Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Occupy Christmas

Reinventing family traditions after a divorce can be a real challenge, so I'm delighted to be in the 5th year of an annual Christmas Party thrown by my kids' father, his new wife, Bonnie, and me and my partner, Cindy. Splitting the costs and labor, the four of us start prepping for the party in September. Then each year, despite incredibly busy lives, our 3 children and their families--14 grandkids in all-- come together on a Sunday afternoon in December to make merry. A trimmed tree, lights and streamers, food, gifts and stockings are part of the mix, but also lots of catching up for both kids and adults. Though we all live in the same county, we lead full, rich lives, so connections are haphazard and intermittent and rarely involve the whole crowd. Speaking for myself, the best part of this party is the chance to make memorable connections with cousins, in-laws, uncles and aunts. Of course, the kids are pretty interested in the gifts and stockings too.

This year we ran into some hurdles. Our finances got murky, and Cindy and I weren't able to squirrel away a regular monthly deposit to our Christmas fund. Raymond was scheduled for knee replacement surgery three weeks before the party, and we knew he would not be doing much elfing. Plus, he was very entrenched in the local "Occupy" movement, and he wanted to Occupy Christmas. For a brief moment, we considered canceling the party this year, but that idea went up in a poof of smoke. Instead, we put on our thinking caps and started modifying our usual modus operandi, especially when it came to gifts.

We began with the Occupy Christmas motif and grabbed the idea to choose gifts that were made in the USA. Then we decided we wanted to involve local merchants or businesses somehow. The year before, I had come up with the idea of including one personal treasure that belonged to one of us in each stocking. We decided to include those treasures in the main gift and ask the grandkids to each contribute 3 small treasures of their own as stocking stuffers. We gave them stickers, asked them to attach their names to the items, and we collected them the Sunday before Thanksgiving. The kids complied with a delightful array of things from compasses to toy cars to nail polish.

On the Sunday after Thanksgiving, the day before Raymond's surgery, we met to decide which kids would get which treasures in their gifts and stockings. This was a super fun chore. When one of us suggested a certain treasure for one of the children, we went with it, totally trusting our very first instincts. I named Huck recipient of my magnetic poetry. Cindy thought Leon should have Nell's dream oil. Bonnie thought Anna Mae would like her sleep mask. Raymond dropped the hacky-sacks into Aliou's pile.  For the main gift, we had ordered American made bath sheets for each child and hired a local seamstress to appliqué each child's name on his or her towel.

I admit to a bit of trepidation the morning of the party. Would the kids be disappointed with this variant on previous parties?  Definitely not!  The smiles, laughter and shouts rang with full-fledged Christmas wonder. Huck wore his towel like a toga for an hour after opening it. Mary Autumn and Nell lined their gifts on the floor beside the tree to admire. Leon pumped dream oil on anyone who approached him, and the four who got our headlamps ran out in the dark to play.

Granddaddy had to leave early as this was the most activity his bionic knee had seen in weeks, but everyone else stayed late-- occupying Christmas.

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