Keepin' It Real Since 1977

Mostly true stories from then & now

Merry Christmas, and God Bless Us Everyone…But Mostly My Parents December 25, 2011

Filed under: My Awesome Childhood — Melissa Lewis @ 1:19 am
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I'm probably asking Santa for a Care Bear.

I always find it amusing that, when my brothers, sister and I get together and reminisce about the olden days, our memories about certain events don’t always match. Here are some fond Christmas memories that I KNOW are true.

Christmas Pageants A Plenty 

I grew up in a small church, but most of the kids in our congregation were within a couple of years of each other and therefore we were often the stars of… everything. Our specialty: Christmas Pageants. I’ll admit, some of our performances were better than others. My favorites were the ones that did NOT feature musical instruments mainly because I played the piano, flute, and violin. My sister played the clarinet, by brother played the violin and he, along with a couple of other kids played the saxophone. None of us could play our instruments very well but my congregation couldn’t seem to get enough of our “heavenly sounds.”

The Christmas programs I lived for, were the ones featuring costumes, lines, and a children’s choir. If only talent scouts targeted church pageants…

One year, our pageant performed at a local nursing home. My sister was not too thrilled about the idea from the get go. When we arrived, she experienced the trifecta of disappointment. 1.) It was hot. Really hot. Between each musical number, my sister would whisper to me some sort of complaint about how warm the room was. (I probably should have taken her more seriously when she started swaying in big loopy circles.) 2.) The “old people smell” was really getting to her. I’m not fond of the smell of nursing homes either, but after a few minutes, I had forgotten all about it. My sister, however, had not. “I mean it,” she whispered. “I feel like I’m going to barf.” 3.) Gesticulations from the gentleman parked in the front row. “That guy keeps playing with himself. He’s really gross.” She whispered. (Looking back, I’m pretty sure the gentleman was trying to sit with his hands on his lap, but his Parkinson’s had other ideas.) It didn’t really matter though because before she could get out another complaint, her body swooped in one final circular loop before she face planted it right there on the tile floor. She had fainted and was passed out cold. Dad, quickly swooped in from the side, picked her up and quickly carried her away. Just in time too, because without the pageant director having to say a word, I stepped up to, where only minutes ago my sister had been sprawled on the floor, and sang her solo. I saw the whole situation as a true Christmas Miracle.

The voice of an angel. Apparently the theme this year was white sheets, gold tinsel and A LOT of blush.

A few years later, our Christmas Pageant didn’t have such a happy ending. My brothers and sister deny this event, but I remember it with great detail. It took place during the height of the Cabbage Patch Kids craze. My sister had gotten, not just any Cabbage Patch Kid, she had gotten a preemie. His name was Jonathan and he had been volunteered to play the role of the Baby Jesus in our church Christmas pageant. Mary was to carry the Baby Jesus, up the middle aisle of the sanctuary, place him in the manger, and ogle  at him while the angel choir sang songs about his blessed birth.

Unfortunately, before the service even started, my sister and our friend Sara were getting into a heated argument over Jonathan. Sara wanted to play with it, my sister didn’t feel like sharing and a tug-of-war ensued. My sister had Jonathan by his little round plastic bald head, and Sarah had a firm grip on his legs. After a few hearty tugs, there was a ripping sound and just like that, poor Jonathan had been decapitated.

My sister’s only saving grace that night was that the Baby Jesus was wrapped so tightly  in his swaddling clothes that it was impossible to notice that his head had been completely severed.  I distinctly remember being terrified that Mary would trip on her robes and Baby Jesus’s head would go rolling up the aisle stopping at the shepherds’ feet. Fortunately our Mary was quite talented at walking and kneeling so the congregation was none the wiser.

Terrifying Gifts

When it came to Christmas gifts, I was never disappointed. Terrified? Yes. Disappointed? No. As a kid I loved games, clothes, toys, and socks. (I don’t think my aunt ever believed me when I told her I wanted socks for Christmas, but due to my extreme repulsion of bare feet, it’s no wonder why I love socks so much.) There was one year though, when not only I, but all four of us kids, received the most terrifying gifts ever. Our uncle had given us each a large framed velvet painting of, what could only be described as, “scary-ass clowns”.  I never liked clowns, and these things scared the crap out of all of us. In fact, I’m pretty sure we made Dad put the paintings in the garage that night; that way, when they came to life and climbed out of their frames, they would at least be locked in a safe place.

Naughty or nice, no child deserves this.

For awhile, the Clown paintings lived in a box in the basement. I’m not sure why they didn’t go straight to the curb, but one day we were out playing and there they were. Curbside, leaning up against the garbage can. Good riddance.

