Bluffton Today Column
December 23, 2009
Growing up in our house, Christmas Eve was much anticipated. This was the day our entire family – grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins - would gather to celebrate.
We’re a sarcastic family, as you may have gathered from moi, so it only made sense that some torture be included in our annual holiday gathering. You see, tradition with my Mom’s side of the family was that Santa would visit on Christmas Eve. However, in order to get your first gift, you had to sing for Santa. This was especially fun when a new and potential significant other would be introduced to the family and be put on the spot. We lost quite a few good prospects over the years!
So, each year as the Christmas decorations would come down from the attic, so would the song books. My sister, Sharon, and I would pore over the books making our selection for the “big show.” For years and years (and decades before we were born) we placated Santa with musical mumblings of “Jingle Bells”, “O Christmas Tree”, and “Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer”.
But one year it all changed.
Maybe it was the eggnog.
Maybe it was the festive green Jell-O-mold decorated with maraschino cherries.
Whatever it was, Uncle Al and Aunt Madeleine upped the ante. That year, Santa didn’t just get lyrics. He got a choreographed routine that would have put the Von Trapp children to shame - hand gestures, fancy footwork, and a little miming to boot. Uncle Al and Aunt Madeleine stole the show and the competition was on.
After that year, it became each family unit’s mission to out sing and out dance the others. We added background music, dance steps, lip-synchs, and song parodies. This was serious business. And, it became a new tradition. One that we continued until the year our “branch” of the family tree migrated south.
Our branch will celebrate our fifth Christmas here together in the Lowcountry tomorrow. And the tradition will continue. (If your dog starts howling around 7:00 p.m. it is because I am singing and I am most certainly off key.)
But this year as I prepare - by practicing in the mirror with a hair brush as a microphone - there is an angel on my shoulder.
You see the matriarch of our tradition, Aunt Madeleine, passed away two weeks ago. And I know that Christmas will have a new meaning for our family this year.
In the eulogy my Mom wrote honoring Aunt Madeleine, she talked about her favorite memories and the best way to memorialize Aunt Madeleine.
“As I took my Christmas ornaments out I realized I had a treasure trove of memories from her. And they are, right now, adorning my tree. For Christmas I'll give Courtney and Sharon the felt stocking ornaments she made for them when they were little and the rest I'll keep for myself and every year I will pay tribute to the kind, loving, wonderful woman who made them. You know how we all sang Christmas songs on Christmas Eve and sometimes changed the words to our favorite carols? Well Aunt Madeleine ... ’Sleep in heavenly peace’.”
So, from me you’ll get no sarcasm for Christmas this year - just a wish for silent nights, holy nights, and peaceful sleep.
Merry Christmas Bluffton.
March Writing Assignment
12 years ago