Continuing with the co-authored holiday posts, Jessica and Meg tell us about what the holidays mean to them.
J: To me, holidays mean traditions. Every song makes you think of some Christmas years before. Even the smallest moment can bring back memories of shopping with your parents or driving to your grandparents’ house or sitting under the tree to stare at the twinkling lights.
M: Meanwhile to me, holidays mean change. The holidays come at that time of year where I really notice the milestones, like when my brother had facial hair for the first time (because my Dad kept asking him to shave the ass-hair off of his face), or that year we all finally admitted we didn’t believe in Santa Claus even though we still put out cookies and milk (JK, Santa is totes real, relax guys). At the end of the year, while I look forward to the year to come, I can’t help but look back and see how my family has grown.
J: I’m with you, M– Santa IS totes real. In fact, he plays right into my favorite traditions, which all revolve around the evening of Christmas Eve. I’ve gotten a tree ornament that night every year since I can remember, with the purpose of building my own collection by the time I moved out. Some haven’t made their way out of my parents’ house yet, but I’m sure they will. After we celebrate our new tree bling, it’s time for the Christmas pajamas, a more recent tradition. Mine will likely be adorned with stars, because I like my jammie pants to sparkle. Or I like stars a lot.
M: I’m partial to penguins on my jammie-jams, but I feel you on the sparkle-front. My Christmas Eve traditions were a little more hectic. I grew up in Minnesota, and my Dad and I would brave the crowds at the Mall of America every Christmas Eve to take care of the last minute shopping. No, I don’t want to talk about it. I can still hear the screaming…
J: I hear you, friend, even over the sound of this girl’s Mall of America jealousy. Richmond, Virginia loves some malls, but not THE mall. Sigh… After changing into said new jammies, regardless of the time (before dinner? Not a problem), I plant myself in the living room, either assisting in last-minute wrapping from my own stress-inducing shopping earlier that day or possibly eating the cookies we left out for Santa. (Don’t worry, buddy! There’s more where that came from!) There’s paper and tape and scissors everywhere, and there’s always a holiday movie on the TV for the perfect background noise (if we’re lucky, It’s A Wonderful Life).
M: “Buffalo gal, won’t you come out tonight? Come out tonight? Come out toniiiight!” I ADORE It’s a Wonderful Life. Anyways, Christmas Eve for me would devolve into forcing leftovers on my extended family and then shoo-ing them out of the house so we could get to wrapping. I will never forget the year my Mom had outdone herself with dinner – a wonderful affair – and basically passed out by 10:00pm. It was up to ME to wrap the gifts or Christmas would be ruined! I wrapped every. single. gift. by 4:00am. Right before I finally turned in, I realized no one had left out cookies for Santa. I ceremoniously placed the cookies on the designated plate, slowly took a bite out of one of the cookies, and sleepily walked up the stairs to my bedroom. Not many people can pinpoint the exact moment they lost their innocence, but I can: December 25, 2005 at 4:17am. Jealous?
J: Haven’t we been over this already? YES. But here’s where you might get jealous of me! By 11:30, the TV’s always changed over to David Letterman for his very own tradition, the Christmas Eve show! Dave’s Christmas Eve show always includes a visit from Jay Thomas to tell his incredible Lone Ranger story and participate in the QB challenge, involving a tree and a meatball. Yes, this is all true. Finally, the real reason you tuned in, Darlene Love spectacularly belts out “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” with Paul Shaffer, a rocking band, a wall of sound, and fresh snowflakes for all. It’s beautiful, though it’ll be bittersweet this year since, with Dave’s retirement, it’s the very last one. I guess change is in the air…
M: Right? Change has always been a part of our Christmas, but now my family is lucky if we can all be in the same country for the holidays. If we manage to be in town, we gather Christmas morning to open the gifts wrapped only 12 (or three) hours before, and that is when the real magic happens. It has nothing to do with the presents, or the heavy snowflakes drifting by the window, or even the lingering smell of Pillsbury Cinnamon rolls devoured only moments before. If we’re lucky, my entire pajama’ed family is all together in one room. My Dad who nails it with the Christmas gifts every year, my Mom who can make any place feel like home, my two older brothers who dread mornings but still manage to make it up for gift-opening, and my sisters who are regularly found in countries on the other side of the planet are all together for this one day. We’re all watching each other open gifts and smile with glee, or grimace with embarrassment (thanks for the underwear Mom). We share in this moment together.
J: I think of these Christmas Eve traditions often during the year, but once I got married and my family doubled in size, I discovered that there would be many new traditions in my life, ones that had been around long before me and that I’d join without a moment’s thought.
M: I know what you mean. I got married last November, so now it’s like my parents have six kids! (Terrifying.) This will be the first Christmas my husband will be in Minnesota with me, and I’m not sure how he’ll handle my family’s holiday-crazy. I’m not even sure what I’m getting everybody for Christmas, but here I am in Minnesota with my family, ready to do it all over again.
J: And here I am with my last Letterman and my last Christmas before my entire life becomes something different, change nipping at my heels. However, whether you’re doing the same thing you’ve done every year or discovering what new thing is around the corner, the sentiment behind all of this is the same. It’s about spending time with the people you love; the people who love you. It’s about finding that place where you feel safe and warm and happy. Where you can reflect on the year before you and the year that’s to come.
M: You’re right. Soon we’ll be watching the ball drop and I’ll look back on my year. A year of change, challenges, and chocolate chip cookies. I’ll look back and wonder how I made it. How did I navigate another year without a map? How could I know that the decisions I made this year would make 2015 my most exciting year yet? How did we get all those gifts wrapped? In the end, when I wonder what Christmas is all about as I look upon my family in their PJ’s, I don’t have to wonder for long.
J: Except sometimes, it’s just about Darlene Love.
M: That’s fair.