Friday, December 25, 2009

Five Golden .... (what are they again?)

Our family has always loved to sing.
From the time I can remember my Mom, Dad, sister and I would huddle around a phone receiver on Christmas Eve calling family and friends singing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas." As our parents aged, my sister and I received a number of calls from people now singing to us. They didn't want the tradition to end.
Last year we started a new one. We're down to just six of us for Christmas eve dinner, my sister and her family, my Mom and I. We don't place calls anymore, but we do take time after dinner to sing carols. My mom just beams. Music is truly her favorite thing in life.
Blame it on the egg nog (okay wine), we decided to get crafty last year and assign each family member a section or two from the 12 Days of Christmas -- my Mom insisted on carrying out the prestigious "five golden rings" line.
We'd go around the room, each of us crooning out our "day", and each time we'd come to my Mom, she'd act surprised, then catch on that it was her turn and belt out "Five... Golden... HENS!" Every time! We'd laugh, remind her it's rings, she'd do a practice, "Five, Golden, Rings" then we'd start up a new round, the song carried it's way back to my Mom, she'd react in surprise and belt out yet again, "Five Golden HENS"!
This year the surprise would be on my sister and her family. Our caregiver bought my Mom the 12 Days of Christmas book. She's been practicing the entire thing over and over since Thanksgiving.
I couldn't wait for the new annual tradition to start last night. What a surprise my Mom would deliver. She's knows the entire song cold now.
We were each assigned a day, my Mom once again waited to be honored with the cherished "five golden rings" line. The song started up and my Mom actually joined in on all the days just as I expected, the lyrics wound their way around the room and ultimately came to my Mom for her big solo, she smiled a grin and launched into her lines: "Five.... Golden.... HENS"!!

The Jokes on Me!

Thinking my Mom needed a little dose of the spirit of giving, rather than just getting, I set up a little Christmas eve shopping expedition.

Together we constructed a list which included my sister, her husband and two girls, myself, two dogs and the cat. My Mom asked twice why she wasn't on the list. I promised repeatedly that she'd be receiving gifts, but in exchange she also had to buy for others.

I even offered to provide the money to buy the gifts, showing her a nice crisp twenty. I knew better than to give it to her, she'd never let go. Instead the deal was the bill would remain in my wallet until we hit the cash register.

The first choice was to head toward the dollar store -- I thought it would be a riot to see what she might choose for her clan and it would be right in her price range. I also held extreme concern that the selections might be too slim so close to Christmas which could ruin the whole idea. Instead we redirected toward Walgreen's. Surely they'd have something for everyone. And they did, much more than I expected.

My Mom got her hands on the handle of that shopping cart and just like Frosty when the hat was placed upon his head, began to come to life. Completely in the spirit of giving, my Mom ripped through that store, her selections spot on for each recipient, and, of course, way over the dollar store budget! (Keep in mind I had already made her "real" purchases, these were supposed to be for fun.)

Staring at her checklist she thought a coat might be nice for my sister. I explained that Walgreens probably wouldn't be the place for something like that, but over my shoulder she managed to spot a suitable back up gift, a super soft, beautiful light blue bathrobe. One aisle over, she broke into laughter as she choose a U of M "snuggie" for her son-in-law, then after bawking over makeup for her granddaughters, she instead sought out really cool bath kits. She had it all sewn up in less than a half hour. Complete with small toys for the dogs and cat.

We hit the check out where all the Christmas nick knacks caught her eye, including a pile of cheesy Santa hats. "C'mon," she said with a twinkle in her eye, "let's each get one and wear them all day!" She was practically Mrs. Claus by now.

I am soooo not a Santa hat type. I don't think I've ever worn one, and thought I never would.

"They're only 2.99," she continued her plea. By now she had hers half cocked on her head and offered another to me. How could I refuse?

I placed it over my pony tail and she howled. "You have the hook sticking out the top," she laughed. "You do too," I said. She laughed harder. The sales clerk rang up our order, which totalled at least four times the initial budget. Crumb, we should have gone to the dollar store, I thought to myself. Not for the reason you'd expect, not because of the dollar damage she tallied in such a short outing, but the silly hats. I really doubted the dollar store carried Santa hats. I wouldn't have been forced to wear one. Talk about a scrooge. I really wanted nothing to do with that hat, but she was right, it was only 2.99 -- pennies compared to the rest of her purchases. I let her throw them in the pile, even though I had no intention of wearing it outside the store.

The clerk took our money and cut the tags off our hats which my Mom, yes, insisted we wear out of the store. Okay, I'd leave it on one moment longer. No one seemed to be watching, except my Mom who was now a little jealous that I wore mine better than she did. She pulled down the passenger side mirror to give her hat a little tilt, and as she did, she began singing her traditional "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas..."

It was the very song she sang every year while decorating the house since the time we were small kids. Wow, what a throw back. It was awesome and well worth any minor humiliation of wearing a silly red hat. Funny how life can twist things around. I was trying to re-teach my Mom about the gift of giving, and in the end, she placed a hat on our heads that made me come to life with Christmas spirit.

Just as she wished, we wore those hats the rest of the day, singing carols all the way home!

Wearing them may even become a new Mom and Mary tradition.