Our Christmas traditions have changed some over the last couple years. Time's passing has much to do with it. The eternal clock held by Father Time never ceases and we all age accordingly. Beginning in 1980, when I discovered the place on the night my second daughter was born, we drove up to the site and its lights every year. It wasn't hard to spot, either by the glow in the sky above it or the traffic jam about it. Every inch of ground was festooned with some symbol of the season, from a manger scene upon the roof to Santa's slight that mechanically circled the yard let by the eight reindeer plus Rudolph in the front, his nose brightly aglow.
First we would stop at Casey's, the Upper Darby train themed restaurant, for dinner in the coach car style booths, then to the house of the great display nearby.
But two years ago when we went many of the lights were not on and it had an incomplete and sad look. This year the man who had done this for nearly forty years died. The house is dark, the street just a quiet suburban street now. We go no more.
But age has caught us all and they can't make the trip these days. So on Christmas Eve the girls and I went to visit them this year. I give them money now, because that is what you need most when in your nineties, and expect nothing from them. I hate to just hand someone a card with money, so I attached it to a tin of cookies for mom and a fruit cake for dad.
I asked if there was a place to take us all to dinner and my mom suggested a diner in the nearest town.
"Shall we leave now," she asked (it was about four o'clock).
This seemed reasonable because I knew they wanted to be back in time to get ready and go to the Christmas Eve Service at their church.
Perhaps it is well he wasn't hungry or I may have gone broke. He had soup. He had a large salad. He had coffee and bread. He had an enormous plate of spare ribs, just huge, piled high and overflowing, with a side dish. He topped it off with dessert.
My dad reminisced about his days in the Civilian Conservation Corps building the skyline drive and catching rattlesnakes. He also told me the worse thing about growing old was all your buddies, the guys you grew up with and went place with were gone and none were left.
As it always is, my middle child came with a unique way of giving her presents. They came inside large empty popcorn tins. On the outside were events from the day we were born rather than a name tag. We had to select a tin based on this history. Of course, most of us guessed wrong, but that is part of the fun.
One can contained a gag gift. The Little Woman selected it and here she is opening it with a great deal of delight.
It was a chicken that sang and did a funky dance when you touched it wing.
Naturally, after opening all gifts were directed over to the correct recipient.
We open one at a time, going around the circle until all the wrappings have been tossed aside and everyone is delighted with what they received.
I usually get out of sync about when it is my turn. After all, "I'm an old man, I get confused." (See, there is a line from Seinfeld for every occasion. More on Seinfeld later.)
Then the large cardboard carton must be opened
and the slightly smaller box inside removed.
This box is opened to reveal a coffin-like styrofoam container.
The container must then be opened and the plastic wrapped object removed.
Finally the plastic wrap is pealed away.
No, really, she is very big on gnomes and on the bizarre and gothic. She loved it.
We have given her gargoyles in the past and skulls, dragons and faeries.
My son won.
Then the rest played some kind of picture game, something similar to "Where's Waldo?".
Here they are concentrating, trying to be the first to spot some object on that large board.
I sat this one out.
I guess Kerouac was curious as to why they were playing and I was just sitting on the sofa with my camera.
Finally came the new tradition in this household on Christmas, the Great Hot Sauce Challenge. Last year The Little Woman gave our son a variety of hot sauces. That night he decided his sisters and he should sample each sprinkled upon a cracker and thus it seems a tradition was born, for once again The little Woman gave him a new collection of hot sauces and this time with a box of crackers.
Let the tasting begin.
Yes, I suppose we are a weird family.
But, we do have fun.
Anyway, that was our Christmas and here are some of our decorations:
I guess Kerouac and Hobo Joe are looking to see if Santa is coming again.
I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas
And now on to a Happy New Year!