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84/365 – Christmas Eve
© 2011 Timmy Tamisiea. All rights reserved. DSC00773

84/365 – Christmas Eve

All right.  Over the past month I’ve made it clear that there are a lot of idiosyncrasies about the Christmas season that just bug the crap out of mine.  However, one universal trait of Christmas that I love is getting to spend time with my family.  Being home for Christmas is like being in an insane asylum.  Except this asylum has adopted the grading practices of one of those hippy schools.  You know, no grades, just hugs and smiley face stickers.  We all become enablers of the insanity.  However, for the first time in 35 years, I will not be with my family on Christmas.  As I write this on Christmas eve, there’s some undeniable melancholy about that.

Yes, kids, the hats let you communicate with Santa. Now eat your dinner.

Marriage, as Megan and I are finding, is all about give and take.  I’ll pay for this meal, you can get next one.  I’ll clean the house, you get some rest.  I’ll play video games, you can play when you magically get interested in video games.  You wear the green bra, I’ll wear the pink one this time.  (That one pisses me off – I never, EVER get to wear the green one.)  You know, sacrifices.  Well, sacrifice is a loaded word.  It implies you get nothing out of the deal.  What you get is an awesome life partner.

When Megan and I decided to have our wedding in Omaha, it was only fair that we spend our first Christmas in Kentucky with her family.  After all, there’s only so much Tammer the Hammer you can take in a three month period.  And so, here I am, Christmas Eve in Paducah Kentucky.  The birthplace of Megan Green, home to the Freedom BIker Church and the Quilt Capital of the World.

Nothing says Christmas like Quilts.

I’m honored to be here, setting new traditions and spending time with my wife.  But, as anyone who knows me, my family is incredibly close.  One of those milestones you have to pass as you grow up is the first Christmas away from family.  I won’t be participating in the Tamisiea family traditions I’ve become accustomed to.  So, to commemorate the last 35 years of tradition building, here’s the top 5 traditions I’ll miss this year.

1) Pat’s Godparents Smothering Him With Gifts.

Patrick’s under there . . . somewhere. Suffocating. Jerk.

Patrick has some sweet god parents.  He’s the only one in the family who’s godparents aren’t directly related to us.  My godparents (Uncle Richard Tamisiea and Aunt Kathy Schnider) have kids of their own – they have no time to smother me with gifts.  I don’t even think they remember I’m their godson.  Patrick’s godparents, Lonnie and Loraine Mercier, didn’t have children when they were named godparents.  Therefore, they’ve always given him gifts.  When we were younger, my other brothers and I were insanely jealous.  Every Christmas Eve, they’d come over and give the little spoiled brat some awesome gift – be it a video game or an awesome Jurassic Park Dinosaur toy.  Damn-it  We all hated it.  Why does he get an extra gift on Christmas Eve and we have to sit and bite our tongues.  You know how torturous that is for a little kid?  Might as well burn us in effigy in front of us, because the indication was Patrick was better than us.  Pat was such a little bitch . . .

That tradition continues today.  Even after Lonnie and Loraine had their son Mark, they continued to give Pat a gift every Christmas.  We, the other brothers – the paupers, the ugly step sisters – have grown fond of this tradition.  It means that we all go to lunch somewhere in Dundee (the neighborhood where we live in Omaha) and get to casually enjoy each other’s company.  After all, Lonnie and Loraine and Mark are such dear friends to our family that seeing them once a year is a delight.   Jealously has subsided and made room for excitement and anticipation. It kind of marks the beginning of Christmas Eve.  It’s as if Patrick opening his gift is a ceremonious event that signifies that the next 36 hours is officially Christmas.

2) Christmas Eve Dinner

We’re too poor to kill it, so just start eating it, damn-it!

Mmmmm.  Delicioso.  My mom’s a damn fine cook.  And my step-dad, Larry, is just as damn fine.  He’s also a good cook as well . . . Put that combo together and you have some mouth watering fun!  Every year, my mom makes this unbelievable tenderloin, twice baked potatoes and all the fixins.  And man, since I never cook, this is the finest meal I have all year.  Move over fancy Chicago eateries, Ann Etienne’s in the kitchen!  I’m serious, get the fuck out of here.  You suck.  My mommy is better than your mommy!

This also is a reminder of how close my family is.  In attendance are always my brothers (Chris, Pat and Sean) my Grandma Buchan, Larry and my dad.  We leave a seat for Jimmy, my brother who passed in 2007.  Sometimes we’ll have some special guests.  Distant relatives or friends.  For most of my friends who come from broken homes, this is a odd because my dad attends this dinner every year.  The animosity or bitterness of a long gone divorce is null.  My dad, mom and Larry always get along.  And it’s never more evident than at Christmas Eve dinner.  It’s one big family – life is just too short to hold grudges.  It one of the little details of this family that makes me so proud.

How could this man hold a grudge against anything? Oh, and he’s farting in that water. I know it.

