My blogging buddy Karl wrote a thoughtful post about Christmas the other day — as a kid and as an adult (if we are to be considered adults) — and that, combined with the suggestion from another friend inspired me to do my own take on traditions. Enjoy!
Every football Sunday, my dad would situate himself on the large couch while my brother took over the smaller one. Me, I would take a spot on the floor, in front of the fireplace, and somehow manage to read as they screamed in reaction to each and every play. We would eat ‘gluck’ — a cheesy and delicious queso dip, served best with Frito’s and in front of a fire, if you ask me.
Today, I am watching football on a couch, still hardly paying attention — struggling to read, still full from the dinner and ice cream I devoured at the nearby mall, annoying my boyfriend with chattery conversation, texting friends and putting together this blog post — as my parents watch an hour away in one direction and my brother, I assume, watches an hour away in another.
They are probably still screaming in unison, though, and that gives me some comfort.
Every year when I was much younger, my brother and I would miss school for Ukrainian Christmas, which falls just over a week after the holiday for the rest of the religion. The feast takes place on Christmas Eve and while I hardly remember the details of the many foods, I do recall the Ukrainian greetings that I would practice in the weeks leading up to the dinner and proudly deliver to my grandma among her arrival. I haven’t forgotten the Christmas carols that my brother and I stumbled through, never speaking the Slavic language, as my mom led the way with her songbird voice in her native tongue.
We would attend church — the most gorgeous one that I have ever encountered — and uncomfortably stand in the beginning, squirm in our seats at the middle and rush for the door at the end. The stained glass, wooden pews and golden decorations, the chanting songs and incessant crossing all form a vivid memory, considering the spotty memory I have.
We haven’t gone in years, of course, again going our separate ways and leaving such a tradition by the wayside. I thought a return would be refreshing, even without my family by my side, so I woke up early, sliding on dress pants and the blazer I got from the other Christmas and found my place near the back of the church,
I snuck out of the pew early, though, self-conscious about my attendance and anxious about everything — the opposite of the effect I desired and a a simple reminder of how much has changed.
Before that, though, there was New Year’s Eve — always enjoyed in the comfort of my home … in the beginning, at least. We used to play Monopoly, devour food (I would get the mac n cheese) from Outback, enjoy week-old Christmas gifts and just … well … hang out. Despite small shifts in the details, it always felt the same. My aunts, cousins, parents, brother and usually a couple friends all gathered, counting down before resigning to the anti-climatic and inevitable end that came with 12:01 a.m.
My friends and I used to get dressed up, just because that’s what we felt you were supposed to do for the holiday, even if it was only to go in the basement and play Guitar Hero or take our turn butchering karaoke with the family.
My final year of high school, though, the tradition felt juvenile and I traded in its certainty for the uncertainty that came with a party my parents didn’t know I was attending. By college, I was in California for New Year’s, a time zone away from my childhood celebration, again dressed up because it’s what you should do, but this time with at least somewhere to go, even if it was just out to dinner then back to the hotel we were staying at for our basketball trip.
The next two years were spent in exotic Gettysburg, again with teammates and the blur of alcohol, followed by basketball practice the morning after. This year, though, now that I’m 21 and free from the love-hate regiment of a winter sports season, I can get dressed up and have someplace — anywhere I want, really, to go.
Freedom and time are both funny things. After all that, all I want to do is go back to the beginning, spend in on a couch with those I am closest to, have a simple night with some simple fun and pretend, like we always do when the change we chase actually comes, that nothing actually ever changed at all.