It’s October, so my Christmas list is well overdue.
Of course it is.
Santa is so demanding.
And, lest you think this is all a tad early, let me inform you that Costco has been Christmas-ing since August, yes indeedy.
There are entire aisles you can Deck the Halls in, wearing your flip-flops (we can’t generally wear flip-flops during the ACTUAL festive season in Canada).
There are buffalo-checked Christmas doo-dahs as far as the eye can see (I try my best to avert my eyes back to the free samples they give out at Costco, which it’s really important to keep one’s eye firmly upon so as not to forget the real reason we shop at Costco).
Practical Man does not approve.
Of the Christmas doo-dahs, I should clarify.
He’s a free-sample fan, though.
What kind of Practical Man would he be if his favourite thing was not anything, preceded by or followed by the word, FREE?
He never eats the free samples – he gives them to me, like some kind of Snack Saint. He doesn’t snack and did I mention that he’s kind of annoying, sometimes?
Lovely, but annoying in a Snack Saint sort of way.
Or, maybe Snack Santa.
But, festive flourishes (even with free snacks for his beloved) before a respectful observance of Remembrance Day (Nov 11)? Now, them’s grounds for grunting and Rick Mercer-esque rants.
I don’t disagree.
It’s only October, merchants! My Hallowe’en costume is barely out of my head and onto the sewing machine, yet.
But, Practical Man still wants my Christmas list early, early, early.
He’s not a huge fan of all the commercialism and forced gifting that comes with the season but, he does like to make someone happy.
“You know that I don’t go in stores after the beginning of November,” he warns in a Bah Humbug sort of voice.
Who cares about that when everyone knows that Santa doesn’t shop in stores? Santa has elves making things in workshops and eating gingerbread, dontcha know. They don’t shop at Costco (unless they are snackers, in which case, who can blame them?)
Ho, ho, ho.
Still, on account of their too early Christmas hullabaloo, I wonder if Costco has been listening to our conversations about overdue Christmas lists? Like a George Orwell, big-brother-is-watching-you kind-of-creepy, Santa?
Oh wait, that’s Siri and Okay Google. Neither of which we use and yet…
I’m feeling spooked.
Which would be fine because it’s nearly Hallowe’en: the season of spookiness.
And what with my distraction about whether my non-Siri/Okay Google devices are listening to my conversations without my permission, it’s a bit difficult for me to think of what I want for Christmas.
Except maybe a vintage, Fisher Price hospital, complete with X-ray machine and working elevator.
Because, every woman in her 40s needs one of those, right?
And peace on earth, wrapped in buffalo check flannel.
Except, not yet.
Because it’s wa-a-a-a-y too early for Christmas-y stuff.
So says Practical Man–and me.
But, not Costco.
Every year, when we take the tree and decorations down, I am startled.
I don’t think I have reached the Griswold level of festive decor, so that can’t account for the Disturbing Disappearance of Decor.
Triple D – that’s a thing, right?
Yet, take away the seasonal dressing and everything suddenly looks bare and forlorn.
I guess it’s to be expected when you remove a giant conifer and acres of greenery and glittery things from your Not-So-Great Room.
(Our house was built at a time when Great Rooms were not yet a thing, so we only have an ordinary living room or as realtors probably think of it: a Not-So-Great Room.)
Our Not-So-Great Room looked perfectly fine in November.
In early December, it suddenly got bulge-y with a seriously extraverted Tannenbaum and all its festive friends.
I think we might be kindred spirits, me and the Not-So-Great Room.
I feel quite bulge-y in December myself.
“Deck the Halls with crates of Toblerone“…isn’t that how that song goes?
Every year during the time when the Not-So-Great Room is still looking seriously festive, Practical Man and I head out to admire our neighbourhood lights.
First, I admire the heart he stamped in the snow of the front lawn, with our initials in it.
Then, we cruise around for a while (we used to walk when we lived in town but we’d have to be Santa to make any time, now that we live rurally), surveying the crop of Griswold-esque specimens.
I’m not really keen on the blow-up thingys, so I haven’t photographed those.
