Saturday, December 30, 2006

Zero Mostel's Pride & Joy

You guys know that I do that whole fruity, nutty life coaching thing, right? Like I've said, it works for me. One of the things that the coach is always saying is that the first step is declaring one's intentions. This means out loud and usually repeatedly. It's not a process I find easy because if I say it and it doesn't happen then I'm a failure, right?

I can't deny the success rate, though. "I want to make a CD" and someone says, "I'll record it." "I need a part time job" and someone gets me an interview. "I want a date with Lee Tergesen"...OK, we're still waiting on that one but I've really only said it out loud and proud and direct this once.

Right here on this site I declared a need for tradition, for some sort of continuity. The only difference in this one is that the call got answered from a quarter that doesn't even know this site exists. Well, they do now, but they didn't until later on Christmas Eve.

The background is that all my life we spent Christmas Eve at my grandfather's house because it is also his birthday. There were a few notable exceptions but it was a serious committment on my part, the part of Christmas I liked best, how I felt Christmas should be. The legend goes that when my grandfather was 4 years old he stood on the counter of the library in Saginaw, MI and recited 'Twas the Night Before Christmas in its entirety.

So, this Christmas Eve we're at my aunt and uncle's house and I'm sitting on an ottoman by the fire when my cousin's wife, Root's Mama, sidles over and says, "Just a heads up, I promised Root that you would recite the Night Before Christmas for her before she went to bed." GAH! Remember that in the legend it was my grandfather that had the thing memorized. It was not me. Really so not. I have, on and off, been able to do 2 or 3 verses on my own but never the whole thing. The "crest of the new fallen snow" stuff and the "leaves like wild hurricane" hoopla trips me up. Plus I can't remember if the sugar plums or the kerchief and cap comes first. I say as much, even offering up the fact that my absent girl-cousin knows more of it by heart than I do. What does Mama Root do then? Which card does she pull? Thank god she's not a sharpshooter 'cause she hit me right between the eyes.

"I'm trying to start a tradition, here!"

Well, then.

I asked around for a copy of the book. No dice - which is weird for our family but we're not perfect. Thankfully we have the internet. Put Mike on it and in minutes I had a pristinely printed copy of the words.

Whole fam gathered around, Root on her daddy's lap in the middle of the couch, me next to them, Mike snapping photos like Peter Parker, people speaking along with the bits they knew and a huge rousing chorus of "Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!" It was cooler than I like to admit. Root could have cared less, she is after all only about 19 months old, but the rest of us seemed to enjoy it and it means we've started the tradition before she knows it so when she's conscious of it it'll just seem to her like it's always been like this. And that is what I've been looking for.

Thank you Mama Root, you really know how to give a Christmas present.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous4:49 PM

    THAT'S a lovely story! See? You're right - put it out there and the Universe sends an answer!

    That echoes the Chili family tradition of reading snippits of Dickens' A Christmas Carol - one of my most favorite holiday traditions. I kind of wish that it were possible to read the WHOLE thing, but that's asking a bit much, since we read after supper on Christmas Eve. As it is, we take the book in some semblance of order - someone always reads the very first few paragraphs, then hands the book to whomever wants to read what comes next in the story This year, I read the prize turkey scene, so I went last. It's a tradition that I'll keep long after my in-laws have shuffled off their mortal coil, and something I hope my girls come to love as much as I do.

    Do you think you'll have the piece memorized by next Christmas, or will someone else do the reciting next year?