HALLMARKS OF THE HOLIDAY SEASON
A DRIVE TO CHICAGO, OUTDOOR ICE SKATING, AND CRAZY CHRISTMAS MORNINGS
All I want for Christmas is table food
When I think of Christmas as a kid, a few key memories come to mind. I remember sleeping in the “way back” of my parents’ old station wagon on the way to Chicago from the East Coast. I remember the sting of the winter wind on my face as I learned to ice skate on a frozen pond (not very well I might add). I remember the roar of laughter of a big Irish Christmas party and the sound of paper ripping on Christmas morning. Christmas has changed a lot since I was a kid, but thankfully it hasn’t become any less special. I was born in Chicago, but my family moved to the East Coast when I was pretty young. All of our extended family still lived there, so before every Christmas, my parents, my three siblings, and I would all pile into the back of the station wagon with our blankets and pillows (without seatbelts, of course — because if you were a kid in the 70s, your parents’ motto was “If it doesn’t kill you, it must be okay.” And all good parents tested this theory regularly) and drive all night across four or five states back to the Midwest. While that drive probably doesn’t sound very fun, all that travel was exciting to me. Just like those old Christmas specials like Rudolph and Frosty that only came on TV once in early December, that drive to Chicago was a hallmark of the holiday season for me. It was how I knew Christmas was coming. It was always freezing in Chicago around the holidays. Even though it felt like the air froze in our lungs with every breath we took, my cousins, siblings, and I still found plenty of opportunities for fun outside. We were always sledding and ice skating on the ponds that completely froze over, which was something we could never do back home. Because we were always away from our house on Christmas, my siblings and I would inevitably discuss whether Santa would know to bring our presents to Chicago, and like all good 70’s parents (see above), my parents would use this uncertainty to threaten us into behaving. If we didn’t shape up, they would tell Santa so we would have nothing to open on Christmas morning! We usually started behaving after that.
The Christmas Beast
Christmas Day itself was pandemonium. We would wake our parents up at the crack of dawn, race down the stairs, and tear through whatever presents we could get our hands on. Some families make their kids open presents in an orderly fashion, and I never understood that. Christmas mornings of utter mayhem are the only kind I remember. While it might have been fun as a kid, I’m thankful I don’t travel during the holidays anymore. Instead of a long drive (these days with every one buckled up properly in a safe car engrossed in their phone), we stick around Washington and hang out as a family. I have a list of Christmas movies I have to watch every year: “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “Christmas with the Kranks,” and “A Christmas Story.” And, while it might not be their favorite thing to do, as we get closer to Christmas, my kids will usually humor me and watch those movies with me, especially after I threaten them with some 70’s parenting. Now that the kids are older, I have to wake them up on Christmas morning. It’s not quite as crazy anymore although the dog still gets pretty excited … Whether you’re staying in town or traveling to visit family this Christmas, I hope you find lots of opportunities to create memories and be with the people you love this holiday season. Merry Christmas!
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