Tuesday, December 23, 2008

About a big red dog.

Sorry to be absent. Life's been, well, chaotic. But in honor of my 100th blog post and the upcoming holiday, I thought I'd share a story of Christmas past. I included it in my holiday swap in lieu of sharing a Christmas traditional tutorial.
Our Christmas Story


I come from a small family. And so, as traditions go, there aren’t too many to share. (I’m going out on a limb and assuming you don’t want to hear about our annual Christmas tree decorating bicker fest about what ornaments are too God awful ugly to go on the tree…)

So instead, I thought I’d tell you a little bit about some of my favorite Christmas memories and about how our far-flung family celebrates my favorite holiday today.

So to start out, you’ll have to go back to 1986. I was five and showing early signs of my pain-in-the-butt tendencies. My mother was staying at home at the time and we were shopping in our area’s one mall inside a now-defunct store named Hess Apparel. She was trying to browse for clothing and gifts and I kept stopping her every few minutes to pester her about something. Finally, in a fit of exasperation, she saw a big gift-wrapped box on a counter with slips of paper (a contest entry, which we later found out.)

“(Noodles)! Why don’t you go practice writing your name and telephone number?”


And off I toddled in my mary janes.

No one knows for sure how many contest entries I filled out. But enough to stack the decks for sure. Because two days later we received a call. I’d won a … SEVEN-FOOT-LONG stuffed red dog. Retail value: $800. We just had to come pick it up. That night.

It’s hard to really imagine the size of a seven-foot-long stuffed red dog until you look at it eye to eye and figure out how you’re going to wedge it into the aging two-door Honda that my dad drove. It wound up getting tied to the roof, its big ears _ roughly as long as I was tall _ flapping the whole way home.

My parents wanted to donate it. I had a meltdown.

After all, I had won the thing. And I was determined to keep it. And play with it. And sleep with it, which because of logistics became sleeping ON it. I named it Clifford, because really, what else would you name a Big Red Dog?

It took up half the living room and dangled over all four edges of my bed. My parents hated it. But I was smitten and as an only child, was convinced that I’d found my new best friend.

In an act of parental genius, my mom and dad decreed that Clifford could only live outside of the attic during Christmas time. So there he spent 11 months out of the year until that great day when we’d open up the attic and I’d haul him out of the corner and give him a huge hug.

Of course, over the years, Clifford became less and less a part of Christmas until high school when he stayed up in his attic hideaway year round. Too unseemly, my parents said. Too uncool, I thought. But I’d still climb up the rickety stairs and spend some time with my old friend.

Fast forward to present day. I live hundreds of miles and time zone away from my parents. And they’ve tried _ and threatened _ to throw away Clifford. Apparently, though, being an only child has its privileges. I balked. And they backed off.

Today I live in a shoe-box sized condo, with no room for Clifford even if he did live here. I have a real life dog, an 18-pound mutt named Macy Mae whom I adore. And because of my work schedule, my parents have spent the holiday traveling to see me, instead of the other way around.

Christmas is different here _ no big living room, no brick hearth, no wall of frosted windows looking down the sloping wooded hills toward the lake. So we’ve recast traditions. We still cook an easy Christmas Eve dinner before church of fresh steamed lobster or make our favorite crab imperial, paired with a crisp bottle of Chardonnay and some veggies. It’s easy to make and reminds us of home.

We sing the same songs at a new church and light candles and come home while snuggling into bed (and the air mattress.) We wake up, brew coffee, have scones and open presents. At home, my mom would start running around to get ready for dinner. But here, I put my foot down. Jammies must be worn as long as possible. I bust out the champagne (because what good is Christmas without a mimosa?) and we watch movies and talk about memories.

Inevitability, the story of Clifford comes up. My parents threaten to donate him. And the dance continues.


The Modern Gal said...

That's so cute. And so you. I can imagine my parents and I going through the same routine.

Angie said...

You should take a picture of the dog next time you go home and post it on your blog.