December 11, 2006

Family Traditions: Issa’s World

There was a time when Melissa didn’t have a blog. She would leave comments on this blog at such regularity that she probably had a year’s worth of posts on my blog alone. Now, even though she has joined us in the blogging world I still look forward to her comments as she drops by to say hi. It is because of this long history with Melissa that I was thrilled that she agreed to participate in my annual Family Traditions guest blog series. Please welcome the lovely and talented, Melissa.


Last year, before I was even blogging (well I was lurking and sometimes commenting), I remember coming to Matthew’s place and seeing all the stories of miscellaneous people’s holiday traditions that he’d pried out of people. It was so cool to see it as a person who was so new to this. When he asked me to write up one of mine I was honored….and then three weeks went by and I hadn’t done a darn thing. I figured since Matthew is such nice guy and one of the reason’s I am a blogger, I’d do my best not to disappoint him. So let’s see…..a holiday tradition.

My parents have quite a few things that they each did when I was growing up. The problem was that I lived at both houses and their traditions were so different and holidays were spent going back and forth and generally filled with some form of drama, so my favorite holiday tradition may be a little different.

The weekend after Thanksgiving is when we’d get our tree with our mom and step-dad. She waited until that weekend, because she knew we’d have the time and she wouldn’t have to fight my dad for kid dibs. Every year we’d go Sunday, the weekend after the holiday weekend to pick out our tree. She’d tell us that was what we were doing, but you knew when you got up in the morning because she’d pulled out the boxes of holiday stuff. She’d also make breakfast, or brunch depending on our ages and willingness to wake up before 11am on a Sunday. Then we get ready and go get a tree. Not just any tree, the best tree. She liked the spruce ones or the fur ones, I forget which, but the most expensive ones. Not that she wouldn’t every year complain about the price and think it was less the previous year, but she still wanted the best one. So she’d show us the section and the kind she wanted and then let us pick the most perfect tree. One of us would inevitably choose the 9 foot one, which would get vetoed, but we’d eventually find the one we wanted. To this day it still amazes me that she’d let us decide. Have you ever tried to get three kids to agree on anything? Or a set of identical boy twins who are polar opposites? Yeah…not so easy.

We’d find our tree and take it home and wait impatiently while my step-dad Jack would put the lights on. He’s a little anal about the lights, but it always looked great when he was done. While he did the lights, we’d open the boxes and start unwrapping the ornaments and scattering other decorations around the house. Candy bowls, angel figurines and singing snowmen all found a place some where in the house. Then we’d decorate the tree. It may not seem that exciting to any of you but it was, still is in fact, for us. See my mom started collecting ornaments the year she found out she was pregnant with me. She gave each of us an ornament every single year. And each one has a story which she’d remind us of as we hung the ornaments. The stories were generally something that she thought was funny throughout the year, so she found an ornament to always remember it. Like the pistachio ornament for Alex the year he was ten and had eaten jalapeno pistachios and then thought he’d rub his eye. I swear his eyes watered for a week. Or the pair of lady bugs she gave to Justin the year he was eight and had learned about the birds and the bees by finding a pair of lady bugs going at it on his coke can. My favorite ornament is the peppermint baby she bought for me my first year of life, with it’s vivid blue eyes and wild red curls, she bought it because it reminded her of me. When my brothers and I became teens, we started buying them for her and our step-dad Jack too. It’s our tradition and it’s the best childhood memories I’ve got.

We’re all adults now and she still buys us each an ornament every year, even though we’re not always able to be with her on Christmas. She also buys my kids each one too. Five years ago, when my daughter Maya was born, my mom tried to give me all the ornaments she’d bought for me. I wouldn’t let her, I just couldn’t imagine them being anywhere else but at her house on her tree. While my kids and I did help my mom decorate her tree this year, we also did our own tree too. There are stories to go with each ornament I’ve bought for them too. My greatest hope is this continues for generations.

I hope you all have a great holiday, which ever ones you celebrate.


  1. [...] Family Traditions [...]

    Pingback by Childs Play x2 — Because having one just wasn’t enough. » Family Traditions: Issa’s World — December 11, 2006 @ 11:17 pm

  2. Thanks for sharing. Funny you mention the ornaments–I’ve been buying a special ornament for each of my boys since they were born, and sometimes I wonder if I’m being ridiculous and if it’ll be appreciated. I do enjoy remembering the story/chapter of their life behind each ornament.

    Comment by momto3cubs — December 12, 2006 @ 10:32 am

  3. For the first time in years, I put up a Christmas tree. I haven’t put one up because I have been going to Hawaii for Christmas, Mele Kalikimaka everyone, for the last 6 or 7 years. I will be going again this year.
    But this year is different. I put up the tree the weekend before TheMONK and Swee’Pea arrived for Thanksgiving. I wanted it to be memorable for them but who am I kidding, it was really for me. I took out all of my special ornaments and put them on the tree. Included in them was a little blue ornament whose shine has dulled and no notices. That little blue ornament is the last of the first set of ornaments that Swee’Pea’s grandfather and I bought for our first Christmas together in 1968. As expected, no one noticed it and I get to keep it.
    But my Swee’Pea took a liking to Minnie Mouse. She is an ornament I purchased in Disneyland in 1987. I and her Uncle Benjamin had gone to see her father play with the Santa Cruz High marching band in the Disney Holiday Parade. So now after 19 years at my home Minnie and Mickey (he had to go too) have moved on to a new home, with Swee’Pea and I hope she cherishes it as much as I cherish the little blue ornament.

    Comment by Grandmother — December 12, 2006 @ 11:54 am

  4. That one from Grandmother made me cry (I seem to be doing that a lot these days). Recently I decided it was time to pass Great Grandma Paynes cedar chest down to Stacie. In cleaning it out I came across the letter your father wrote me from Vietnam, still in the little gift box tied up with red ribbon. I never thought I’d treasure a letter so much. But we have to be reminded that the reason we treasure these things is because they bring back wonderful memories.
    And even if the ornament breaks, or the letter disappears,
    we still have the wonderful memories, tied up with little
    red ribbons in our minds.

    Comment by Aunt Raina — December 12, 2006 @ 1:58 pm

  5. The first year I lived on my own, I did not have a single ornament or decoration for Christmas. We scrounged around the house and made construction paper chains – strung cranberries and popcorn – stars made out of tinfoil. And we loved it…

    From that year on, we have bought an ornament for each other every year to add to the paper chains and cranberry garland. Now that we have twins (nearly 3 y.o) we have also begun buying them ornaments each year. We always pack them in a special box, and I hope that they will accept them as a house warming gift when they each set out on their own.

    Cheers and happy holidays…

    Comment by Ellie — December 21, 2006 @ 6:29 pm

  6. [...] If you all pop over to Matthew’s blog, you’ll see I’m today’s guest blogger, going on at some embarrassing length about family traditions. Thanks for the airtime, Matthew! [...]

    Pingback by Guest Blogging/co-Blogging « It’s Not All Mary Poppins — March 5, 2007 @ 11:19 am

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