Part of my write-a-book-in-a-month project involved sorting through 11 years worth of columns, some of which I'm working into my book. I ran across a number that were Christmas related, and as I was reading, realized there's a recurring holiday happening at our house so predictable it is almost a tradition.
The first time was in 1997, when Celeste was just a few months old. I'd assembled our artificial tree and carefully decorated it, placing every ornament and light just so, intending to get the perfect picture of my new baby under the tree.
Except the tree decided it preferred to be horizontal. Didn't just prefer it - insisted upon it. Over and over again. We finally gave in and placed our gifts around our prone tree.
Another year, when it was just Celeste and me, we spent ages dragging our artificial tree up from the basement a few branches at a time because the box had disintegrated. With Christmas music playing and brownies cooling on the stove, my girl and I sorted and reshaped the branches and carefully constructed our oversized tree.
And just as soon as I slid that last branch into the slot, the tree came tumbling down. I put it back up. It came back down. After contemplating drilling a trunk-circumference-sized hole directly into the floor, I did what any independent grown woman would do. I called Dad.
I expected the tumbling tree tradition might come to an end after Geoff and I married and he kicked my fake tree to the curb, but while his fresh-cut trees haven't been as passionately anti-vertical as mine, there's a famous Tower of Pisa that they often resemble.
Geoff was responsible for starting a completely different tradition, one that's turned a somewhat ordinary decoration - a set of wooden blocks that spells out "Merry Christmas"-into our family's favorite decoration of all time.
In the years before Geoff, I'd usually arrange the block letters on top of the entertainment center, and there they'd stay until it was time to return to their box.
But not with Geoff in the house. Instead of being wished a Merry Christmas, he rearranged the blocks so we were greeted with, "MY RAMS RETCH," or after turning one M upside-down, "IRS WAR CHEST" or "SIR RAW CHEST."
Celeste joined the game, making "MY RICH RAMS" and "MARCH MISS TERRY."