I’m a “Bah-Humbug” by nature. I’m not saying I reside alone counting my gold ducats by the ominous, dancing lights of a stove furnace powered by one solitary lump of coal as Ebenezer Scrooge does. I can’t afford to do that, and it’s a fire hazard. I’m also not saying I’m opposed to the holiday season as it was originally intended.
It’s always been too much for me to digest though. I’ve felt overwhelmed and disenfranchised with the pageantry it has evolved (or devolved) into. Dare I say, it’s been overdone and commercialized?
First World problems; I get it. I should also mention that I lost my maternal grandmother right after Christmas when I was nine, and I lost my maternal grandfather shortly before Christmas when I was 15. The season was always a different snow globe for me growing up.
But then I met my wife. And then I met her family.
And if I was allowed to use swear words in my articles on Lifestyle Frisco, here’s where I would do so. Because son of a (expletive) if this family doesn’t treat Christmas like it’s the ball pit at a Chuck E. Cheese and swim around in it until the night manager has to order them to leave.
I recognize that I started all of the sentences in this paragraph with conjunctions, but it was intentional for literary effect.
This fabulous, flawed, fantastic family has given me so much over the years, but what they really did was take me from being cynical about and distanced from the holiday season to a smiling, shaking my head, laughing kind of guy as I watch just how (expletive) happy November 1 through perhaps January 31 makes all of them. And I mean ALL OF THEM.
It Started in Denison
I didn’t start spending the holidays with my wife’s family until after we were engaged largely because they always went up to Mama’s (pronounced Maa-Maw) house in Denison, TX, and I had my own family stuff going on in Dallas.
As a kid, Christmas Eve alternated annually between my family’s home in Plano and my aunt and uncle’s home in Highland Park each year. Christmas Day was Santa, a sausage gravy and biscuit breakfast, and leftovers for lunch. That’s about it. We set up the tree the week before, we maybe put up lights, and then by January 1, everything came down. I’m sure there are variations depending on each year, but that’s largely how I recall it.
When I first went to Mama’s house, it was for Thanksgiving. After the lunch portion of the Thanksgiving feast and the Dallas Cowboys game, I was instructed to go out to the detached garage to “help the men.” This felt like what college kids call “Pledge Week.” I had to climb what appeared to be a hand-crafted ladder on a 15-degree pitch to bring down an automated Santa figure that was large enough to play center in the NBA along with other boxes of decorations.
I was happy to help because I was the new guy aiming to impress the future in-laws, but I couldn’t stop thinking “all of this (expletive) stuff is for Christmas?” The tryptophan hasn’t even set in yet, and we’re bringing down a carnival of chaos that rivals the Griswolds.
But by the time I went back to celebrate with my wife’s family for that Christmas if Mama’s manor wasn’t the most festive, fun, friendly house in the entire town that could be seen by the Hubble Space Telescope.
Thanksgiving = Christmas Tailgate Party
I quickly learned that Thanksgiving is an afterthought for this family. It’s not that they don’t take it seriously, but it’s also not about Plymouth Rock or the Mayflower or pardoning a turkey. It’s just kind of in the way. It’s a huge tailgate pre-game party for Christmas.
No one decorates for Thanksgiving. No oranges or browns or decorative autumnal leaves are strewn about. It’s almost like it’s a dining trial-run for Christmas Day, like we’re training for a marathon but way less healthy. Or like that episode of Friends where Joey puts on the Santa pants on Thanksgiving to give him more belly room.
My wife and I host Thanksgiving at our house here in Frisco, and we even did a (expletive) white elephant Christmas exchange one year … on (expletive) Thanksgiving Day! Wearing Christmas-themed shirts and sweaters and listening to Christmas music! I feel like they’re holiday sommeliers recommending to “let it breathe” while I’m just wanting to eat my turkey on turkey day and then keg stand Christmas on the 24th and 25th of December.
I’m completely outnumbered though. I’m fine with it now. I’ve learned to live with it. Partially because I love to see how happy this holiday season makes all of them for 90-plus (expletive) days, but mostly because I don’t really get a say in the matter.
We have eight (I think) Christmas trees in our house ranging from 12 to 4 feet tall, and that’s not even counting the shorter decorative ones because that would put us at a level that, if all the trees were children, would land us our own reality television show.
We have an entire 12-by-12 walk-in storage room almost entirely for Christmas décor, and we’re running out of space.
My youngest daughter, for (expletive) Halloween, has been Cindy Lou Who AND an Elf on the Shelf. This is what I’m dealing with.
Finding My Inner Cindy Lou Who
It’s all insane to me. But one Bah Humbug man’s insane can be someone else’s Yuletide Cheer. As Dr. Seuss wrote, “And what happened, then? Well, in Whoville they say — that the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day. And then – the true meaning of Christmas came through, and the Grinch found the strength of ten Grinches, plus two!”
This family has been the Cindy Lou Who to my Grinch, and the Tiny Tim to my Scrooge.
I credit how much my wife celebrates and basks in the glow of the season and how she has passed that spirit on to our daughters so that they can pass that joy along to their kids (that aren’t happening any time soon on my watch). I credit my mother-in-law and my sister-in-law for their enthusiasm for the season.
Oh, and get this! My mother-in-law’s birthday is December 21, and my sister-in-law’s birthday is December 31. Holy (expletive), it’s like they were literally born for this season! I credit my younger sister-in-law for being a baking savant so that Thanksgiving/Christmas Prep Party and Christmas Day give me my New Year’s Resolution every year because I can stress-eat all of the desserts she creates.
Ultimately, as I’m writing this out and wrapping this editorial up like a present under the tree, I have to credit Mama. Her memory lives on as her first name is my youngest daughter’s middle name. Also, the whole family inherited all of her Christmas decorations, though I believe the NBA center of an automated Santa retired and is maybe doing play-by-play for the Reindeer Games.
Mama was the matriarch who spread this radiant holiday spirit to an entire family, generations of an entire family, and turned this Scrooge into slightly less of a Scrooge. (Sidenote: to this day I wish I had the disposable income to have purchased that house to keep it in the family.)
I never knew what I was marrying into when I asked for my wife’s hand. I found out faster than Santa’s sleigh travels on Christmas Eve though. These people (expletive) love Christmas.
Happiest of holidays to you and yours. I hope all of you have a Mama or an overly, obnoxiously, obsessively Christmas-loving family that can help grow your hearts this season even when you want to fight it. I still think my wife and in-laws can dial it back just a click, but it’s what makes them happy. And that makes me happy.
And I hope that all of you can be and will be as happy this season as this Christmas-crazed family I unknowingly married into is every year from November 1 through perhaps January 31.