Shortly thereafter, my brothers had been playing in our neighbors’ house and when they came out they said, “You’ll never guess what we found in Brad’s bathroom.” Sure enough, one of our clown paintings had found a home hanging over the back of a toilet. I guess the saying is true. “One man’s junk is another man’s scary-ass bathroom art.”

Santa Pulls An All-Nighter

Every year, my family drove from Des Moines, up to Minneapolis to visit our grandparents for Christmas. It was a four hour drive full of caroling, bickering, giggling and family fun. At Grandma and Grandpa Lewis’s, we had traditions like sneaking  Grandpa pieces of fudge, listening to Manheim Steamroller, and getting a running start so we could leap onto the beds in order to prevent being clawed to death by Tippy the lethal cat who liked to hide under furniture.

One Christmas Eve, we went through our tradition of opening one present before going to bed. The one present always happened to be pajamas. In fact, one year while packing, I asked Mom, “Which pajamas should I take?” and she looked at me like I was being ridiculous and said, “Don’t you think Santa will probably bring you pajamas?” Fair enough.

We put on our new pj’s and headed up to bed. We were very quiet that night because we didn’t want to miss the sound of reindeer on the roof. Instead, about an hour later, we heard the garage door opening. I popped my head up and leaned over the window. (I didn’t want to get out of bed just in case Tippy was hiding out.) “Dad’s leaving.” I reported to the others. “The van just pulled out of the driveway.” We chatted for the longest time about where he could be going and eventually fell asleep.

The next morning, the wait to open presents was excruciating. Mom sent us back up the stairs three times saying,”It’s too early. Your dad’s still sleeping. Go back to bed.” Each time we reluctantly climbed the stairs and leapt back onto our beds. Finally, after what seemed like hours, Mom told us we could go down stairs and open presents. I’m pretty sure that was the year I got Cabbage Patch twins. Who knows for sure. Childhood Christmases all blend together. What I remember most about that Christmas was Dad was really tired.

A wonderful Christmas morning at Grandma & Grandpa's.

Years later, when we were all sitting around talking about “The Year Dad Wanted to Sleep Through Christmas,” Mom finally told us the real story. Our parents used to wrap our presents and sort them into four garbage bags to keep them separated. That Christmas Eve, when they thought we were sleeping, they went out to the van to unload our presents. Only, instead of four bags, there were only three. One of our bags of Christmas gifts never made it into the van and was sitting back at home… in Des Moines. Knowing that all the stores were closed and not wanting to disappoint, Dad had opened the garage, backed the van out and drove all the way back home. Four hours later, he pulled into our driveway, ran into the house, grabbed the lonely sad sack-O-gifts, got back into the van and drove 4 hours back up to Minnesota.

Michael and I at our Foster Care Christmas Party. I believe, Professor, this is what we call irony.

Even more years later when I was in college, I volunteered to help out at a local Foster Care Christmas party. One of my professors had asked each of us to share a story about a Christmas experience. She suggested to me, “These kids probably don’t have a lot of Christmas traditions, so I think it would be neat if everyone shared a variety of traditions. Maybe you could tell them about your Kwanzaa experience.” Hmmm… after I asked several friends, my mom, and Google what Kwanzaa was I decided to tell the story of forgotten Christmas presents instead.  When I finished, one of the foster mom’s jumped up and clapped enthusiastically while shouting, “That’s my favorite! That’s my favorite!”

Yes, enthusiastic lady, that’s my favorite too.

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Sounds Like Christmas December 1, 2011

Filed under: Awesome Stuff — Melissa Lewis @ 11:23 pm
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I. Love. Music.  

I REALLY love Christmas music.

Ok, I don’t love Elvis Presley’s “Blue Christmas.” I’m not sure why, but when I hear that 3-word intro, “I–‘–ll h-a-aa-ve-ah ba-lue…” it just makes my brain hurt. Possibly the concept of taking so long to spit out three syllables, or… there are many reasons why I don’t like this song.

Also, Wilson Phillips’ “Hey Santa.” Hate it. It reminds me of the awful job I had “working” at Kids R Us when I was in high school. That song played on our store holiday loop and it made my 4 hour shift of standing around talking to my friend Karyn, while doing nothing, almost unbearable. Oh, also, Ertha Kitt’s “Santa Baby” was on that same loop. Not a fan.

Over the years, however, I have come across some pretty awesome Christmas tunes. To celebrate 25 days until Christmas, here are 25 of my favorite holiday tunes… in no particular order.

1. “The Christmas Song” by Nat King Cole. My dad would kill me if this one didn’t make the list.

2. “Come Thou Font of Every Blessing” by Sufjan Stevens. I’ve always been a fan of Mr. Stevens… listen to this and you will be too.

