The McLaren Christmases, like lots of families, always centered heavily around tradition. As a little girl, I remember getting dressed up on Christmas Eve and going to church, where the minister would always throw in a couple of Santa comments ("I heard on the radio that Santa was spotted flying over Germany about an hour ago!"). I would look up through the stained glass window and imagine Santa's sleigh wheeling through the air on his way to Iroquois Falls. What could be more magical?
After church, we'd all pile in the car (again) and head for Nana and Grandpa's house. They always had the most rockin' Christmas Eve parties. All of our friends and family were there, someone was inevitably playing "Old Toy Trains" on Nana's white piano, Grandpa Bill was working the bar, plates of appetizers were being passed around by grand-children, and the old record player was pumping out Bing Crosby.
One Christmas in particular, on our way to Nana and Grandpa's from church, we saw Santa walking down the back lane, beard long and white, boots the shiniest black, bag of gifts over his shoulder. I remember it being so cold that night that the air was sparkling. Gilly and I couldn't wait to get to the party to tell of our wonderful sighting.
As I grew older, my feelings about Christmas began to change, but the traditions in our house stayed the same. When I was in high school, I brought a boy I was dating home to watch a movie one night around Christmas time. Walking into the house, I could smell egg-rolls being fried, and hear Kenny and Dolly belting out Christmas songs. Peeking around the corner, I saw my parents and sister smack dab in the middle of yearly egg-roll making, aprons on, singing along to the music at the top of their voices. At the time, I think I acted mortified and rolled my eyes, but in all truthfulness, I wished my friend would go home so I could join in the annual tradition.
As the years have passed, many Christmas traditions have changed. The first Christmas Eve after Nana's house was sold was so strange, and now Christmas is even more humble as Dad, Gilly and I drink coffee and open gifts, just the three of us.
One tradition that will always be the same, no matter where we are or who we're with are the Christmas ornaments. Even at my dad's new lake house, the ornaments were one thing that are still there, nestled in the needles of the 9 foot tree that Gilly hauled out of the bush this year. In an ever-changing life, with ever-changing traditions, those ornaments comfort me, and as I examined the tree on my first night home for the holidays, memories started to wash over me.
Although Christmas is technically over (it's still December people!), I'd like to share some of my favorite ornaments, the ones that have been with our family the longest, the ones that mean the most to me.
This ball has an image of a young couple taking a sleigh ride through a winter wonderland. It reads "First Christmas Together - 1980" - for my parents first Christmas as a married couple. I think my dad bought it for my mom, and this year, he asked that Gilly put this ball on the kitchen side of the tree, so he could look at it while he does the dishes.
Last year, my sister and I simultaneously decided to make our own ornaments for the exchange. My balls were basically store-bought balls covered with glitter and ribbon, whereas Gilly was a tad more creative. See - Me as an ornament:
The next one is, I think, one of the most beautiful ornaments on the tree, because I think it looks like my mom. See, she's even playing the guitar!
This one is just plain cute. A moose on a toboggan? Who would have thought? His brother is one branch below him, getting milk and cookies ready for Santa. Crazy I tell you, CRAZY!
Fast Boat used to be on my Nana's tree, and we inherited it. Now, I can't picture Christmas without it.
Old Saint Nick is probably the oldest ornament on our Christmas tree. I think my great-grandparents gave it to my dad when he bought their house back in the early 80's. By my (mathamatically challenged) calculations, this one may be close to 60 or 70 years old. The trim on his coat has been glued on several times, his beard is dingy, and when I was little, he used to scare me. Now, I think he's beautiful.