Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas, Part One!

I could hardly have one of these newfound blogs, and not blog about Christmas. Am I right?

So, Christmas! Christmas was a dark holiday in the Bubka home growing up. I wish there was a bright side to that, but it really is what it is. As we approached my seventh Christmas – not surprisingly, one of the first Christmases that I can really remember – my mother died in a car accident. We had a little, red Volkswagen Bug at the time – honestly, it was probably a horrible car for the harsh winters in Denver, where I grew up. One Saturday evening, a couple weeks before Christmas, my mom had to drive up into the mountains west of Denver on an errand. On the icy roads on the way home, she drove off the road, into a fairly deep ravine, and died from her injuries.

There was a bit of a pall over Christmas in our home from that time forward. We still celebrated, of course. But as the Christmas tree went up each year, I always remembered the Christmas that Mom died. I never articulated it, but I kind of thought of Christmas as a yearly memorial to my mother. And my Dad, God bless him, wouldn’t have been great at Christmas, under the best of circumstances.

My Dad was a lot of things – most of them very positive. He was a great provider. He was as honest as the day is long. He was a hard worker. He was a good, Bible-believing, God-fearing, Christian man! One of the things that really shaped his character was living in Manhattan during the Great Depression. He learned to conserve, and to live a frugal life. Frugality is not a bad philosophy to have, in a lot of ways; but Christmastime as the son of a frugal father left a little something to be desired.

Typically, I would have three or four presents under the tree. There would be lots riding on those three or four presents; so you hoped that on Christmas morning, each one would pack some proverbial punch. What I learned was that there was a pattern to the presents. One would be something a kid would find useful. The rest would be practical, but disappointing. The underwear and socks I wore growing up were all Christmas presents. A couple of the blankets I used on my bed had been Christmas presents. Slippers were staples as Christmas presents. (You NEVER wore your socks around the house. If you put holes in them, it was a long wait until the next Christmas, when you would get some more!)

But Dad was an enigma – simple in some ways; complicated in others. He nearly always came through with one gift that I loved, and I loved him for his effort. One year’s memorable gift was a Mattel Football II handheld electronic game – I eventually wore it out.

Another one was Electronic Football. (I always thought the makers of this game must have sold their souls to the devil. Nothing this stupid should have ever been as popular as this was.)

Another year, he bought me Pong.

My all-time greatest gift was actually given to me by my older brothers. One year, they combined their funds and bought me an Atari 2600. I remember being breathless when I opened it, and then playing it on a 13-inch, black and white television I had in my room - for every waking hour, until Christmas break was over. I remember sensing that year that I had hurt my dad’s feelings, by not being more excited by whatever he had given me.

I’ll admit that we go a little overboard with spoiling Pax and Lucy at Christmas. We only have two kids, and I’ve always wanted them to experience the Christmastime magic that had been missing from my childhood. Obviously, there is more to that than just what they receive in gifts. But I want them to have the whole experience!

More than anything, I want them to remember Christmastime as a time they were loved and appreciated by their parents. I want them to think of Christmas as their absolute favorite time of the year. I hope that by the time they start their own families, we have been able to cement Christmas traditions that come so naturally, they won’t think of not continuing them on their own. And I hope that the sights, sounds, and smells of those traditions will take them back to a time of immense happiness.

I had a few thoughts of specific memorable Christmas experiences over the years – both growing up, and as an adult – but I thought I would save them for another day. (They won't be depressing, I promise. Still, there's something a little funny about underwear for Christmas, right?) Clearly, I am not good at being brief in these blog posts.


The G-Funk! said...

Paul, I am very sorry that your mom died when you were so young. That is really sad, and a terrible loss to suffer as a child. My heart breaks for you thinking that your mom has been gone for so much of your life!

Personally, I don't know how painful that experience would be, although I can relate (albeit distantly) because my mom is remarried to a man with six kids whose first wife died from cancer. My step siblings have all been affected by her death in different ways, and I've been able to observe the reverberations of a mother's death close up on the kids.

That being said, I can relate to the feeling that Christmas time is a hard time of year for other reasons. Every single Christmas I had as a child entailed some negative memories, and it's really hard to get over that.

I'm glad to hear you talk about what you are doing now about Christmas for your own kids. It's good for me to see your resolve to make it wonderful for them. I bet it will increasingly become that way for you, too. I need to do this as well. I think it will get better if I do.

Thanks for writing this!

Paul said...

Hey, G-Funk! Funkalicious! Funk-Funk-adunk! How do I get to read your blog? Can you hook me up?

I loved the festive spirit your son (I'm not sure which one, unfortunately) brought on Sunday with his bell ringing! And I love how pleased with himself he looked as he was doing it,

Ryan Anderson said...

I finally caught on to your blog here. I remember each and every one of your favorite presents as a kid. They were all worthy of the favorite gifts list, and provided me with hours of hand-me-down amusement as well. Pitfall was one of the greatest games ever, even if I was convinced the protagonist spelunked without a shirt.