O'Donnell Family Christmas 2004
Peanut Butter Kisses and Milk
Tanis and the Telescope
Tanis, Linda and myself celebrated Christmas of 2004 with my parents in Eagle Crest, Oreogn. It had been a strange winter so far with the snow starting out great early in the season and then all but drying up for the entire months of November and December. We didn't get a white christmas, but we did get a white post-christmas, just a dusting but it made everything look like christmas was supposed to look in any decent Norman Rockwell Saturday Evening Post cover. My brother and his family were going to wake up on christmas at their house in Eugene, Oregon, open their presents and then drive over the mountain range to the Paterfamilias pad.
Tanis was five years old, ripe for the true love and refreshing innocence of real christmas, magical christmas, suspenseful, rules adhering, genuine seeking Santa Clause out Christmas. Normally, I am a rather Bah Humbug when it comes to the Festival Seasons. But I just couldn't do it this year. My sister-in-law and I got into a conversation about it. I was convinced the reason I despised Christmas was because of the music. I can't stand it. Not a single line of it. It erodes at my will to put a single foot in front of the other for the mere sake of two and a half feet gained.
All it took was two minutes of pure Musak to make me want to hurt small animals with my bare hands. Amy said she was surprised that I would let something like that control me. That kind of made me think. And after thinking, I came to the exact same conclusion.
The logical reasons for loving christmas far outweighed the logical reasoning for hating it. To make it worse, my wife utterly loves christmas, and I know, deep down, I kind of ruin christmas a bit with my bitchiness. To be honest, I don't particularly know why I don't like christmas. I know I feel stupid trying to be banal when I am far from generous for the other eleven months. I feel a ridiculous hypocracy rise up over me that we can't do this the other months of the year, or even another one to offset this one a full season away.
After I thought about all of this, I saw it was rather stupid not to want to be happy during any part of the year. We do too little in our lives just to celebrate anymore. We don't have time, we are too tired and have too little money to really want to get into this festive mood, to create these big meals, buy the presents, wrap them late at night, hide them, the pressure of not getting someone what they want, the decision on what to get your only child. They all weigh so heavily on us from a week before thanksgiving to the week after Christmas that we look forward to the holidays like a prize fight with two belts on the line. We know its going to be fun, but it's going to hurt and you will be really tired when you are done. And all of this knowledge makes me dread that month of smiles. I am more of a pain in the ass than I give myself credit for, which is testament to my wife's saintly qualities.
We drove over the night before Christmas after unbelievably hectic weeks at work. We both got Christmas Eve off and that carried into the weekend for a nice three dayer. Which brings up "Vacation" in America these days. I am not sure why they call them "Vacation" days or "Days Off," because that is a misnomer. When you take time paid time off, it's not like there was someone at work, doing your job in absentia. It just gets backed up on your desk until you get back. It shouldn't be called Vacation Days. They should call them Postponement Days. Because that's all you're doing, postponing the work until you get back. It's like they tempt you with "Paid Time Off" and then laugh at you while piling every piece of work that comes into the place on your desk while you are gone. Hell, they should be called Screw Your Buddy Days. Not that I am bitter about this or anything.
My mother had wanted to go to the midnight mass at the local Catholic church. It was a new building but done with a great style and flair, something the Catholic church might not be doing for a while being their money issues with law suits and all. We went to church a lot as a kid. My brother and I attended Catacism every Wedensday evening to make macaroni Jesus's and make some quality flare with palm leaves. I didn't learn a single thing while I was there other than chicks with black and white hats had really bad breath. Even as our attendance in church dropped lower than the survival of a turtle hatchling without flippers or the instinct to of self-preservation, we still went to mass for Christmas. Even this had dropped off for the last seven to eight years. Hearing that my mother wanted to go to church was going to cause a stir in the family. I didn't really care that much and I know Tanis was excited to go to church way late at night. My father balked at the idea. My mother countered with "It's tradition!" My father said for another family, sure, but isn't really our tradition. I was surprised my mother didn't put up a little bit more of a fight, but she quickly let it go. This is odd because my mother would sooner ride the really nice mountain bike she bought last year than back down to someone not giving her her way. She is...tenacious.
Linda and I were pretty apprehensive about Tanis' gift. A while before Christmas, Linda and I had been in the car talking about gifts and such when I brought up how cool it would be for Tanis and I to have a telescope for the gigantic, clear desert sky in Central Oregon. Tanis quickly picked up on this and said he wanted one. Both Linda and I glanced at each other and read the same thing, "Tanis, what is a telescope used for?"
"It's to look at the sky and the moon. I bet their are asteroids and spaceships! Pechew! Pechew!" And the asteroid floating in the car exploded from the Death Ray that materialized at the tip of Tanis' finger. The boy likes the sound effects. I have heard a single explosion that rolled from one side of the backseat, to the other and back again, spanning multiple minutes of improvised spitting noises. At least he knew what it was. Over the next months, I worked on him about this telescope thing. He really acted like he wanted to get one. The problem is Tanis is a pleaser, and could say he wanted something for weeks before you found out he was doing it for you. We got a book on space facts for him which he loved. So we hopped online like the happy little yuppies we are and found us the best Consumer Report Reviewed telescope at the best price. We settled on the Discovery Store Sky and Land Telescope. Won the Oppenheimer Award and all. Looked at the reviews and they rocked. Both Lin and I are completely anal retentive when it comes to buying this kind of stuff.
The night before Christmas Linda and I put it together in my father's den. It came in a large box that was heavily taped. My father keeps a stiletto as a "letter opener." I love to sit and flip the thumb switch and have it spring out, spring in, spring out, spring in. It's compulsive. We got it put together very quickly and while Tanis was feigning sleep, took it out on the back deck. The sky was as clear as could be with a large, bright full moon staring directly down at us. I found the moon without too much issue and stared at it for quite a while. It was bright. Very bright. To the point of hurting. I failed to read the instructions and saw that I could use a much more powerful lens. I was the only one who really stood out in the freezing midnight. The only one "smart" enough.