We Are Both Right

The Spirit of Christmas Pageants Past

It might not have been the role I wanted in the Christmas pageant, but one I'll never forget. ©Oriental Trading

Baa-baa.

Talk about memories. Thirty-two years later, and I remember my line from the Christmas pageant in kindergarten like it was yesterday. (I can still do my Copacabana tap dance recital number from that year too, but that’s neither here nor there.)

What is most amazing to me is how vividly I remember that day. It was my first year of Catholic school and the teachers were assembling us outside the gymatorium. Our parents were in folding chairs getting their Polaroid cameras warmed up.

Behind us in line was the afternoon class and I could see my cousin if I turned around and stood on tippie toes. They looked so cool in their drummer boy costumes, with construction paper hats they had made themselves. Not to mention that their song rocked.

And me? Well I was a sheep. Lamb. Whatever. No drum to bang. Heck, no human words to even speak.

Looking down at my costume, I wondered if I could go through with it.  My five-year-old Christmas spirit was sagging beneath the white batting my mother had secured to the fabric shirt, pants, and mitts that she lovingly sewed for me.  And at that moment, I didn’t feel any better than the lamb girl in front of me whose cotton balls were falling off before we ever made it to the stage.

I thought about being a rebel and walking in, instead of crawling on all fours as we had practiced.

Why couldn’t my name have been Mary and snagged me the starring role?

I looked sideways at the angels’ tinsel halos, wishing I was them.

And then it was go time.

Not one to shirk a role, I did my part. I smiled. And we sang:

Said the shepherd boy to the little lamb: Do you hear what I hear? Do you hear what I hear?

Still to this day, when I hear that song, I smile. And sing along. Because by the time we left that stage, I had a change of heart. It could have been the rows of smiles in the audience or the Holy Spirit getting a hold of me, but I was Scrooge no longer.

At the end of the play, I crawled out while the other lambs opted to ditch their character and walk.

And then we sat stage right while the drummer boys did their thing. They were good. So I sang along to their act too.

Parumppapumpum. On my drum.

Just like I do now whenever those two songs play.

What takes you back to your childhood holidays? For Amanda, it’s a bit of time travel.

The Christmas Mornings That Weren’t

It should come to no surprise to anyone that when it comes to Christmas, there are certain (ahem) secrets that we parents keep. Aside from the big guy in red, there are presents to hide, special Santa wrapping paper to buy and other assorted tips and tricks we employ in order to ensure that our children have the happiest of Christmases and memories to look back on.

Growing up, my parents were so determined on making us have a wonderful and magical holiday season, they even dabbled in a little time travel.

christmas present MeiTeng ©/stock.xchng

The truth about Santa Claus wasn't the only secret my parents kept from me. MeiTeng ©/stock.xchng

Every Christmas Eve, it would go the same way. My maternal grandparents (Memaw and Bepaw) would come over; we’d eat; sometimes we would visit other relatives; my sister, brother and I would sing a few carols; we would call that 800 number where you could “talk” to Santa and the elves; and then it would be off to bed so the magic could happen.

And as hard as it was to fall asleep, in what seemed like no time at all (heh) I’d hear it: a booming “HO! HO! HO!” coming from the living room. We’d wipe the sleep from our eyes, race downstairs in the still-dark early morning and “wake up” our parents and grandparents (who had slept over the night before). The next few hours would go by in a blur — a riot of noise, wrapping paper, food and  of course, gifts.

Once everything had been opened, my parents would announce that it was time for a little nap and that we kids should go back into bed for a little while. Memaw and Bepaw would head home to freshen up and we’d wake a short time (heh) later, nice and refreshed for the rest of our Christmas Day.

Sounds like a lovely, typical celebration right?

It does and it was. But there was one important fact that I got completely and totally wrong. For years. And years. And when I found out the truth, boy was I traumatized (to this day, my sister still rants about it).

We actually weren’t waking up Christmas morning to open our gifts. It was still Christmas Eve night. My parents would send us to bed and then wake us up once everything was set and Santa had come to visit. Our “nap” was actually everyone going to bed and we’d wake the real Christmas morning some six- or seven-odd hours later.

Why? I’m not sure. My mom says it’s just how they did it then. That’s fine, but still, it was just a bit disconcerting to learn that the precious holiday memory that I had, wasn’t exactly what I thought it was. (Seriously, I’m 50 miles away from her and I can hear my sister starting to howl as she reads this.) Even so, the truth doesn’t change the important part of my cherished memories — that I can still hear perfectly Santa’s big voice waking us up and feeling those butterflies in my stomach as I saw the tree laden with gifts (I still get them to this day although my excitement is for my children).

These days Christmas Eve night is spent with my husband. After we finish our magic elf work, we turn off the house lights and leave on the tree ones. We pour two glasses of wine and simply sit quietly, side-by-side on our couch, reflecting on the year and our kids. The next morning will be filled with laughter and pandemonium, but in those moments I get to really focus on how lucky we are and how much love is all around us.

No matter what time we celebrate.

