Saturday, December 24, 2005

If I Only Knew Better

Christmas eve. We’re not a family big on traditions or holidays. We would do the basics like present exchange, but not much else. For a long time, I wished that we would have what most people consider as a ‘traditional’ holiday together. A big dinner, lots of family, decorations, tree, baking, cooking, you know, the works.

I was young and stupid. I know.

My parents used to own a small store, and like all other retail stores, Christmas time was a big deal for the store. It was always ridiciously busy the week before Christmas and so I’ve always worked at the store during this time. I generally never had time to hang out with friends during Christmas break. I would usually be there from 9am to about 10pm every night around the holidays. I dreaded that evil store.

Christmas eve was always an event. For some reason, besides the regular Christmas rush, our store attracted a lot of last minute shoppers (probably because we’re the only store still open so late) and so we stayed opened until everyone was finished with their shopping. There’re lots of funny stories about last minute Christmas eve shoppers, they're a special breed I tell ya, but that’s for another time.

Every year for probably around 8 years, my parents would close the store around 9pm on Christmas eve. We would go home for a nice big hot pot dinner. Afterwards, we would all watch a movie that the kids have all already seen so we can explain it to our parents. That was Christmas eve.

That may not seem like a lot, and at the time it surely didn’t seem like it to me (since I was young and didn’t know better). Being so busy around this season, there was also never decorations. My friends’ houses would always have all these elaborate decorations that I wished I had. I remember one year I had 2 dollars and I walked across the street to Wal-Mart. I bought and put up one stran of little lights outside my window. It looked so pathetic and Charlie Brownish, but I was so happy and proud of it.

Because the store kept us so busy during this time, we generally didn’t have presents to give either. Many times the parents would give us cash. I usually made something to give them. We didn’t have much back then, but most of the gifts that I made during that time are still around the house.

I remember hating it so much that Christmas eve was different than other people’s. Instead of relaxing, cooking, eating, and goofing off at home, we would always be working at the store. Always the store.

I didn’t know what I had then. What seemed like something terrible and so different (working Christmas eve with the parents), was the tradition that I was looking for. What seemed to be harsh back then, are my best and favorite memories of Christmas eve.

Things changed 6 years ago. Our family is and would never be the same again. The store isn’t around anymore. In these last 6 years, with everyone so spread out across the country, 3 of these last 6 years we didn’t have Christmas together.

One of the years we didn’t have Christmas together as a family, I thought I’d do what I’ve always wanted. I seriously decorated my place. Lights, flowers, tree, decorations everywhere. It’s like Chridiarrhead explosive dierhhea all over my place.

Yea, that wasn’t the way to go. I think all the blinking lights almost gave me a seizure. That was not the tradition that I had thought I wanted.

Even during the years when I didn’t spend Christmas eve with my family, I usually spent it with friends. It was always a good time, but it’s not the same.

This will be the first year I’ve ever spent Christmas eve by myself.

It’s funny. All that time when I was younger, I was looking for some fabricated holiday tradition drilled into my head by too much TV and movies. All that seem so silly now. All I want now is a tradition that I can never have again.

What I wouldn’t give to be working tonight with my parents at the store.

Have a wonderful Christmas Eve everyone.

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