Last night we were doing our yearly trip to the Christmas Tree Festival…a tradition that has been in our family for five years and the kick off to the holiday season. It was somewhat unusual that it was 60 degrees as we set out for dinner and then headed to the festival. Christmas lights and no jackets? The kids were loving it.
But once we got inside…it was instantly Christmas! You can’t fight the twinkle lights and Christmas music and fake snow and 100 trees decked out in everything from traditional to crazy decorations.
Little did I know that one tradition would come to a screeching halt as we were viewing and voting for our favorite trees.
About three-quarters of the way through the display, Tweedle Ian says to me rather accusingly, “You know, Garrett AND Ashley both have a Jolly too? It’s called an Elf on a Shelf.”
My heart stopped. My parents stopped. Tweedle Dee looked at me.
I was caught off guard….he’s in the 4th grade…I knew this day would come sooner or later….I panicked…How did I explain the little elf who appeared on Dec. 1st each year? The elf he lovingly named Jolly. The elf he loved like a brother. I am not kidding…check out these pics over the years….
“Yeah, they sell them in stores. I’ve seen them.”
“Did you buy Jolly at a store???????”
“Jolly is not an Elf on a Shelf exactly,” I say hoping he can read between the lines without me admitting the truth and killing the magic.
Tears formed in my eyes…and I looked at my stepmom for some back-up.
“Well, I believe in magic Ian…and Jolly is pretty magical,” she offers.
He’s a smart kid. He’s not buying it.
Ian is looking at me with his big brown eyes and trying to make sense of this non-sense he’s hearing.
“Listen, buddy, the holidays are about tradition and magic and special memories. Jolly is a special Christmas memory you will always have. In fact, I have TWO Jolly’s at home. One is for you when you are older and one is for Dee. I want you to have this memory with your kids someday.”
“I want to see them both when we get home,” he demands with his voice, but I know in his heart he is saying, “Please don’t be true. Please don’t be true.”
I give him a hug, “Please don’t be mad. Please understand that I wanted to make some magic.”
My step-mom asks, “Are you mad, Ian?”
“No. No. Um…well, yeah a little bit….”
I am still fighting tears because I just don’t want this part of our lives to end.
“Did you put him in the car? Did you ring the doorbell? Did you open the M & M’s? Did you do the puzzle?
I did. I did. I did. I did. (But I said nothing.)
I feel like a liar.
A liar who does what almost every parent does. And I am sure I am feeling what almost every parent does somewhere around this age when the magic goes up in a puff of smoke.
It was hard when Tweedle Dee called me out on it, but she admitted it with such grace and matter-of-factness the day I casually asked, “Are you excited for Jolly to return?”
“Really, mom? I know Jolly is a stuffed animal. I’ve always known. But it was fun to pretend.”
But this crushed me. My babies are grown up. No more pure innocence and belief in magic. Not in the Jolly sense of the word.
We start walking through the tree display again. The carolers are singing “Santa Baby” and everyone is singing along. And my heart is breaking.
Ian tries to be tough and he goes through the rest of the display with an all-business attitude. He writes down his favorite tree on the ballot (The Ohio State tree, of course) and says, “Let’s turn in our votes now.”
I dreaded the fury he would unleash when we got home. He can be quite dramatic.
But he quickly put on his pajamas and cuddled up in a blanket on the couch. He was playing on the iPad when I sat down beside him.
“I swear I’m not mad mom. It’s ok,” he says quietly.
“This year, maybe we can take turns doing funny things with Jolly. Hiding him around the house and the others can look for him. It’ll be funny.”
“Yeah, a new tradition. I think that’s good.” He pauses, thinks for a minute and smiles, “Can I go first?”
I can’t wait to see how this tradition plays out…
The last day of October already?! I can’t believe it’s over. It was a great month though…so I can’t complain. The month of October is the start of “Tradition Season”….my favorite time of the year!!
My community is big on tradition. We have one of the longest high school football rivalries in the country. We just had our 109th meeting. (We won!)
Tweedle Ian, the sports fanatic, and Tweedle Dee, the Princess of Tradition if I am the Queen of Tradition, love this spirit-filled week…..just as they should. It’s how we raise kids around here. I grew up in the opposing town and although it’s my alma mater and my family remains loyal, I have “crossed the river” and my loyalties have changed. I feel it’s only right to support my children and my students, much to my family’s dismay.
Two weeks ago we went to the 8th grade football game against our rivals. It’s always fun to see my students on the field and it’s especially exciting for Tweedle Ian, as he feels a “connection” with the players because I know their names. (To him, these 14-year-olds are celebrities.)
This past Thursday we went to the community pep rally and bonfire. We had our traditional kettle corn and hung out at our traditional spot waiting for the team and cheerleaders to set it ablaze. And then as the fire grew, we worked our way back from the heat, til we were on the very edge of the field…signaling it was time to call it a night and head back to the car.
Before the pep rally, we headed out for our annual candid picture photo shoot. There is a nice little park-like setting behind a nearby church and the kids and I have gone down there to take “Fall Pics” for a few years now. Tweedle Dee, who has gotten quite artsy with her iPod camera had some great ideas this time.
And then, since we could not get tickets to the Friday night game this year, we listened to it online while playing ping pong and Scrabble. Game updates via Twitter and Facebook, and the warmth and coziness of “watching” the game in pajamas could easily make this a tradition.
Saturday, we attended yet another of the biggest high school rivalries of all time with Admiral Bodee and all four kids. (A first for me and my kids.) He works for one district and his kids go to school in the other. It was rainy and cold and part of me did not want to go…but I did…because “it’s tradition” and it meant a lot to him.
I love tradition. It is comforting to me.
Traditions can start accidentally or be started deliberately.
Traditions can be ordinary or off-the-wall.
Traditions can make us laugh…and sometimes cry.
Traditions can be puzzling to others, but make perfect sense to those involved.
Traditions remind us of days long gone.
Traditions represent promises that will not be broken.
Traditions give us hope and make us look forward to the future.
So….singing/meowing “Happy Birthday” as a chorus of cats, going to one Ohio State game a year, staying up ALL night on Thanksgiving and going shopping into the early morning hours of Black Friday, taking the kids to a dog show at the IX Center for my birthday, Christmas Eve fondue with 20 people, having a candid fall photo shoot with the kids…all of these traditions are a special part of my fall and holiday season.
What are some traditions you’ve started with your family?
Do you have any traditions from childhood that you continue with your own kids today?