You can deck the halls, bake the cookies, mail the cards and wrap the gifts, but the best part of Christmas can't be frosted or topped with a bow. Christmas, whether observed as a holy day of reverence, a sparkly celebration of fun and gifts or a happy combination of each, needs people, preferably the people you love. Being the mother of grown children, I know how blessed I am to have all three here to share another holiday with me.
Melissa arrived home from college before dawn last Saturday. I leaped out of my car to greet her as she stepped down from the bus, a tired smile on her face. Forget the decorated storefronts and the holiday TV specials; it didn't begin to feel like Christmas until my daughter was home.
Twelve hours later Melissa, my son Daniel and I were out searching for the perfect Christmas tree, evaluating potential contenders as if we were judges choosing the next Miss America.
"Too many bare spots."
"Ow! Sharp needles."
We found The One at the second tree lot we visited. It was full enough, it had healthy, non-prickly needles, and it perfumed the air with its green, piney scent. I wrote a check while the tree lot man heaved our purchase onto the roof of my Jeep and secured it with lightweight rope. As we drove home I reminded Dan and Melissa of their late father's peculiar habit of refusing to have our tree tied to the top of the car, and the year they watched out the back window as our tree slithered off the roof and landed in the middle of the snowy street.
On Sunday night Jessica came over, and we hauled out the heavy holiday artillery: boxes of ornaments, lights, ceramic Santas, snowman-shaped candles, tinsel, and the manger that's been in my family for as long as I can remember: A delicate wood construction containing painted figures of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, with a handful of small rubber sheep to graze beside them.
The kids laughed as they rediscovered the ornaments they'd made in preschool, watercolor and popsicle stick masterpieces lumpy with glue, shedding gold glitter on their hands. And although it's got to be the oddest, most clumsily animated Christmas special ever, we followed family tradition and played our DVD of "The Cricket on the Hearth" as we worked.
When we were finished, we followed the ritual Ron and I began before any of our children were born: We turned off all the lights except for those on the tree, and sat together, admiring our work.
What I especially love about the time from Thanksgiving through New Year's is the thought of so many of us following our comforting traditions at the same time. No matter how peculiar our rituals may seem to outsiders, or how ordinary, we love them - because they're ours. In an ever changing world, it's something we can count on year after year.
Of course, time inevitably alters tradition. Relationships end, children grow up, loved ones pass away, and tradition transitions into remembrance.
So enjoy every second of whatever holidays you celebrate. You aren't just living one special day, you're creating another tradition many of us are fortunate to share: collecting treasured holiday memories.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Deb Pascoe is a Marquette resident, mother of three and full-time editorial assistant in The Mining Journal newsroom. Her bi-weekly columns focus on her observations on life and family. She can be reached by phone at 228-2500, ext. 240, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. "Life With a View," a collection of her Mining Journal columns, is available at area bookstores. Read her blog online at www.singlesobermom.blogspot.com.