Moms of Stillwater: Christmas hindsight

MOSphotoOctHoliday traditions are the thumbprints of our family celebrations. These anticipated events and routines make Christmas personal to each family; they give us a tangible way to trace back year after year. A memory catalyst.

We have a few “givens” in our house.

Chocolate raspberry bread pudding and homemade ice cream.

“Alabama Christmas” via a worn out cassette … (did I just admit this?).

New ornaments for the tree.

A roaring fire with gingerbread cookies.

These are traditions I grew up with as a child, and while they seem an inherent piece of our celebration, I have been searching for a new addition. Something unique that belongs to our own little snow-covered home.

Indecent exposure wasn’t on my short list of options, but the unexpected traditions sometimes prove the most sticky.

Its Christmas Eve. Kids are in newly purchased tights. Young boys are sporting a tad too much hair gel and Dad’s cologne. And I have talked myself into wearing the little black dress on the hanger. Since my life is a little short on black-tie affairs, its been a while since I have tried this sucker on, and I’m already feeling a little anxious about it.

The smarter half of my brain yells: “Black pants! For heaven’s sake, stick to the black pants and glitter sweater!” It was the pre-church glass of wine that made me brave … and sorry.

Let’s just say it’s a little too fitted for a small Lutheran church of 45 people. After spending a good 20 minutes of profane shoving, I decide the industrial strength control top panty hose have proven their fortitude, even if I can’t walk up stairs. But, Lycra is a beautiful thing, and once upright, the dress is a go (at least in a rambler).

Off to the smallest, sweetest little southwestern Minnesota church. You actually cross “Cherry Creek” and pass a covered bridge. Lovely. Peace on Earth.

Then we arrive.

“Filing in” would be a generous description. I think my middle son almost took out an elderly couple while straddling a decorative Christmas pot. At nine, it’s important to be first to EVERYTHING, even the coat room. Both little girls arrived with slush soaked tights, and we gingerly responded to a “zipper” issue with my oldest son’s dress pants. But once inside without injury, I felt another hurdle was safely cleared.

It was a little tight — the pew, and the dress. In fact, it was so crowded that even the middle-aged children were accidently bumped up onto adult laps, and we all breathed easier when it was time to stand and sing.

Bags of Cheerios were dropped. Hymnals were closed just a little too aggressively, and yet we were almost finished.

As was my 5-year-old daughter. Maybe it was the proximity of her brother’s chili-cheese breath, maybe it was a rogue bobby pin, but her “inside voice” was long gone and her body announced her sugar-crash. I try to ignore her. Try to pass her to an open lap of a relative.

I am out-witted in 0.5 seconds when she takes the bottom of my dress and lifts it up to my armpits.

It’s tight, and it has no intention of falling back down to place.

Not even a helpful “drape.”

I’m packed into a pew like a sardine, a two year old straddling my control-topped waist, with my Christmas dress up around my armpits and backside in full bloom for the family behind us. I literally cannot move to fix it. After a fruitless shuffle to loosen its grip, I just sit my cheeks down on the cold pew and nod my head.

My black pants never would have betrayed me.

I sheepishly wave goodbye to the wide-eyed row behind us and dart like an angry bird for the coat room.

But once home and back in flannel pajama pants where I belong, I can giggle. It was a highlight for the kids (if not for the nice family behind us): Mom’s caged backside joyfully displayed at church. Truthfully, nothing could be better for my 8-year-old son, and I’m sure I will find him giggling to himself in the back of the van until spring. Christmas cheer is Christmas cheer, right?

The best traditions might be the unexpected, but I won’t meet that family unprepared next year. I think I’ll add lights.