Hi Bloggers. I first wrote this in 2006, but a few parts have been updated to reflect changes in my Christmas traditions.
Santa is so smart!
When I was a kid, my Mom, Grandpa and Grandma Kudek and I always drove to the nursing home to pick up Great-Grandpa Ruplinger to be part of our Christmas celebration. But, since the holidays are such a tough time of year, Dad was always too tired to drive along. He needed to stay home and take a nap. Round trip time from our house to the nursing home where Grandpa Ruplinger lived was probably about 45 minutes. And when Dad was home catching some shut eye on the couch, Santa dropped off all our presents! How did he know Dad would be sleeping? And how was he able to land the sled on the roof and not wake him up? It was feat that still amazes me today!
Christmas Eve when I was a kid was always spent by Grandpa and Grandma Kudek (my Mom's family) and Christmas Day was by Grandpa and Grandma Thelen. I'm blessed to be in two families that really don't have any dysfunctional animosity. It was just a joy to get together with my Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, Distant Relatives or friends who may stop by. The Thelens would always end up singing. It started with Christmas songs that always brought my Grandpa Thelen to tears and later moved on to Johnny Cash songs. Grandpa Thelen was the biggest, strongest man I ever knew. But he was absolutely turned to Jello by some songs. It's a trait that I used to be sort of emberrassed that I inherited. But as I get older, I realize it's OK to be sentimental.
My Mom's side, the Kudeks, tried to sing, but let's just say that side of the family will never give the Von Traps a run for their money. Grandma Kudek sang on the church choir, but she was always louder and more off key than anyone. At the time, I would think, "Oh Grandma, please stop." Now, I would kill just to hear that awful voice just one more time. My Grandpa Kudek was amazing as well. He was a smoker, but never lit up in the living room or around other people. And that was in the 1970's when a lot of people were smoking all the time and everywhere. Grandpa Kudek was also clean and sober the last 10-years of his life. He always said he had a lot more fun not drinking than drinking. In the past few years, I've cut way down on my alcohol consumption as well. And, as he was on so many other subjects, Grandpa Kudek was right.
Peanuts creator Charles Schultz once said true security is sleeping in the back seat of the car while your Dad's driving home. That's the feeling that comes over me when I think back to Christmas get-togethers and my Grandparents.
Part of my Thelen family tradition is also popcorn balls which we made earlier this month. We've been doing this so many years, we have it down to a science. Everyone in the family, who can make it, joins in on the process in my parents basement (they have a stove down there and it's a lot easier to clean up) And everyone has their own job. This year we made more than 500 of them, even though we won't need anywhere that many. By the way, my job is baller. Honestly, the popcorn ball party might just be another reason to get together.
My Godson is a big part of my Holiday traditions these days. Two years ago, I gave him swimming lessons and Play Dough. The lesson I learned was that a 4-year old doesn't get excited about a gift certificate, which is how he was given the swimming lessons. He tossed it to the side with the wrapping paper. And looked at me and said "I ALREADY KNOW HOW TO SWIM!" when we tried to explain what it was. He got really excited with the Play Dough, however. Last year I just gave the certificate for the lessons to his parents who were be more excited about Uncle Jeff paying for them than my Godson. I'll do that again this year. My Godson is also getting a Nerf basketball hoop, a "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" book and a stuffed Max (the Grinch's dog). One of the Christmas get togethers I go to every year is with my Aunt and her partner. There, we sing Happy Birthday to Jesus before we open presents. What a great way to teach kids about the reason for the season.
This year, the Kudeks made a bit of a change. Instead of exchange name or Secret Santa as some people call it, we adopted a family. Every family in ours took a different member in this family of 5 and we spent $30, which it what we were spending on exchange name. At our family get-together we gathered all the presents and wrapped them before delivering them to the charity that delivered the presents to the needy (I hate that word, but it still best describes it) family. Congrats to my cousin Lisa's wife for coming up with that idea and running the event. I hope it's a new family tradition. By the way, I had to buy the for the teenage son who wanted jeans, size 32/32. I'd like to thank him for helping me live my fantasy of pretending I was buying the size 32 jeans for myself. I haven't worn that size in a long time.
OK, I've probably bored you to tears with my Christmas memories. I'd love to hear some of yours. And if I don't get to talk to you again before the big day, Merry Christmas! May it give you the feeling of sleeping in the back of the car while your Dad is driving home.
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