Our Lives

Our Lives: Christmas marks a new season in our lives

CorrespondentDecember 21, 2013 

CindySchaefer.AL.050113.JEL

Cindy Schaefer.

JULI LEONARD — jleonard@newsobserver.com

For years, we had a handmade chart on the refrigerator during the month of December. It was the solution to the inevitable daily scuffle over which child would get to stick the next ornament on the Advent calendar. Erin always volunteered to draw up the chart – and thus assure that her name was in the box on Dec. 24. I am not sure her brothers ever caught on.

Erin’s enthusiasm for all things Christmas has not waned, but she has her own home and family now and my boys are grown. If not for me, the Advent calendar would go unnoticed. The days are different without children bubbling with excitement about decorating the tree and counting the minutes until we make gingerbread houses. Gone are the days of watching them sing in the church Christmas pageant and lining them up for the sometimes painful, but always memorable, taking of the annual Christmas card picture. Of soaking in their sweet innocence.

One year when Brian was about 7, I overheard him debating the existence of Santa Claus with his friend James. It was a very serious conversation peppered with valid arguments on either side as the two of them tried to work through the logistics of an improbable scenario.

Brian, however, ended the discussion with what he clearly believed to be irrefutable evidence: “I know Santa is real because no way would my Mom buy me all this stuff.” I still haven’t decided whether to be insulted at being called a cheapskate or relieved that Santa only over-indulged the kids once a year.

Christmas is probably my favorite time of year. I love the lights, the smells and the music. Most of all, I love the traditions.

My first job was as an elf at Crabtree Valley Mall in the late ’70s. For two Christmas seasons, I dressed in green knickers and a puffy shirt, topped off with a pointy hat and red-and-white striped socks. That’s rather risky attire for a teenager to don at a popular hangout for high school classmates. In those days, Crabtree elves had two jobs: to take Polaroid pictures of children with the Big Guy and to put names on stockings using glue and glitter. Neither was as easy as it sounds. We also had to take our breaks out of sight. We were elves, after all, and had a reputation to uphold.

When Glenn and I started our family, we carried over some of our childhood traditions and added our own as the years passed. We look forward to the church service on Christmas Eve and, later in the evening, gathering around our tree to read aloud the Gospel of Luke from the family Bible and offering prayers of thanksgiving. In the morning, when gifts are exchanged, they are opened one at a time, from youngest to oldest. There used to be grumblings about this ritual, but now I think limiting the frenzy is appreciated by all.

Until just a few years ago, house rules dictated that no little people were to emerge from bedrooms until 7 a.m. To ensure that no one slept late – and for moral support – Erin and Brian would often bunk together and sneak into Kevin’s room a few minutes before the deadline, forgetting that the monitor there made us privy to their excited whispers.

Home movies have preserved many of the moments that might otherwise have been forgotten, but that now are the stuff of oft-told family stories. The year Erin was so excited by the stickers and nail polish in her stocking that several long minutes passed before she noticed the new bicycle parked next to her. Or the time a roll of Scotch tape in his stocking elicited squeals of joy from 5-year-old Brian. But the one that really sticks out is watching Erin carry Kevin into the living room one Christmas morning, only to be so anxious to check out her gifts that she dropped him, sending him sprawling on the wooden floor. Watching that video later, our young nephew wondered aloud if that was why Kevin uses a wheelchair – and set Erin up for a lifetime of teasing. s I expect that one day we will have a new generation of children sharing the magic with u and maybe even necessitating another Advent calendar chart on the fridge. But for now, I am enjoying this new season of our lives and never tire of celebrating the miracle of the birth of Christ. Merry Christmas, everyone.

Schaefer: cschaefer63@nc.rr.com

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