Christmas traditions: old and new

by Lee Adams

Perhaps my favorite gift this year is the Jeff Foxworthy doll that says 12 phrases.

‘“If your front porch collapses and kills more than three dogs, you might be a redneck.’”

Believe it or not, that statement’s not too far fetched from some of the rickety homes in the countryside near where I grew up. Now I’m careful to say that I didn’t grow up in a redneck home, but the surrounding rednecks were always a great source of entertainment.

There was the constant gunfire ringing out across the hillside as they kept their shootin’ skills sharp. There were the unvaccinated dogs that roamed the surrounding neighborhood, dogs we always got blamed for trying to steal. There was the lady who fell out of a tree stand hunting deer on someone else’s property without permission.

Perhaps one of my favorite stories is how one family decorated their doublewide every year at Christmas with a foam deer from Wal-Mart, complete with arrow holes from practice for the huntin’ season. At Christmastime that deer was transformed into Rudolph, strung with colored lights across his body like a harness and a big, bright red bulb that blinked attached to the nose. But things change over the years ‘— the old Rudolph has been replaced with a fancier set of store-bought lights. I guess since they got that Lexus a few years ago the old Rudolph just wasn’t high-class enough anymore.

This year was my 32nd Christmas at my Mamaw and Papaw’s house with all my aunts and uncles. The five grandkids that couldn’t wait to rip into the presents under the tree now savor our Grandmother’s cooking more than the gifts. One of us is in another country this year, and there are four great-grandkids and another on the way. This year I watched them tear into the presents under the same ole artificial tree with the same enthusiasm we once had. In a flurry of chaos paper was sent flying into the air, punctuated by screams of delight. The girls held hands and danced in circles in the middle of the room while the boys tried out their new toy trucks.

Our publisher, Charles Womack, commented before we all left for the holiday that this would be his first Christmas without both of his grandparents. I worry when this tradition will end for me, as well. A few years ago my grandparents on my father’s side passed away. On my mother’s side there’s the potter, the electrician, and then there’s me who’s run off to the big city and never comes around anymore.

Things are different ‘— things change as we grow older despite whether we want them to or not. I want to keep some of the same traditions and relationships, but I don’t know if I’m strong enough. At the same time there are new traditions forcing their way upon me ‘— new traditions that are becoming my own family’s.

At nearly 5 years old my daughter has now fully grasped the concept of Santa Claus and what he does. It touches my heart to see her eyes widen at the sight of a princess castle tent big enough for her to stand in on the living room floor. She didn’t ask for this one, so how did Santa know she wanted that, she wants to know. The pogo stick she asked for is there, too. When we show her the cookie crumbs left on a plate on the coffee table and the nearly empty pan of reindeer food she made at pre-school she’s not a bit surprised.

‘“They’re supposed to do that,’” she says matter-of-factly.

For my wife and I one of the biggest highlights of Christmas day is a chance to take an afternoon nap, and the little girl just shy of five amazes us with all the energy she has. Her ability to eat an unlimited supply of chocolate is also remarkable, since by the time the day is half over I already have a stomachache. Which reminds me, I’ve been insulted not once but twice this Christmas. I know I’ve put on a little weight this year, but that is no excuse for a pair of size 36 jeans from my wife. Thankfully they’re too big. The second time is when I try on a pair of size 34 corduroys from my grandmother. They fit, but only because of the adjustable elastic band in the waist.

Christmas evening my parents came and spent the night and even though my daughter was so excited she didn’t get to sleep until after midnight she still had her Mamaw up at the crack of dawn this morning. Life is great.

Somewhere along the way new traditions will be made. And one day I’ll be the grandfather, and perhaps the great-grandfather. And one day those traditions will change and my daughter will have her own traditions. But for now I’ll just enjoy things as they are, for what they are.

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