Christmas Lights and Growing Older
December 20, 2001

It truly amazes me what little ruts and pathways we get stuck into. Sure, there's logic to it all, that if it's worked so far, why screw with success, right? In theory, if we mess with what does work, it would either lead to better ways or not working, and since not working is more likely, leave it for another time.... A train of thought that leads to eternal "another day" mentality.

What's this got to do with Christmas? Lots, actually. There are so many traditions associated with the holiday, and I don't mean the standard get a tree throw lights on it presents, stockings, and so on and so forth. Every family has an assortment of personal traditions they carry out, even though it might not register as traditions. Sadly enough, my family's been gradually losing ours as time goes by, mine honorable brother and myself leave home, and we just lose the time to do all we once did. One of my favorite traditions is helping Dad put up the lights. We usually string the tree first, and I've had the pattern down for ages. But much more important to me is the last string of lights that goes in the hallway, winding up the stair banister, then along the edge of the hallway, over the door, and almost to the living room entryway. We've done this for more years than I remember, just because. The last few years, as age has caught up and started making Dad pay for his "misspent youth" and I've found that real life keeps my hopping, it's been one of those things we do, but it tends to be last minute. Still love it, still want to keep doing it, still manage to do it, but it's put off as a 'not vital' thing.

This year, as you might guess, things have changed.

Mom's brother and his wife came up from Florida/Panama to spend Christmas with the family for the first time in 6 years, so they've been hanging out here the past two days. Today, Mary finally decided to tackle the standing but undecorated tree. By the time I woke up (blame going to a late movie and then staying up till 3:30 to read some awesome Fleur fic), the tree already had its lights. At first, it didn't seem to bother me that it wasn't Dad and I that put it up, but the fact that it wasn't the way it usually was: instead of the lights winding around the tree, they go up and down and what have you. My first, internal thought (you do NOT go around saying such things around the relatives!) was "No! You don't do it that way! She did it wrong!"

::winces:: I'm not proud of that. I think it was more resentment, if I dare use such a strong word, that this almost stranger came in and was taking over my, OUR, job/fun. I keep telling myself, over and over, that she wasn't doing it wrong, she was doing it DIFFERNETLY. Not wrong.

Is it obvious that I'm still having issues dealing with this?

So then Mom told me to help her string the stairs with the last strand. Dad's had foot issues (that misspent youth thing), and the brace wears him out so that he doesn't have the... drive, energy, whatever to do it after work. I'd figured we'd hit it this weekend. Well, guess not. Aunt Mary, for reasons beyond my comprehension, started with the end bulb (er, the end of the string that's not the plug) at the TOP of the stairs, and going down, on the principle that it would be easier. We've always done it starting at the bottom (with the plug plugged in), gone up, then around. Despite several attempts on my part to explain, she insisted it would be easier to do it her way. So, following Mom's not so subtle hints, I just nodded, went with the declaration that I was just the flunky and would therefore follow her orders, and we ended up having to redo the whole damn thing from the bottom anyways.

I was good. I didn't say "the right way".

And in the end, we didn't do it the usual way anyways. Instead of going straight along the sideboard, we scalloped it, which does look cool.

It just doesn't look the usual way. And I didn't do it with Dad. ::sighs:: Which brings me back to the point. I feel guilty, I guess. It's not just one of our own, personal little traditions, it's bonding time, getting into the holiday spirit of family and sharing time together. And in the end, I feel like I'm losing another piece of my childhood, the... oh, how to put it. The adult cynic side of me says the naiveté of youth, but the dreamer insists it should be something else, and I refuse as a whole to use the word innocence.

What do you call that part of you that revels in the truth of Santa Claus, that knows it's about giving but loving every part of the getting just as much, of seeing stars in tree lights, and revels in nighttime car rides to see what lights are around the neighborhood? What is it that finds truth- or at least ignores tackiness- in the traditional carols, celebrates in the setting up of nativity scenes while not caring about religious denomination, doesn't get melancholy over the holidays but insanely hyperactively happy, and knows that Christmas isn't about the giving or the getting, but it's about traditions- it's about family?

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