Merry Metsmas

So back in October, when I was wrapping up my look at the 1986 Mets with all of the memorabilia that I had collected over the years, I left one particular item out of my list.  At first, I thought that I had forgotten to include it, but then I realized that it actually commanded its own entry, in a way.  That’s because I can’t write about the 1986 World Champions commemorative ornament without writing about Christmas itself.

I received the ornament as a Christmas gift in 1986 and while I am not 100% sure who gave it to me, I’m going to say it was my Uncle Lou because around the same time he also gave my sister and I copies of the 1986 World Series program.  And since we always went to my grandmother’s house on Christmas Eve, we more than likely hung it on the tree that night before we went to bed.  Soon after, however, I became insistent that every single year it go on the center of the Christmas tree, to the point where I would make sure it was the first ornament on the tree.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

This weekend, my wife and I will be putting up our Christmas decorations and our pre-lit artificial tree is in a bag in the basement all ready for us to take it out and put it together.  This is a radical departure from what my sister and I had to go through when we were kids and it was time to put up the tree.  You see, my family was never one to rush a holiday, so we actually waited until after Thanksgiving to think about decorating for Christmas (as opposed to people who start putting inflatables up in September), but once Black Friday hit, we were shopping and were also commencing what was a 42-step process of putting Christmas together:

  1. Go to St. Ann’s church on Middle Road in Sayville.  Find a tree.
  2. Set that tree aside and wander around the lot in search of a better tree.
  3. Re-locate that first three and purchase it.
  4. Put tree in a bucket of water and lean against fence in backyard.
  5. Wait two weeks, during which children ask, “When are we going to put the tree up?  When are we going to put the tree up?  When are we going to put the tree up?”
  6. Decide on a day to decorate.  Wait until late afternoon to get started.
  7. Open attic stairs, do impression of Chevy Chase taking stairs to the face in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
  8. Go up to attic, realize how dark it is.
  9. Go to basement and get droplight.
  10. Hang droplight in attic and plug into bathroom outlight using extension cord that is longer than most “Turkey Trots” run on Thanksgiving weekend.
  11. Locate giant cardboard box that once held case of Luvs diapers but now holds every Christmas ornament that family has owned since the Carter Administration.
  12. Drag box across attic floor, almost fall to death when attic stairs are misjudged.
  13. Carry box down stairs, to den.
  14. Take Tylenol for back pain.
  15. Bring the tree in bucket from the back fence to the deck.
  16. Attempt to pry bucket off with hands.
  17. Give up on hands, start kicking the bucket.
  18. Give up kicking the bucket, use a hammer.
  19. Realize that water poured into bucket has frozen and chisel is required
  20. Chisel ice.
  21. Find tree stand bought during Eisenhower Administration in decorations box.
  22. Spend twenty minutes sawing tree trunk and fitting tree to stand.
  23. Bring tree into the house.
  24. Spend twenty more minutes making sure that tree is straight.
  25. Listen to kids bitch impatiently.
  26. Spend twenty more minutes making sure that fullest part of tree is in front.
  27. Continue to listen to kids bitch.
  28. Put on Christmas music to shut kids up or drown them out.
  29. Listen to kids bitch that Celine Dion’s Christmas album is an affront to the season.
  30. Begin stringing lights.
  31. Discover one strand of lights is not working properly.
  32. Spend twenty minutes finding malfunctioning light.
  33. Replace bulb.
  34. Realize you put in bulb that makes lights flash.
  35. Replace bulb again.
  36. Continue stringing lights.
  37. Continue stringing lights.
  38. Insist that tree is neither straight nor full, which leads to further tree adjustment.
  39. Wash sap off hands from tree adjustment.
  40. Continue stringing lights.
  41. Allow first ornament to be put on tree.
  42. Watch sun rise.

Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating on that last one but when you’re nine or ten years old and your life during the latter part of the year centers around celebrating Christmas, you have to admit that the process of putting a tree together seems to take an eternity, and every year I would spend that eternity fondling the blue ball that had the classic Mets logo on the front at 1986 World Champions, waiting to place it front and center, usually next to an orange light so that anyone that came by could bask in the awesomeness of the 1986 Mets.

Can I Have Christmas Chocolate?

My English classes this week were reading Dylan Thomas’s short story “A Child’s Christmas in Wales,” which is a cute story about –well, the title’s kind of self-explanatory.  But what I love about the story, besides Thomas’s use of the English language, especially in his imagery and his wit, is that it’s one of the few Christmas stories that I have read (or seen on TV) that doesn’t attempt to teach me any sort of lesson.  Instead of Scrooge, etc. learning the “meaning of Christmas,” Dylan Thomas simply talks about the Christmases of his youth as a matter of fact.  I’m not sure if my students enjoyed the story (most of them spent two days either bitching about the fact that they had to be in school when every other school district in the area had the entire week off, or attempting to sleep), but we had a great discussion about holiday traditions and why we enjoy them so much.

Over the course of this discussion, I brought up some of the things my family has done since I was a little kid.  This included such time-honored traditions as my mother forcing my sister and I to sit at the top of our stairs and take a picture, getting a toothbrush in our stockings, and the long arduous process of opening the gifts under the tree.  Furthermore, I talked about how when you get to be my age and you have a family on your own, you find yourself either starting new traditions or carrying on old traditions either by yourself or with your siblings or children.  One such tradition has been holding on to the idea that while Christmas is a day, there is a whole Christmas season.

The idea of Advent has been around for at least a few hundred years and is marked in several ways by different religious denominations.  I grew up attending the Lutheran church and the tradition there was that during the four Sunday services prior to Christmas, there would be an advent wreath, which is a wreath with five candles (four purple candles in a circle and a white one in the center), sitting near the altar.  At the beginning of the service, the acolyte (which I think is what Catholics would call an “altar boy”) would light one of the purples candles (each a different shade of purple and I believe with a meaning, which I once knew, but my rejection of most things religious in my teens and twenties and suppression of Sunday School trauma led to this information being purged from my memories), with the  white one for Christmas Eve/Day to signify the birth of Christ. 

However, this wasn’t the only way I knew how to celebrate the Christmas season.  There’s been the obvious running of the Christmas shopping gauntlet and a barrage of Christmas-themed television specials and movies (as well as short stories in my English classes), but the most important one, since I’ve been a kid, has been the PeA advent calendar.