Sunday, December 29, 2013

In Tents and Purposes

Margaret fights the good fight to preserve the Spirit of Christmas in our home and for the whole family better than anyone I know.  This Christmas Eve marked the twenty-second time that I have participated in the annual Christmas Eve feast (there is no other word that properly describes the amount of food prepared and consumed), which once upon a generation ago was a labor of love principally labored over by Margaret's grandmother, Nanny, and her mother, Suzy B.  In the five-plus years though since Nanny died and in the more than four years since her mother's wickedly untimely death, Margaret has not only championed the ongoing survival of the family's Christmas Eve tradition, she has refined it and taken it to places that - truth be told - I had no idea it could go.  And I suspect that on that score I am not alone. 

Christmas Eve 2011 and Christmas Eve 2012 took place in the basement at 113 Howard Avenue.  They were get-togethers that we somewhat cheekily referred to as "White Trash Christmas".  Necessity was the mother of relocation.  The family had grown so large - and its individual members had done likewise - that the rather undersized rooms of my wife's childhood home proved too small to contain us.  As people do when they are fixated on the "Who" and the "Why" far more than the "Where", both editions of "White Trash Christmas" proved to be smashing successes. 

This past spring the Missus and me gave up our home across town to take up residence at 113 Howard Avenue.  Unfortunately our arrival put the kibosh on continuing "White Trash Christmas" for when we moved we brought a whole lot of stuff with us.  A considerable percentage of that stuff now calls the basement at 113 Howard Avenue "home", which eliminated the basement from consideration as the centerpiece of our Christmas Eve festivities.

In the hands and mind of a lesser planner, Christmas Eve might have been mortally wounded by the loss of its most recent home.  To my wife, it simply represented a new opportunity:  the chance to have it become an inside/outside affair.  A couple of months ago she mentioned to me the idea of renting a tent.  As tends to be the case, I had no ability whatsoever to visualize the concept - regardless of the number of times she sought to explain it to me.  Eventually she did what experience has taught her to do when it comes to me - she removed me from the planning committee.  I ended up where I ultimately end up for such things - manning a seat on the finance committee and otherwise staying the hell out of the way. 

Murphy being an Irishman, the tent people arrived on Monday afternoon with a tent that was not the size that Margaret had ordered - setting one up that was 10 feet wide by 30 feet long instead of being 20 feet long.  It was high enough that although it was set up in the back yard, a car driving down Route 28 past the house could see it over the fence.  More than one person might have thought we were setting up for either a wedding or the Big Apple Circus.  We were, of course, not setting up for either one. 

By the time I arrived home from the office and a few post-work stops on Christmas Eve, the Missus had decorated our Yuletide home.  It looked terrific

And not too long after she had it all dressed up just how she wanted to have it, our Christmas Tent was filled with family and with a great deal of joyful noise - including but not limited to a performance by one of my favorite vocal groups:  The Three Bozzomos

Joe, Margaret and Frank - Christmas Eve 2013

Christmas Eve is about far more than the food and drink.  It is even about far more than the singing - fine as it is.  It is about the sacrifice that people make to share this particular evening with one another, whether it means hopping on a plane and flying halfway across the United States from Texas or from Colorado; bundling up your three children (all of whom are younger than three years of age) against the cold of a New Jersey December night; taking a night off from your business; or (in the case of Yours truly) simply doing nothing other than being there.  It is about family.  And there, seated around the kitchen table - embracing the "inside" aspect of the night's bipartite nature - sat Joe making goo-goo eyes at the youngest member of his tribe, his great-granddaughter Mia, who is the youngest of Megan and Adam's three children.

The Grinch may have been a mean one but he was one smart cookie as well.  Christmas does not come from a store.  Never has.  It comes from someplace far more special than that.  It comes from the heart.  And for me and for our family the heart from which it comes is Margaret.  Without her exactly none of this would be possible.     


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