Editor's note: This article was published in Grand Traverse Scene magazine's Holidays 2018 issue. Pick up a free copy at area hotels, visitor's centers, chambers of commerce or at the Record-Eagle building on Front Street. Click here to read GT Scene in its entirety online.
With an abundance of good cheer spreading itself around during the Christmas season, it’s easy to overlook — or deal with — the “hectic-ness.” Modern-day celebrations of the birth of Christ involve gathering as friends and families, planning parties and buying presents, fully accepting that some form of chaos will accompany the few weeks leading up to the big day.
My family, both sides and all the way down, try our best to stay centered on what’s most important. Our relationship with one another and the Lord is a 365 sort of thing, and Dec. 25 is a time to thank Jesus for all he does for us. But my cynical side can’t help relish this season for what else it gives us … bloopers.
Crazily going in a dozen directions after Thanksgiving leaves us vulnerable to the occasional goof, both private and public. Most are simple, harmless gaffs that make us chuckle, while others render us bent over doing that silent laugh where you nearly pass out; yet other moments cause panic that an arrest is imminent.
The great tree decorating ranks as one of the most festive times of the whole season, when by the comfort of a cozy fire, Mom and Dad spike their coffee while kids make cookies. I go to great lengths to make this annual memory special. Last year, with the final storied ornament placed, we all stepped back to admire, only then noticing that the tree stand — which evidently holds 97 gallons of water — had leaked all of its contents onto our carpet. Diving in to stop what I could, I dove too hard, knocking the tree over like a cornerback leveling a wide receiver. Ornaments broke, the top angel ended up on Rudolph’s nose across the room, the dog ate three candy canes and kids were crying … mass hysteria! Yeah, that was a special memory alright.
Speaking of trees, a number of years back, I learned the hard way that the one we cut needs to be safely secured in the truck bed. Thankfully, the souls in the vehicle behind us, cheered by the season, didn’t press charges.
Putting up lights is one of the bigger challenges I face. Go big or go home, which is why my house looks like the Grizwolds’. It’s all worth it, though, when you plug that last dangling wire in and see “Christmas” in all its neon, primal splendor. The local electric company must take a deep breath, because there’s always a two-second delay while power is rerouted for my needs. I’m sure the satellites that report to Homeland Security notify the president. The lights at our house have come a long way, though. That first year, I plugged them in and my truck windshield wipers started.
Gift-giving can sure raise a few eyebrows. I used to find out what my brother and sister were getting Mom and Dad, and then buy the same thing. Why? To give it to them first, then sit with arms crossed and an accusatory look of surprise when my siblings offered the same gift. They got their revenge, though, when they began suggesting they’d bought incredibly expensive gifts, or ones the folks really didn’t want.
But amidst the bloopers, families so blessed to gather together find ways to roll. Like the strange guy sitting alone in the corner swilling eggnog from the carton is just Uncle Eddy, or every niece and nephew graciously thanking weird Aunt Margaret for fruitcakes that first saw life when Kennedy was in office.
Celebrating the birth of Jesus among family means celebrating all the mishaps in between. If the dog eats the turkey or your parents insist their grandkids would be happiest with a new drum set, maybe that’s the Lord’s way of reminding us to relax, laugh at ourselves and look at the big picture.
So gather, if you can; forgive and ask for forgiveness; eat too much; make fun of ugly sweaters, or wear your favorite; be generous to those who need it more than you; and most importantly, give thanks to the Man upstairs. This is all for him anyway.