earthly sphere, but live on in our hearts. It is no longer possible to cram the entourage into the family homestead. There would barely be room to move.

Instead, I picture us traveling to a reasonably remote lodge in Colorado, where snow abounds. I suppose that it would be nice to stay someplace in Utah, so that we can visit Temple Square and the Christmas lights, but there’s something about driving far out into the mountains that’s just so romantic! (None of the men in my house understand the concept of romance as it pertains to anything but kissing)

I’m talking a rustic lodge, with rough hewn timbers and your most basic décor. Boughs of greenery are lashed to the railings with raffia and red grosgrain ribbon. A massive wreath adorns the oversize fireplace, roaring with a crackling fire. Poinsettias are dotted throughout the lobby, festooned with shiny green paper wraps. Christmas music plays softly in the background, harps and piano.

The front desk clerk wears a bulky cableknit sweater in winter white with snow boots and comfortable jeans. Her smile lights up the room as she greets us, registrations completed and room keys ready. Larger families will be staying in cabins across the snow covered courtyard, while rooms inside the lodge will accommodate couples and small families.

The berber carpet along the hallway bears representations of pines and sisal twine, entertwined along the edges. Each door boasts it’s own wreath, wrapped around the name of the suite that serves as a room number. Eagle’s Nest, Winterhaven, and Snowy Peak are first along the hallway.
The rooms are spacious, with wide windows opening to the vista of snow covered mountains in the distance. A soft window seat allows occupants to simply gaze at winter’s elegance, enjoying a cup of hot chocolate made at the small bar. Beds are canopy, with logs burnished to glossy smoothness as headboard and poles. Natural woven fabrics drape from end to end, and a fluffy down comforter covers the thick mattresses.

In the bath, a claw footed tub with shower sits atop heated tiles of granite. Fluffy towels await on a stand nearby. Warming yourself after a bath is easy, with a fireplace both in the main room and a smaller version in the bathroom.

There is plenty to do at the lodge, whether you want to stay indoors or enjoy the cold outside. Sledding, skating, and skiing are all available nearby, while a wide yard affords the youngsters a place to recreate Frosty the snowman.

Inside, there are video games for the teens and large screens that play the classics and recent favorites for all. On the playlist are my favorites: Christmas Vacation, Scrooged, the Home Alone series, and for my mom…A Miracle on 34th Street. Snacks are available at any time, and the lodge encourages guests to utilize their large sized kitchen for baking holiday treats. Everyone has prepared their specialties, and the lobby is filled with candies, cakes, cookies, and the like.

On Christmas Eve, we would gather around the fireplace to read the Christmas story and sing carols, everyone dressed in their brand new pajamas, opened just before the gathering. Sleepy children would be carried to bed, dreaming of sugar plums and toys.

Christmas morning would be chaos, with wrapping paper and bows scattered everywhere. Squeals of delight and laughter ring across the tall ceilings. Breakfast awaits in the dining room, where tables as long as the room are laden with steaming plates of food.

Ah, such a lovely dream. But as an adult, I know the logistics would be nearly impossible. To gather 105 people (to include fiancé’s) from 10 states in one location? Getting vacation time from 43 jobs, and traveling a collective 27,965 miles? We would need 28 vehicles, including 9 rental cars. We would have purchased 36 airline tickets. We would be carrying approximately 150 pieces of luggage, not including the 35 laptop computers that would come along.

The oversized tree in the lobby would be dwarfed by the 652 gifts placed under it, and stockings would need to be hung from the mantle in each individual room. It would take nearly 18 dozen eggs to make breakfast, and another 12 dozen to create 210 pieces of French toast. It would take 89 lbs of turkey to feed us dinner. That’s 8 turkeys of a decent size!

But adult worries aside, wouldn’t it be wonderful? Someday. But for today, I’ll dream!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Hoppity!

With the holiday only hours away, I'm finding myself waxing nostalgic for days gone by...stories told, adventures experienced, dreams unrealized. I'm wishing that I had been more prepared for the holidays, and able to relax and enjoy them. Document them.

But alas. I'm not even done shopping, and the handmade gifts that I had hoped for may end up being valentines.

For now, I'll settle for sharing a holiday memory with you.

A few years back, my mom, two friends and I decided to go to a grand bazaar in our area. It is Victorian themed, with carolers, folks dressed in Victorian attire, shows, and buildings full of booths, offering wares of every type imaginable. Many were handmade, and not only provided excellent gifts, but inspiration. It was always a day to bask in the glow of the holiday.

We began the day by hitting some major retailers along the way. Two of us had tween aged children, and rarely had time to shop. We would rush into Wal-Mart or Target, list in hand, and fill a cart in no time. We would fill the trunk, then rush off to indulge in a day of perusing the aisles of trinkets at the fairgrounds.

The two ladies were already at the car as Mom and I left Target. I could barely push my laden cart. I had filled my childrens' wish lists and found a few goodies for myself, too. I was quite pleased and jubilant to be so organized.

And then I spied the bell ringer.

"Oh, no," I lamented. "My purse is buried under all of my stuff. How will I dig out change to add to the bucket?"

"It won't matter. I have given all month to every bucket that I've passed. I've given to local food banks, and bought gifts for the angel tree. I don't need to give this time."

"But HE doesn't know that. He's going to see my cart loaded with Christmas and think that I'm a selfish snob!"

"No, I can't dig out my purse. I'll just push past him in a hurry and he won't notice."

"But he's a man 'of color'. He'll think that I'm discriminating against him! He'll think that I'm being racist!"

"It's okay. I'll flash him my warmest smile and wish him a hearty Merry Christmas, and he'll know that I'm a good person and that I've given elsewhere, that I respect him as a person and am not just ignoring him."

I put on my best smile and gazed into his deep brown eyes.

"Oh, no! What if he is offended by Merry Christmas! Maybe I should say Happy Holidays like they tell us to at work! Be politically correct!"

By this time, I'm staring at him and need to speak soon before he thinks that I'm a stalker or something.

"But he's wearing a Santa hat. He MUST be Christian, and I can say Merry Christmas. SPEAK, Jaycie, speak! Just say something!"

What came out was: "Merry Hoppity!", a rather awkward and mangled version of Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays thrown together.

But I said it with conviction, and it was too late to try to recover at this point. I held my head high and pushed my cart swiftly past him as if this was my standard greeting. I was barely holding it together when Mom caught up with me about 15 feet later.

"What did you just say to him???" She asked incredulously.

I began giggling so hard that I could hardly push my cart. Tears streamed out of my eyes as I tried to explain without attracting more undue attention. I was afraid to look back.

By the time that we reached the car, neither of us could speak, and we barely caught our breath between attempts to explain our condition to our friends.

It's a story that we love to tell for many reasons, the first being that the mind is a scary place to venture into alone. One should not overanalyze the Salvation Army buckets out front. One should not contemplate the thoughts that occur as we bicker with ourselves in our own minds. And we should never speak until we are sure that we are going to do so in our native tongue. Or at least a reasonable facsimile of. It is also a festive memory of friends, laughter, and the spirit of the season, and nearly always ends with a good belly laugh. No matter how many times I tell it.

Merry Hoppity to all!