When do you open gifts with your children? Is there a part of your childhood Christmas memories that aren’t what you thought they were?

While we aren’t exactly disagreeing this time around, Suzanne’s most favorite holiday memory definitely happened when she thought it did.

Thankful for a Thanksgiving Table with Room for Everyone

© We Are Both Right

© We Are Both Right

My 7-year-old self would have been very lonely at a kids’ table on Thanksgiving. Every year we celebrated at my maternal grandparent’s house (Memaw and Bepaw) and I was the only grandchild on that side of the family at that time (my sister is nine years younger than me, my brother 11).

But not only would my younger self been sitting by my her lonesome at a table, she probably would have been pretty annoyed too. My Memaw and Bepaw made a big fuss over Thanksgiving, always including me in the preparation process. I can remember spending many “Thanksgiving Eve’s” at their home helping to get everything ready. After a big slumber party, we’d all wake up early and put the turkey in the oven. I’d help snap string beans and set the table while we waited for the other guests to arrive. And when it was time to carve, I’d dutifully stand by my Bepaw’s side as he worked, happy to accept any samples he was willing to slip me (lots).

The Thanksgiving meal, and the buildup to it, was (and still is) always about family. If after spending all that wonderful time with my grandparents I had been relegated to sit away from all the grown-ups, I think I might have been a little hurt. Now obviously our situation was different as there was only at most on any given year, three children at our Thanksgiving table, but still, I liked being with the grownups. Being a part of the conversation. And the family.

And even if the house had been teaming with kids, I’m still not sure the idea of a kids’ table on Thanksgiving (or any holiday for that matter) would have been a good fit for us, then and now. I mean, in our family anyway, we make a big deal about eating dinner together every night. Why, on what is arguably the most special meal of the year, would I separate myself from the people I love the most?  (Wow, that came out a lot more heavy-handed and judge-y than it sounded in my head.)

It’s true though. For me, Thanksgiving is about family and three-fifths of my immediate one all happen to be under five feet tall (although my 10-year-old is closer and closer to negating that  by the second) and are too young to know what a VCR is. Does that automatically mean they should have to sit by themselves? (Only if they start making fun of us for having to fast-forward to get to the good parts.)

And from a practical standpoint, I think a kids’ table is actually more stressful for parents, especially if younger children are part of the dining entourage. I’m constantly being asked to cut up food, mop up milk, pour more milk — the closer the proximity to the children and their places, the faster I can put out fires and get back to my own meal (and if there are lots of other adults at the table, that means there are lots more hands to help).

In any case, for our family, this year there is no need to even question the need for a kids’ table. We have a lot going on later on in this holiday season so in the interest of maximizing our family time,  T. and I decided that the main part of the Thanksgiving meal will be spent at our home, just us five.

And when we are finished, we will head over to my sister’s house for dessert  – where the little ones will be happily dispersed amongst the grownups.

Where do your kids sit for the Thanksgiving meal?

Originally published November, 2010

It’s Always More Fun at the Thanksgiving Kids’ Table

When I was a kid, with nine cousins over a fifteen-year age span, the kids’ table at holiday dinners was the hot spot.

It was the stuff memories are made of — clams oreganato eating contests, smack talk about the Monopoly game underway, and brainstorms for yet another original theatrical performance which we would always make the adults endure before coffee was served. (I still remember being pretty bummed when I finally graduated to the adult table as a senior in high school.)

The tradition of a holiday kids’ table still exists in our family, although most of the time now it’s an appendage to the main dining table as opposed to the exclusive seating we had at my parent’s house. There are also less kids overall, with the max being four on either side of the family.

Not quite the level of excitement it used to be — but for me the kids’ table is always more fun. Since this is a holiday from work, I would much rather be debating our favorite episodes of Yo Gabba Gabba (and whether Lance Rock was wearing the orange sneakers or the white) than haranguing about mid-term elections.

falconreid/stock.xchng

For Thanksgiving this year it will just be my two — so we’re planning to take the far end of the table which actually juts out into the foyer of my in-laws’ house. It will still be decorated with linens and china, but we skip the wine glasses and keep the bowl of cranberry sauce snuggly planted at the other end of the table. This arrangement also allows the kids a quick escape when they’ve had their fill on the first course and we excuse them until the turkey comes out later in the afternoon.

Mainly it was out of necessity that my husband and I started sitting at the Thanksgiving kids’ table when our son was a toddler. Someone had to take the place of honor at the far end and it might as well have been us, since we needed to hop up and down on a moment’s notice.

But neither of us seemed to mind the “preferred seating” and we plan to keep our spots until the incoming nieces/nephews bump us over to adult territory.

For reasons that include peace of mind, I hope the tradition of the kids’ table lives on until my children pass the final exam at the etiquette school I keep threatening to send them to. (Or until there are enough other little kids running around that no one can pinpoint just who spilled the ketchup on the new, creamy white, fabric-covered dining room chair.)

Will there be a Thanksgiving kids’ table at your celebration next week? Was there one when you were a kid?

Originally published November, 2010