Christmas for me these days is very low key . . . but as a Yeti . . . rarely seen in public . . . especially at public geocaching events . . . we tend to like our solitary, quiet, low-key existence.
As a kid we had several holiday traditions and memories.
As a young child I remember going into the woods with my father to find the perfect Christmas tree . . . of course the tree we found would never measure up to the trees you see at today's Christmas tree farms, the tree stands in the city parking lots or the artificial trees . . . but somehow it didn't matter . . . it was our tree . . . and we picked it out.
There was one minor incident involving a tree . . . I think it was in the first or second grade. My Dad and I volunteered to bring in a tree. This was back in the late 1970s and early 1980s when kids still had Christmas pageants, parties and exchanged gifts -- and when live Christmas trees were allowed in schools. For the first time ever my father and I found the perfectly shaped Christmas tree on our property -- it was full and had the perfect shape. It looked beautiful. Unfortunately, several days later, after setting up the tree and decorating it, we discovered that this tree was a "cat spruce" -- famous or infamous as they usually have a great, full shape, but once inside smell as if you're standing next to a half dozen rank litter boxes which about two dozen cats have been using steadily for the past week and a half. Needless to say we went out and got another tree which was not as pretty, but smelled much nicer.
My Dad often made more than a few Christmas faux pas . . . like the year when Mom asked him to make a Christmas star out of 2 x 4s and Christmas lights. However, Dad couldn't figure out how to make the traditional five pointed star and so made a six pointed star . . . that's right the Jewish Star of David. That Christmas there were more than a few confused neighbors who thought our family had converted to Judaism and were celebrating Hannukah.
As young children Christmas Eve was pretty special. In the week or two before Christmas WABI Channel 5 would air the Santa and Friends special -- a locally produced program. The highlight of the puppet shows, music and apperance of Santa was always the reading of the list . . . my brother, sister and I would always hover around the TV, not speaking a word, until we had heard our name read out on TV so we would know that we were on the "Nice" list and would get some toys for Christmas.
That evening we would also watch the evening news . . . something we normally would not do as kids . . . simply because we wanted to see if NORAD had started tracking Santa on radar. However, the really unique tradition (unbeknowst to us children) was when my grandfather (Pampa) would walk down the hill and start ringing the sleigh bells that belonged to my great-grandfather. When we heard those bells us kids would drop to the floor and start army crawling to our bed so Santa wouldn't look in the windows, see we were still awake and drive on. To add to the whole illusion, in what has to be one of the more warped traditions, my grandfather would always keep a hooved deer leg around from whatever deer my Uncle shot in the Fall . . . and he would take that leg and make hoof impressions in the snow so the next morning we would see all those hoof prints and be convinced reindeer were on our front lawn.
On Christmas morning we would wake up early . . . very early. Since our parents did not relish getting up at 4 a.m. they allowed us to look at our stocking . . . and eat the Poptart which was included as a treat since we never got Poptarts during the year . . . well actually we ate the Poptart along with the usual apple and orange in the stocking (a real Maine tradition!)
Probably my worse Christmas was the year when I woke up sick with the flu. I was so sick that I could barely muster the energy to get out of bed and get to the couch . . . however as sick as I was I really wanted to find out what Santa and my parents had got me . . . and so I enlisted my sister to open the gifts. To this day she feels bad about opening each and every one of my gifts . . . but at the time I just couldn't bear with the idea of not knowing what I had received for a gift.
The best Christmas memory however is one shared by my younger brother. It illustrates how it is not the expense of the gift, the size of the gift or the number of gifts that matter to a kid . . . it is about the moment, the memory. My brother and I woke up as usual and after looking through our stocking saw that Santa had left us two Paris sleds -- the orange plastic sleds. Call it a Christmas Miracle or just luck, but during the overnight an ice storm had passed through the area coating everything in thick ice which began to glisten and sparkle in the light of the rising sun. My brother and I went outside and began sliding on the small hill on the side of the house . . . until we realized that we had the perfect opportunity. Since it was still early the snowplow/sander had not yet been up the hill on our road . . . and no one was out driving . . . and so we slipped and slided all the way to the top of the long hill and began sliding in what was our own personal bobsled track. For the next hour or so we went down that hill at unprecedented speeds. To this day, my brother and I still remember well that morning.
"Courage is not the absence of fear, but the realization that there is something more important than fear."
"Death is only one of many ways to die."