We’ve been entering the holidays, which I’m happy to say has been our typical spirited mash-up, all of which could provide material for the Sinatra holiday video remix of “My Way.” Which is to say, tradition is simply what Dan and I, as co-captains of this little family, present to the crew on any given year. The good ideas stick, and we call it tradition. This year, we cut a few choice conifer limbs and strung them with lights, for what Rose calls a “Hanukkah bush,” and Col (rhymes with soul) calls “Pojupifir” (adapted from its combined parts: ponderosa, juniper, piñon, fir).
We celebrated the first night of Hanukkah with butternut squash-potato latkes topped with green chile and chokecherry-applesauce, cheap red wine and some high-stakes dreidel with Col and Rose’s Jewish cronies. (Note to self: For every ounce of red wine, 10 ounces water, old girl.)
I’ve realized that all the Christmasy things we opt out of no longer put me in a neurotic tailspin of over-analyzation. The kids are getting more comfortable with being different (Someone, who goes by the name of Mama, spilled the beans on Santa’s identity five years ago), which is something I hope they can draw from as teenagers, that we never did anything just because everyone else was doing it.
Honestly, it’s not that hard for me to get in the holiday spirit. I love giving gifts, singing Christmas carols, taking time off work and getting the green light on copious eggnog. But there are still odd customs to navigate: the obligatory green and red like we’re all rabid fans of the same sports team; the long lists for Santa that children are encouraged to create, as if we’re trying to build their muscles of wanting; the human-trampling over this year’s electronic superstar; the sugar we’re all trying to avoid blooming everywhere like a toxic algae.
The good news is that we, as parents, are in charge of our holiday celebrations. We can buy in, opt-out, reform or revolutionize to fit our personal ideals.
On Christmas Eve, we’re cooking venison lasagna at the homeless shelter because, although I didn’t grow up celebrating Christmas, my new understanding is that this holiday is about giving. Children, like most of us when our needs are met, love to give. We volunteer monthly at Manna Soup Kitchen with a group of other families and Col and Rose never tire of spreading peanut butter and jelly on bread (even if patrons may tire of sandwiches that are sticky on the outside – whoops).
Col and Rose have been wrapping their cast-off books and toys to give away to friends since Nov. 29. And if the kids decide giving means clearing their room of miscellaneous flotsam, who am I to interfere?
We’ll be cleaning up trash on a section of the Fort Lewis rim trail as our service to Earth. And Rose would like to bring Christmas treats to all the rats at Fish Connection (relatives, no doubt, of her own pet rat).
I am adopting author Glennon Melton’s explanation to her kids: “We’re not giving charity, we’re offering justice.” Because somehow, we were born into the luckiness of always having enough to eat, feeling safe in our home, having access to medical care and never having been denied love. There are a million blessings to count, daily, and there is no material gift that compares with the wealth of gratitude topped with a little eggnog.
Reach Rachel Turiel at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit her blog, 6512 and growing, on raising children, chickens and other messy, rewarding endeavors at 6,512 feet.