Nor the keel-over-inducing light shows (even when coordinated with music).
Give me a loaded, over-the-top, plain old, static light show any day.
Or night, as it were.
Once we have oooh’d and aaah’d for a good while, then comes the hard part.
We have to choose.
We each get one thank-you card, that we filled out before we left the house:
“Thank you for your beautiful lights. Your house was our favourite!”
We don’t sign our names. We simply slip the thank-you card into their mailbox.
It’s seriously festive and fun.
Then, we return home to our own festively-adorned, albeit slightly bulge-y Not-So-Great Room and cuddle up.
Even though I don’t think I’m quite at Griswold level of festive decor, I can still love those who are.
I’m just too lazy for that sort of outdoor, holiday hulla-balloo.
Forget the 12 Days of Christmas, I’m all about the 12 Days of Pajamas.
Happy New Year to me!
Except, that after all the Disturbing Disappearance of Decor, our Not-So-Great Room will soon look like the Nearly-Naked Room.
Naked, I say, in January.
Please agree with me that naked in Canada in January is sometimes not such a good look.
‘Tis the Season for down-filled puffy coats, thank goodness.
But, having no such down-filled puffy coats for the Not-So-Great Room, it has to spend the first parts of the new year standing around, naked.
Naked in the season of diet and exercise commercials galore.
Naked in the season of resolutions and recriminations.
After a little while, we get used to our naked, Not-So-Great Room again and can see it for all the beauty that it holds.
Unadorned and lovely, in its year-round state.
Perhaps, a lesson for us all.
Die Hard is Practical Man’s favourite Christmas movie.
Maybe you didn’t know that Die Hard—the Bruce Willis/Alan Rickman shoot-em-up extravaganza—was even considered to be a Christmas movie.
Oh ye of little festive imagination.
We have a broad definition of “Christmas movies” at our house, partly on account of the fact that one of my favourite things to do during the Christmas holiday break that I’m lucky enough to have, is to lie around all day wearing my PJs.
Wearing PJs, as I mentioned.
Preferably brand new, cozy PJs that Santa has brought me because I’ve been SO good all year!
Or, maybe, because they were On Sale (Santa is a bit of a coupon clipper) and he knew they would make me happy and cozy for a week of lolly-gagging around.
Yes, that’s it.
When it comes to Christmas—as in many things—I don’t act my age. Give me some stickers and some gold, coin-shaped chocolates in the toe of my stocking and I’m four years old again.
Many four year olds get new PJs for Christmas, you may have observed.
Ah yes, it’s days and days of PJs and Turtle chocolates for breakfast (and maybe some Toblerone triangles and Christmas movies like:
- Elf (I love it, even though it has Will Farrell).
- The Holiday (makes me homesick for England and old movies).
- Love, Actually (possibly the best Christmas movie of all time, except for Die Hard, of course!)
Oh, I know I should be all Joy to the World and Peace on Earth about the festive season and the prospect of getting together with family and friends. I do love all the “goodwill towards men” (and women) stuff but if I’m honest, at the twilight of each year, it’s kind of more about the PJs.
Who says we can’t have good will towards men (and women) and PJs?
And, good will toward movies like:
- A Charlie Brown Christmas (I have a crush on Linus).
- While You Were Sleeping (I have a crush on the whole family).
- Prancer (I have a crush on Sam Elliott).
And, I can’t forget that whole extravaganza that is: Chocolate For Breakfast (totally legal)!
It’s a Christmas thing.
Maybe you haven’t heard about it, but I BELIEVE.
At this time of year, that counts for something.
Haven’t you seen It’s a Wonderful Life?
But, with limited number of days available for such indulgent loafing about, I have a hard time deciding. Should I watch:
- Miracle on 34th Street (the Natalie Wood version, although I cry at the new version, too)?
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the Boris Karloff version, although I cry at the new version, too)?
- Home Alone or The Santa Clause (the #1 versions only, because those are the only ones I cry at)?
Then again, why choose favourites? Someone always feels left out, like:
- A Muppet Christmas Carol (Muppets are awesome but I’m not a Dickens fan).
