My Christmas Eve (Merry Christmas to my WC family)

Christmas Eve, and I’ve just washed my hands of the oil basting the turkey. Outside the snow is everywhere. It continues to fall, tiny flakes lost in the bright gray sky. I think the last time we had a white Christmas was 12 years ago, when the hill on Lonsdale Ave was so packed with snow that people decided to ski down it Christmas morning. My parents are in the living room, looking worriedly at the falling snow, hoping that our guests will be able to come. We always invite the “lonely” over for Christmas dinner—old widows, stranded young couples, the missionaries, new immigrants to Canada, and the house is filled with the noise of 15 people and 2 or 3 different languages.

The house is still right now, from the living room Nat King Cole sings “O Holy Night”. My parents and I are waiting for potatoes to finish boiling, and for the next hour to be up so that we can baste the turkey again. I say we, but this year they decided to delegate most of the cooking labor to me, figuring that I could use the experience because “one day [I’ll] be a dad and will have to know how to do Christmas dinner”. I don’t point out that dads in North America sometimes do more to ruin Christmas dinner than anything. In my family my mom stays away from the ham and the turkey. That is dad’s territory. She worries about everything else, the potatoes, the yams, the stuffing, and half a dozen other things that I’m probably not aware of. She worries about the snow on the driveway, and sidewalk.

Dad this year is passing on his tradition of cooking the turkey to me. He stood by and told me how to defrost the turkey, taking care to wash it in the laundry sink (because it was a lot easier to wash it there than in the kitchen) and warning me to not let the turkey touch the sink itself because “who knows what kind of chemicals are there, it’s the laundry room”. Some cynical part of me thinks that he’s letting me do the turkey because he doesn’t want to haul the big bird all around the house. After the turkey, he has me slice the ham. He leans in with his hands behind his back, poking his face towards the ham and asks me about families in America: “Does the mom or dad carve the turkey?” I have no answer. I wasn’t paying attention the last few times.

The snow keeps falling. About a couple of hours ago I shoveled away the 8 inches
covering the driveway. The snow is undoing my work; 2 fresh inches of powder pile in the driveway. A crow caws in the muffled stillness of the snow. Its calls and the sound of water dripping into icicles are the only sounds outside. No one is dumb enough to drive around in the weather. North Vancouver’s hills are treacherous, this morning no one has cleared the roads.

Dad comes into room just minutes after my mom came in to tell me to eat lunch (breakfast). He complains about how Mom has been worrying about the snow all morning. “If she would just not worry about it, I’ll deal with it later,” he says. Funny enough, he worries about it probably more than she does. I hand my dad the Emma DVD we bought for mom. My mother is terrible about keeping secrets for Christmas, she usually buys herself something and gets my Dad to wrap it for her. Last year, two days before the big day, she came into my room to show me the $5 bargain bin book of British poetry that she got me for Christmas. I had a mini-freak-out at her. “Couldn’t you not show me for two more days?!” Dad and I always try to be sneaky about her “real” present from us, to counter the “fake” present from us.

I wonder about gifts. The older I get the less I get. But what about giving back to Christ in the Christmas? What gift can you give to the creator of all things, because as King Benjamin says, “if ye shall serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath…if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.” Despite this we try, we try to keep the commandments because that’s all he asks for. But can we give more? “The Little Drummer Boy” comes to mind, with no gift to bring except playing his drum the best for the Christ child. Give our talents for Christmas? Give ourselves to Christ for Christmas?

In all of this stressing and cooking, I’m not feeling the energy and excitement of Christmas. No more excitement for gifts. It’s buried outside in the snow. Instead I’m aware that I’m not sure how many more of these Christmases I’ll have with my parents. This year, they’re passing on the last (only) major Lee family tradition: cooking. Part of me is worried that this is the last torch to pass on, their legacy. I know I’m wrong but it’s still there. What can I give back to my parents this Christmas that is not a DVD or a book, or whatever it is my mom has bought herself in my name? Perhaps all I can really give is a promise to carry on their traditions and charity.

Maybe without stressing about the driveway too much.

Merry Christmas friends.

Edit- That's my turkey. :)


Chan said...

Man, Ivor, I love this one. Merry Christmas to you, too, friend.

Crystal said...

Beautiful. I think this is my favorite out of the things you've written.

PS - Quit being an old man and go play in the snow (because I know you still haven't), or I will throw a snowball at you.

Kaitlin said...

Ivor, this post is so...you. It is simple yet intricately beautiful. There is a definite sense of humility here that I really admire.

From one American household: Neither the mom or the dad carves the turkey in this house. We have hoagie sandwiches on Christmas day. We're weird like that.

Matthew R. Hall, Esq. said...

Your turkey looks delightful. Whenever I go to the counter in the Christmas dinner food line at Grandma's, the ham is already sliced. Don't know if that helps.

Britt said...

So how's this for reader response: when you said "no more excitement for gifts. It’s buried outside in the snow" did you say that because worrying about the snow (or stress and responsibility of growing up) upstages the excitement? If not, that is what I got out of it; and I really liked it.

iBo said...

Britt, I think it was more of the growing up that killed it. Christmas has thus passed, and I still don't feel it.

Britt said...

But Ivor, that doesn't make any sense to me. Why did growing up kill it, and you still don't feel what? the excitement?

iBo said...

Santa doesn't come anymore. That's why it's not exciting.

Naw, I just don't get really excited about Christmas anymore. Maybe it's because my parents aren't exactly super excited about it either. I don't really know. Christmas is kind of a let down to me sometimes. All that hype and a month's worth of excitement for a single day that comes and goes so quickly that I scarcely am aware of it? But yeah? I don't know?

iBo said...

ok i take that back, my parents have kept the same attitude about christmas.

Sky said...

I think the only joy in Christmas is the the "giving" part because that's the whole point; that's why I really dislike our "Santa Myth": I look back and see how it caused my children to focus on "getting--whaaa, whaaaaa, what did I get?" rather than giving.
But when the spiritual side kicks in through hymns or whatever, and I FEEL the Spirit--the excitement and miracles are much more than when I was growing up. And the night with family and big snow flakes falling just glows with magic. I'll bet earth looks amazing from outer space with all these Christmas lights shining.

Enjoy your parents. They ARE Christmas, along with the Savior.(My sister took me aside and told me Mom has cancer. They're not going to operate or even do chemo 'cause she's so old. When I confronted her about not telling us last summer when she found out, she said, "Oh, phssst. It's nothing. Look at me dance." And she grabbed my old father, pulled him from the chair and danced and danced around the living room--pretty beautiful; pretty darn sacred.)

iBo said...

Christmas is more meaningful to me when i think about the savior. That's why I look forward to the Christmas devotional, and the Christmas programs at church.

I'm sorry to hear about the cancer.
You've had many Christmases with your parents in your lifetime eh? This year I've tried to open my eyes more to whats going on, write the stories that are happening with them. It's great but I'm also seeing the faults and personality quirks that have shaped me. I'm not sure what to make of it.

Leanna said...

I liked it when you talked about what we can give back to the Savior. My family has a tradition where we hang a stocking for Christ, too. Then on Christmas Eve we write him a card with a gift in it. When I was young, I gave Him things like "I will be nicer to my brother." Or "I will do my chores for mom and dad." But as I've gotten older, the gifts have become deeper, more complex. Call it a "New Year's Resolution" if you will, but I like being able to read my card the following year to see how well I did at giving Him my best like "the little drummer boy" you spoke of.