Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas present gives a lesson for the future

For many, many years, Christmas was all about the presents.
My wife's family is religious, so for her, Christmas means something more, something along the lines of Linus' speech. I have faith, but it's certainly not a traditional faith, so Christmas, ultimately, was about what I was getting for Christmas.
My fondest memories of Christmas include the year we got an Atari and we played it for two days straight, barely giving ourselves time to eat a Christmas dinner and, well, shower or sleep, despite not leaving the house (and, yes, I include my parents in that; they had fun too). Or what about the year I figured out how to rip the corner of the paper off the present and tape it back on so I could, Mission-Impossible-style, find out what I was getting before the day (when my parents caught me, I was given a lecture about "The Christmas Spirit" and sent to my room for some time out). Or the year I got a new dirt bike.
In fairness to me, I liked giving gifts almost as much as receiving them. Occasionally I would get as inspired as a before model Queer-Eye-For-The-Straight-Guy kind of guy could get. Once I took a picture of me on a summit wrote something semi-inspired about acheiving our own summits, framed it and presented it to Mom after she beat cancer. Another year I made my brother a Longs Peak poster after he finally climbed it under my guidance (I think he liked it; it's not something you would display in your living room, unless you were 35 and living alone, which he's not, but he keeps it in his basement).
But that was the point. Memories of Christmas revolved around what I got or what I gave.
Things worsened after my parents divorced. Most of you, especially you poker-playing degenerates who surely must have come from crack houses, flophouses and, even worse, Democrat houses (so sayeth the poker-banning legislators who now have their sad faces pressed against the political glass), have probably divided up Christmas. It's not bad, but it just ain't the same when the house you grew up in belongs to someone else, your mother lives in a strange city you've never heard of, a good half-hour from the old neighborhood, and your Dad has another family.
All those Christmas traditions, if you had any, kind of fly out the window like Rudolph at that point, and you're left with claymation Christmas specials, a Life Savers box Dad insists on giving you every year (despite the fact that you're over 30) and a few old friends you get to see once a year.
So Christmas was all about the presents, even as I got older.
Then, this year, well, I don't know.
I found myself thinking more about seeing an old friend I hadn't seen in five years because he lived in St. Louis and finally moved back to Kansas City. I looked forward to the chance to return to Lawrence, Kan., my college town, to see a Kansas Jayhawks basketball game (and pray at one of the altars I have in my life, an altar that most Kansas graduates worship, I'm afraid). I wanted a cheesy crab from Planet Sub and my mom's enchaladias and my Dad's Greek Christmas dinner (courtsey of his new Greek family) and some mouth-watering Kansas City Barbecue, which comes straight from heaven, and if it doesn't I don't want to be there).
Finally, I looked forward to Jayden getting to see his grandparents.
I envy my friends who have their parents close, and not just for the free babysitting. There's a real joy in watching your parents with a little one. I honestly have to remind myself, when I start to go over how to change Jayden's diaper just so, that, um, they've done this before. It's really fun to get a sneak peek to see how you were raised. Because I don't remember much of that. At least the first few years.
Mom held Jayden's hand all the way to the car after we got off the plane. Dad took him out to swing, even digging out the baby swing in the back, just so he could laugh at the J-man's squeals of joy. Both of them watched, maybe with a little pride, while I made him laugh a Santa-like ho-ho-ho by nibbling on his ribs (mmmm, ribs...something tells me I'd better get to that barbecue).
This is not some sap about the True Meaning of Christmas. I plan to hit a casino New Year's Eve, leave my wife with $40 (possibly $60) to blow on slots and play some poker. I'll eat way more than I should and work out not nearly enough. I've already dropped three f-bombs around Mom (oops). And I spent Christmas night late obsessing over my fantasy football team, which, incidentially, won me my third title in six years (and more importantly, $400, or 10Xs the buy-in).
I'm happy with what I got this year, too. I got an Apple gift certificate (new external hard drive here I come, to hold home movie footage that I can edit with iMovie because now I'm the Oliver Stone of home movies), an REI gift certificate (always can use that), a very cool hoodie Kansas sweatshirt and lots of other goodies. Oh, and a Jayhawk clock from Kate.
But that's not what I"ll remember. I'll remember the food, the fun and the good times with Jayden and Kate.
I'll hope I'll remember this when I'm 50, so I can pass this lesson my kids need to learn a little earlier than I did.
Christmas is not about the presents.
Christmas is about being home.


slb159 said...

Also, Christmas is about dropping multiple f-boms around one's Mom. Hehe. LOL'd when I read that.

Very good post, sir. Enjoy New Year's as well.

Poker Peaker said...

Post title written like a true headline writer! ;-)

peacecorn said...

Oops. Fixed it.