3. “A Holly, Jolly Christmas” by Burl Ives. Who doesn’t love this song? Plus, it makes me think of Home Alone. I never get tired of that movie… “Keep the change, ya filthy animal!” (Update- Roommate has just informed me that “Holly Jolly Christmas” isn’t even in the movie Home Alone. Hmmmm….. oh well)

4. “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” by Jack Johnson. This version is win/win because it  A) Doesn’t include the annoying “like a lightbulb” or “like monopoly” shout outs, and B) has a lovely 2nd verse that totally calls out the other reindeer for the way they mistreated Rudolph. Punks!

5. “Sleigh Ride” by Ella Fitzgerald. I’ve never been on a wintry weather horse-drawn sleigh ride before. I have, however, been pulled around on a sled while my brother ran top speed. The end result usually involved me crashing into a tree. I imagine Ella’s sleigh ride to be a bit more delightful.

6. “New York Christmas” by Rob Thomas. I’ve never been to New York and it’s high time I venture on over there. It’s also on my bucket list to be in Times Square for a New Year’s celebration.

7. “Snowfall” by Ingrid Michaelson. I first heard this song on an episode of Bones. (I find a lot of awesome music via awesome television programming.) I like snow.

8. “Gather Round” by Earth, Wind & Fire. I don’t hear this song enough during the holiday season. It’s fantastic.

9. “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” by Barenaked Ladies & Sarah Mc Lachlan. This could possibly be my #1 holiday favorite. It’s fun, it’s peppy, it’s performed by the Barenaked Ladies & Sarah McLachlan…

10. “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” by John Denver & The Muppets. “Now bring us some piggy pudding?” I love it, plus, singing puppets. Enough said.

11. “Better Days” by the Goo Goo Dolls. I found this gem on a Sounds of the Seasons album  at Target a few years ago. Better days- difficult to wrap, but something everyone would appreciate.

12. “Carol of the Bells” by Bird & the Bee. This is such a great band and I love their cover of this song. I don’t even mind that it gets stuck in my head…and I don’t know all the words… so I have to keep mumbling the same lines and notes over and over again…

13. “Let it Snow” by Frank Sinatra. A classic that never gets old. Plus, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow could possibly equal a snow day from school. Added bonus.

14. “Oh, Holy Night” by Josh Groban (or as the hoity toity at Barnes & Noble once said, in a very poor French accent “Josche Grobahn). This is my favorite Jesus-is-the-reason-for-the-season song. I used to do an interpretive dance to the Mariah Carey version of this song. It was bad. Really, really bad. The dance, not the song.

15. “Wintersong” by Sarah Mc Lachlan. What can I say, the girl can sing. And everyone deserves to be surrounded by love and happiness on Christmas morning.

16. “Until Christmas” by Ashton Allen. I love that he just wants to sleep through everyone’s cranky days, and be woken up in time for Christmas and the holiday spirit that comes with it.

17. “Bizarre Christmas Incident” by Ben Folds. Santa gets his fat butt stuck in the chimney… the emergency responders resort to using Crisco to dislodge him… Maybe don’t sing this one in church.

18. “Maybe This Christmas” by Ron Sexsmith. Maybe this Christmas you’ll send a card to someone you’ve never sent a card to before. Maybe you’ll call that long-lost friend. Maybe you’ll finally respond to one of my tweets… Yes, I’m talking to you @ZacharyLevi.

19. “Donna & Blitzen” by Badly Drawn Boy. The same band that provided the soundtrack to film About a Boy, sing this delightful tune. I’m not sure why I like it, I just know that I do.

20. “Song for a Winter’s Night” by Sarah Mc Lachlan. Yep. She’s on this list again. It’s not her fault she’s amazing.

21. “Christmas Song” by Dave Matthews. A Sweet song about a very special baby. That baby’s name was Jesus.

22. “O Come All Ye Faithful” by Jeremy Camp. Just think about what a wonderful world this would be if all babies were greeted by a choir of angels.

23. “Spotlight on Christmas” by Rufus Wainwright. “People love the working man
Who does the best that he can. But, don’t forget all the horses and toys, never could fix the poor little rich boys.” All you need is love. Unconditional love.

24. “Winter Wonderland” by Jason Mraz. One goal for this winter- build a snowman. My first year teaching, I took one of my 6th grade classes outside and taught them how to build a snowman. I think I’m due for another one.

25. “Do They Know It’s Christmas” by Pete Yorn. This Christmas, be sure to think of those who are less fortunate. Tis the season for giving.

Happy Holidays to you all. If you have a favorite holiday tune, I’d love to hear it. Maybe it will make next year’s top 25.