- Mickey’s Christmas Carol (Mickey’s voice bugs me and I’m not a Dickens fan).
- A Christmas Carol (the scratchy, slightly sinister Alistair Sims version that my dad liked to try to make us watch every Christmas eve and I did it sometimes, because I love him, but, really, I’m not a Dickens fan).
Yes, with only The Twelve Days of Sloth at my disposal and the requisite social events sprinkled throughout, it’s sometimes hard to choose which movies will grace this year’s Christmas season.
I feel the same way about Christmas socks. If I choose the red and white stripe-y ones, the green and red stripe-y ones might feel left out. Try as I might, I just can’t quite reach the level of equal opportunity movie watcher and tacky Christmas sock wearer.
As they say in that not-Christmas, famous, book/movie (although if I ask Practical Man, he may be able to put a festive spin on it):
As you would expect, Practical Man has no difficulties carefully choosing his (restrained) festive touches at this time of year.
He eschews the gregarious socks and opts for the plain grey sports variety, thank-you very much.
And, once Die Hard has been watched, it’s on to his next favourite Christmas movie:
Do you not recall the snowstorm outside the plane on the runway? It’s a Christmas movie, plain and simple.
Yippee Ki-Yuletide, everyone.
I went to Disney World, for the first time, on my 40th birthday.
As you do.
That year, they had a “Come to Disney for Free on your Birthday” promotion.
We were already going to be in Florida and it was the perfect excuse to go. Disney isn’t cheap and as you may remember, Practical Man loves a good deal, yes indeedy.
He’s just not a huge fan of Disney.
Or mouse ears.
“You’re not going to wear those when I’m with you, are you?” I could already hear him asking at the prospect of my dreamed-about Mickey ears.
I knew this would be the question he would ask because he asked it when I came home with rubber boots that had large, purple and pink flowers all over them.
And when I found the perfect artsy-hippy-dippy-trippy shirt.
He also asked it when I made the first large-ish felt flower for one of my hats.
But, 20 or 30 large-ish felt flowers later, he’s kind of getting used to me now. I think he’s realized that he can still maintain his preferred position “under the radar”, even when I’m wearing something attention-grabbing, because people are too busy gawking at a 40-something woman wearing items normally associated with 4 year olds, to pay any attention to him.
I don’t mind the gawking. Adults don’t smile nearly enough so, anything I can do to help in that area is right up my street.
My festooned, childlike street, of course.
(You may recall how much I love a bit of festooning.)
Back to my point, which is that we were going to be in Florida for my birthday, visiting my aunt and uncle.
My first hint that Practical Man didn’t really want to spend a festive 40th birthday day with his dearest at Disney was, well…okay, I married him, so I like to think I know about some of his likes and dislikes.
(I’m always studying, in case we we end up on one of those newlywed games, even now that we are 20 years into our romance.)
Anyhoo, the second clue was that for most of the drive to Florida, Practical Man kept saying to me, “Don’t you think you’d have a better time at Disney with your aunt?”
I tormented him through Pennsylvania and both the Carolinas and Georgia, but knew that, yes, I would have a great time with my aunt Feather at Disney.
She has no problem with Disney, crowds or mouse ears.
And, she encourages things like staying overnight in the Herbie the LoveBug themed Disney hotel (Hurrah!) and eating Mickey Mouse-shaped ice cream bars (Yum!) and not minding when her niece wears Mickey Mouse ears all day long over her sunhat, even though she’s 40.
I am 40ish going on 4. Yep, that’s me.
As if it could get any better, the Magic Kingdom folks gave me a giant button at the gate that said “Happy Birthday Christine!” in two foot letters on it and every time there was a parade or a character going by (which was a lot), they would lean down from their stilts with a giant smile and yell, “Happy Birthday, Christine!” which Practical Man would have hated, but which I love-love-loved.
But, my favourite part was the parade that started, right after the sun went down. All the floats were lit with thousands of coloured lights and it was warm and beautiful with my Aunt Feather and there were fireworks all for me, I’m sure, on my 40th birthday.
