Christmas and Cousins
The ballerina is my oldest granddaughter and to her right is my youngest nephew. The year of the photograph is 2000. Today the ceramic tree they are admiring is seen on Facebook next to the old, "Share if you ever had one of these in your house." If you ever had one of these in your house? People, we can hear you. We aren't dead yet. And neither is that tree. I was born a Pisces but I am pretty sure that my real sign is the Christmas Tree. When I was a kid, our family would cram into the station wagon after church, with my dad behind the wheel and my mom riding shotgun. And off to a Christmas tree gas station lot we'd go. "This one! I want this one," could be heard up and down the rows of evergreens. "Over here. I found one!" But then my mom would spin it around and point out the hole on the back side or she'd say, "the trunk is crooked." She was always very suspicious of tree trunks. We never drove home with a tree that did not pass the tree inspection from the all time inspector of tree inspectors. And that inspector wasn't me or any of my five siblings or my dad. And we didn't have a dog. So. Once home we would pose for a picture standing next to it, in front of the house. "The branches have to fall," my dad would say. "What?" "Millie, we can't decorate it until the branches drop. You can go and play. We'll call you when it's time." For the love of God. There I'd be in my snow pants, arms and legs making snow angels, with one eye on that tree, waiting for the branches to move. I would put on my ice skates and cross the street and do a few triple toe loops on the rink, with the other eye on those branches. Those branches never moved. We were trained from the beginning of time to line up in the living room as water was heating on the stove top for hot cocoa and simultaneously my mother was unwrapping delicate ornaments from tissue paper. She would hand them to us one by one. And we all took turns hanging them all together in one big knotted pile on the center branch that was three feet off the ground. And every year I would hear my mother say, "Kerm, that tree is crooked." Somehow by morning the ornaments were evenly spread about the tree. I loved the two velvet drums. I may have stolen them, because they are both hanging on my tree. "It is better to give than it is to receive." At six years of age, it seemed to me that it was more about receiving whatever happened to be inside the package that was wrapped in that red and green striped paper that I'd just shredded to pieces, than it was about giving. "It is Jesus' birthday," they would say. At seven I wondered why the Almighty Father and his Virgin Mary wife, were so terrible at throwing birthday parties. I mean Christmas morning? What was that all about? Was it so that we had to put down the very thing we'd been waiting to get our hands on for a year, sometimes two? The thing that wasn't even broken yet? My mother would stand with her hands on her hips in a heap of paper and bows covering the carpet. "Now!" she would say. And we would drop everything, because if we didn't, she would resort to calling in the big guns, also known as our dad who was busy reading the paper. We'd pop out of our rooms with our teeth and hair brushed and our fancy clothes on. And then we'd mumble our way outside and climb into the old cold station wagon. What was Mary thinking? I know it's not fair that she took all of my blame, but, I mean, dad's just didn't know the kinds of things that mom's did. Especially back then. For instance, a mom would never invite a bunch of people over and not put out any snacks and then have them sit, stand, kneel, sing and pray for an hour, without at least sending them home with a bag of party favors. NEVER. I thought that Mary could have spiced things up a little bit. Maybe thrown in a game of pin the tail on the donkey or perhaps hang a pinnate from the rafters and pass out a blindfold and a club. How about just a cake with a few thousand candles? That was many, many, many, Christmas' ago, times six. I now understand that my thinking was completely inappropriate, in that it was not all the Virgin Mary's fault about the lame birthday party. I now also know what a virgin is. And I also know that it really is about giving. It took decades of Tom and Jerry's, but I think I've finally got it. I've watched Christmas trees come and go. Memories are stored in the ornaments that I proudly hang. And I do not wait for the branches to fall. I have also been secretly conducting a scientific study which has been funded by the, Millie Noe What's All the Fuss About Foundation, more commonly known as MNWATFAF. And after fifty-nine years, I am ready to post my surprising findings. It turns out that cousins who share Christmases have a special bond. Apparently admiring your grandma and grandpa's ceramic tree, the very one that is seen on Facebook with the, "Share if you have ever had one of these in your house," ripping apart wrapping paper to get into your presents down there on the floor, overloading on sugar and then zipping through your grandma's house in packs screaming bloody murder, going completely unnoticed by the adults with all their holiday cheer, gives cousins a right of passage that does not appear to go away. The Nobel Society has also noted that new heartfelt cousin bonds, discovered by MNWATFAF, are forming every Christmas season. And these special molecules that these people possess, accumulate in their bodies and then filter into the air and are believed to be very contagious if breathed in. And they seem to affect everybody, including their parents, their aunts, their uncles, their grandmas, their grandpas and any and all friends who happen to join in on the frenzy. And this very thing is what gives us old geezers the strength to get on the Christmas Train and to join in on the festivities. There is no need for a pinnate. Who cares about Pin the tail on the Donkey anymore? And I still have not seen a cake with a thousand candles. However it is getting close. This year it was thirty-five, for my youngest, Rene, who happened to be born on the twenty-third. And this special season makes you miss those who are no longer. And it makes you want to give to those who are not as fortunate. And Facebook is filled with beauty-queen-selfies. And this season makes Millie Noe even more annoying than usual with her camera in everybody's face. > And just like the energizer bunny. Millie and her camera keep going and going and going and going. Wishing peace and love, to you and yourn, from Millie and her family and friends who did not agree to participate in any of this. And now if you will excuse me, I have to go and plug in my phone.