CHRISTMAS, A TIME WHEN MOST PEOPLE EAGERLY SHOP EARLY AND JOYOUSLY WRAP THEIR PRESENTS WITH CARE.
I, however, am not most people. I prefer to do my shopping on Christmas Eve. I know that sounds very last minute of me, but why shop early when I know there’s a convenient truck stop on the way to my parents’ house where I can purchase all my gifts at once and for under $20?
It’s the only place I know where I can buy bobble-heads in bulk. The helpful truck stop store clerk will even have them bagged, I mean, “wrapped” separately while I’m waiting for my car to refuel.
I like Truck Stop Christmas shopping. It allows me to get all the other things I’ll need for my trip.
The Tums for mom’s turkey with Jalapeño stuffing, the aspirin I’ll need for the headache my screaming nieces give me, and the box of Band-Aids for the injuries my father and I will inevitably suffer while getting our Christmas tree. (We use our ATV’s to storm through the blockade that’s annually formed by The Friends of the Earth at the entrance to the Franklin Family Tree Farm.)
One of us is usually sprained, bruised or bleeding afterward but it’s a tradition we both look forward to. Thankfully we’ve learned to wear helmets after past experience dictated that a smack in the noggin from a “Friends of the Earth” picket sign could leave a nasty bump on the head. (Note: If they’re really so concerned about saving tree’s why are their signs made completely out of wood?)
Christmas at my house has always been a little unusual. In fact, in my teen years, I used to be embarrassed to bring friends home for the holidays.
I wasn’t embarrassed by my family, however. It was just the way they were dressed that caused me some distress. Having my Mom wear a bear costume while serving Christmas cookies (left) or dressed as Mary Poppins while my Dad dressed as Grumpy the dwarf (below) always made me a bit uneasy about introducing new friends to the way we spent our holidays.
My family started the tradition of dressing up several years ago.
We realized that the same aunt who would bore us all at Christmas by forcing our entire clan to look at pictures from the annual summer vacation spent with her wealthy husband’s family would also make her in-laws look at Christmas pictures of our family during their summer vacation.
Having a naturally competitive family, we knew we couldn’t compete with the wealthy family in the pictures on a monetary basis so we decided to simply make our photos funnier instead. At least they wouldn’t be bored with our pictures.
The interesting thing is that my friends were never embarrassed by my family’s odd and eccentric behavior or by our handpicked, ATV driven, broken and battered Christmas tree. They seemed to be envious of it instead. I remember one year having a buddy of mine wistfully saying, “Man, your family is funny! I wish we had a real tree like yours. Ours is plastic and smells like mold from the attic.”
That’s when I realized that seeing your family tree through another person’s eyes helps you to appreciate how good you really have it.
I wouldn’t miss my family Christmas for anything now and I’m hoping you feel the same way about attending yours. One last word of advice for packing though before you depart; make sure to leave all of your family related emotional baggage behind but set your therapists number for speed dial. That’s what I call being “safe” for the holidays.
Recipes from the Pantry:
Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Cookies
1 cup natural peanut butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg, beaten
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 350ºF and grease a baking sheet or line with parchment paper.
Beat together the peanut butter and the sugar with an electric mixer until smooth
Add the egg and baking soda to the mixture and combine well
Roll one teaspoon of cookie dough into a ball and place one inch apart on cookie sheet.
Flatten lightly with a cookie press that has been preheated in the oven.
Bake for 10 minutes or until light golden brown.
Cool on cookie sheet for a couple minutes, then transfer to a baking rack.
Keep in airtight container.
Makes 2 dozen cookies.