The Magic Kingdom really is just a festooned, childlike street, after all.
Have you noticed how “festoon” rhymes with “swoon”?
Last night took me right back there. It was the Santa Claus parade in my hometown and I was invited to join Fairy Godson and his family and friends at the big event downtown.
Even though there were shades of Magic Kingdom in this festival of lights, Florida it was not. I was wearing down-filled everything with an added layer of neoprene on my feet, thank goodness.
My magic kingdom for some down-filled undies.
Even though the weather is finally turning a bit more wintery, just for the record, it’s still a bit too early for Santa.
Practical Man has rules about these kinds of things: no Christmass-y stuff until December 1st.
Or, maybe that’s the earliest date I have cajoled him into. We definitely follow the “out of respect for our veterans and their families, absolutely nothing festive until after Remembrance Day” rule.
Even though it was early, it felt like the festive season at the parade. All the kids lined up to catch their candy canes and stickers and wave at Rudolphs with blinking noses and Elves and that giant marshmallow guy from Ghostbusters.
Who knew that Ghostbusters were festive?
My friend Grover, that’s who.
Fairy godson was taking it all in, with a line of other kids his age. They were, like me, wrapped in down-filled everything, from head to toe.
Sucking on candy canes, naturally.
I was jealous of their ear flaps.
It was 16 degrees Celcius yesterday afternoon, my friends. The climate changed just in time for the parade and our recent rash of Spring-like-weather-in-November had done nothing to harden us for standing out in the festive wind coming straight up Princess Street, off Lake Ontario.
Did I mention I’d like someone to invent down-filled undies?
But, it was still as lovely as that time at Disney.
I had no mickey ears last night but, just look at all the pretty lights!
We waved at baton twirlers and gymnasts (there were a lot) and dancers and pipe bands. We yelled Merry Christmas at passing elves and tigers and snowmen. Float riders reminded us that “Santa would be coming soon” and we jiggled to the assorted Christmas tunes emanating from the passing parade. There was even a ferris wheel float!
I’ve decided I’m a night-time parade kind of a girl.
No matter the season or the location, this kind of joyous, sparkly, celebratory event is right up my street.
My festooned, childlike street, of course.
With a side of down-filled underwear.
We were playing Old Maid and I was winning.
He was working on his PhD in engineering at the time and I think it perturbed him greatly that despite all his life experience, knowledge of standard deviation and parabolas (or whatever) and genetic predisposition (his mom–my grandma–was kind of a game genius), he couldn’t beat his eldest child at a simple, children’s game of cards.
Or possibly, it was the way his six-year old triumphantly cackled and danced around when he was stuck with the Old Maid (I’m sure I was just pleased to be making up for the indignities of a patriarchal society that thought that the punishment in a card game should be called something so awful, so tragic, so open to mockery as a SINGLE WOMAN OVER A CERTAIN AGE.)
This was before Bridget Jones, dontcha know and okay, so I might be having some slightly retro-active indignity not actually experienced at the age of six.
Anyway, sexist game name and premise aside, there’s another reason that I rarely play games these days. It’s because even though I am a delight 98% of the time, it turns out that when it comes to games, I am like my father. Since neither my father nor I appear to have inherited his mother’s game genius gene, we do, like most humans, tend to lose sometimes. A situation that leads quickly to the confirmed evidence that we are what you call Very Sore Losers.
I hope no one writes that on my tombstone.
And, I have become quite familiar with this darker side of my personality because when Practical Man and I have played Poker on holidays or Cribbage when we are camping in the Boler, he wins EVERY TIME.
And, not to put too fine a point on it, but actually “wins” is too mild a word. “TROUNCE” is more like it or maybe “WALLOP”. I sort of get it when it’s Poker (even though I’ve played since I was a pre-teen) or Cribbage in the Boler (because, how can I concentrate when I’m hanging out in the Boler that I l-o-o-ve?) but, I have the role of public wordsmith in our family. How come he always, always beats me in Scrabble and Upwords?
It’s annoying, I’m sure you can understand.
All this losing and blah, blah, blah.
So, then I act all mature and refuse to play.
But, since it’s the festive season and in our family, that is a time for games, I suggested to Practical Man that we have a couple of friendly games of crokinole on Christmas Eve.
Y’know, just for fun.
(In the interests of full disclosure, my mother’s side of the family are crokinol-ers from way back.)
Practical Man asked me for the rules, all innocent-like and then proceeded to TROUNCE and WALLOP me in game one, despite my God-given genetic pre-disposition to crokinole greatness. So, we started on game two of the best of three and suddenly, inexplicably, it seemed as if I actually stood a chance at winning.
It was practically a Christmas Miracle!
Even better, Practical Man had the unfortunate luck to hit the crokinole checker directly into one of the pegs on the board, four turns in a row. If you haven’t experienced this, let me just emphasize that when the checker hits one of the pegs on the board, it bounces back at you in a fairly humiliating sort of way.
Mwah, ha, ha!
On the fourth time, so giddy was I about the prospect of winning a game that I succumbed to a fit of giggles which quickly turned into “can’t stop laughing” followed by “falling off chair laughing” which is the universal sign in my house for “she’s about to faint“.
And so ended my magnificent path to crokinole glory. I had to spend the rest of the evening on the couch with my feet in the air, trying to get my nervous system to calm down and the blood flowing consistently back to my brain.
Nervous system: I know I’ve told you this before, but, you are seriously high maintenance.
And by the way, I WAS WINNING!
My great grandparents’ crokinole board from the farm in Grey-Bruce County lives with my uncle Gruff and his family. The original wooden board was always super polished and smooth or as my dad would say:
SmooooTH (rhymes with “tooth”).
(When he’s not being A Sore Loser, my father tweaks language in delightful ways like this.)
You could see your face in that crokinole board.
Having been thwarted at winning once this week already, I decided to press my luck at the Boxing Day festivities at my parents house.
Before I knew it, I was sitting down to a friendly game of crokinole with my two cousins and Practical Man.
I was pretty sure that with me and my two cousins SURELY all having at least a pinch of the family crokinole gene, I was definitely on a winning team.
Game one went like this:
- Practical Man and my cousin (team one) scored 80 points (we were playing to 100) in round one.
- Me and my other cousin (team two) scored 10 points in round two.
- Practical Man and my cousin (aka crokinole shark) took the game in round three.
Ladies and gentlemen: I give you possibly the world’s shortest crokinole game.
Cue my Sore Loser face.
My uncle Gruff’s daughter number two subbed as Practical Man’s new partner. Gruff’s first daughter and I decided that we were not “Losers” but rather “Points Deficient” (also – we were fond of the fact that PD is much harder for the enemy team to sign on their foreheads than L). Being only Points Deficient and not Losers, we talked the talk. We were “working a strategy” for the best of three games.
Then, she confessed that she had drunk more wine than she thought.
So, I did my best to distract the enemy team by blurting out random diversions like “German slippers” and this helped me and my cousin (aka tipsy teammate) slide to a tenuous victory in game two.
I was on a winning team! Well, at least a tied-for-winning team.
Then, it was game three. Turns out that Gruff’s daughter number two alternated between being a crokinole savant and being the Julia Child of crokinole (that is, highly entertaining while simultaneously klutzy). Her partner, Practical Man, used some of his more aggressive manoeuvers to fling checkers off the board and on the carpet but, he was often successful at clearing the board of our checkers. My partner and I patiently gathered points, clawing our way, step-by-step ever closer to the magical 100.
It took a while.
There was a round with only 5 points scored.
There was a round with ZERO points scored.
Ladies and Gentlemen: I give you possibly the world’s longest crokinole game.
Cue my Sore Loser face.
The darn posts on the board: they leap out at your checkers, not to mention, we are highly suspicious that they may be magnetic.
My grandpa and my uncles could all do some kind of Jedi-voodo-crokinole magic and bounce their checker off pegs, knock about three of the opposing checkers off the board and land snugly in the hole that is worth 20 points.
I’d like to see them beat me at Old Maid.