This also becomes the year in review.  It’s incredibly cheesy, but in secret, we all enjoy it — My mom will say a prayer and then we all have to go around the table and say what we are thankful for.  There are jokes and most times tears, but its a safe place to let those feelings out.  Life has been pretty rough on the Tamisiea/Etiennes over the past 4 yerars, but those rough patches have made some pretty tough scar tissue.  And its always evident on Christmas eve . . .

Then we eat like pigs.

3) Dicso Fever Dish Washing

Jesus is so mad about this. SO MAD!

This hasn’t happened in a few years, but for a while there, it was getting eerily repetitive.  When the Christmas eve meal is over, all the boys head to the kitchen for some dish dog duty.  Those plates aren’t going to wash themselves.  If we don’t do it . . . well, eventually, Larry will do it.  But it’s the least we can do it for the excellent meal.  One of the local radio stations always plays 48 hours of Christmas music.  We always turn it on while washing dishes.  Somehow, like a cosmic turntable needle pinpointing our location, a awful disco version of Deck the Halls comes on.  Awful but awesome at the same time, we end up washing dishes to the beat of some bygone era that should have died with Elton John . . . he’s not dead.  Well, the the tradition continues.


4) Midnight Mass / Steve-Os

My brothers and I all attended a Jesuit Catholic High School – Creighton Prep.  Every year they hold a midnight mass for Christmas.  Every year Patrick and I (sometimes Sean) attend.  It used to be one of the highlights of the season.  There would be a full choir with our good frond gene Klosner leading.  Full instrument section and a great homily by one of the Jesuits.  However, one year, the Archdiocese told Prep they had to shut it down or boil it down.  They climed the mass was drawing attendance away from the Parish masses.  Which really crystalizes what the heirarchy of the Catholic system really cares about – money.  The Parishes have a collection plate for their masses.  Prep, being a high school, doesn’t.  So, instead of being amazed at how great the prep mass was at getting people to celebrate Christ’s birth, they were only concerned with money.  The mass has never been the same.  But, every year, Pat and I attend.  It used to be so we could see some old friends from our high school days.  Now, none of them attend anymore.  So, now we attend out of habit.

Afterwards, for the past 15 or so years, we leave Prep at about 1:30am and head to our friend Steve’s childhood home.  He was the one who wrote and sang Megan and I’s first song for the wedding.  This is where we catch up with old friends.  Steve’s dad always has beer and soda and assorted home made cookies ready for consumption.  Mr. Bartolomie is the epitome of Christmas – he may be the calmest, nicest man you will ever meet.  He’s just so excited to have guests over.  All of us exchange stories from the past year and then we have a white elephant gift exchange.  Pat and I ALWAYS get our gifts from the the same gas station right before mass.  This is one of those Christmas traditions that will continue with or without all the original members of the gift exchange.  It’s a super fun time to let loose and be silly and share time with genuinely good people.  We usually end up just making fun of Tammer the Hammer.  By the end of the night, it’s 4am.  That leaves little sleep for Christmas morning but it’s always worth it.

5) The Tired Old Chris-mas Joke

He's the everyman dad!

CHRISTMAS MORNING!  It usually starts about 8:30 or so.  None of my brothers or I have lost that early morning excitement.  One of us is chosen to be Santa – there to pick out a gift for each person.  One gift is opened at a time so we can focus.  Toys, clothes, video games, electronics – whatever is opened, we all get a chance to hear who its from and who its for.  AND, without fail, Chris will say the same god-damn joke.

You see, god love him, Chris likes to find a joke or a saying a beat that horse till it’s porridge.  Sometimes he’ll resurrect the horse so he can continue to beat it.  The joke on Christmas morning come straight from A Christmas Story.  One of the gifts the Dad gets is a can of Simoniz – a car wax from the 40s.  In his best feigned excitement, he says, “It’s a can of Simoniz.”  Well, after every gift is opened, Chris will, on cue, say, “It’s a can of Simoniz.”  EVERY TIME.  Sometimes he’ll say another line from the movie like, “It’s a ball.  It’s a blue ball . . . It’s a bowling ball.”  In any case, as much as we’ve all learned to accept our fate when it comes to these lines, it is definitely something I will miss.  Damn you, Chris.



The only thing better than Christmas Eve dinner is Christmas morning breakfast.  Larry and my mom make a really simple but extroidinary meal for all of us.  Scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage paties, toast.  It’s not a difficult meal to make, but it’s alway so good and perfect after a long morning.  There’s really not much else to say, this is great!

7) Uncle Bucks!

Yep. We're almost to Uncle Bucks.

On Christmas afternoon, we all head to my dads for a gift exchange with him.  He usually gives us all the same thing – a tool set one year, a grooming kit another – and a check.  We love his gifts because we all know we’ll be sharing the same gift.  What we’re more excited about is what we give him.  My dad may be the most generous man alive – he has supported all of us spiritually, finically, professionally and emotionally throughout the years.  Take into account there’s two artists in the family, that makes him a saint.  The chance to give him something back is very important to us boys.  So seeing him open his gift is like a parent watching their child opening a gift.  There’s just too much excitement.  This year we gave him a Kindle Fire.  He’s an avid reader, so I wish I could see his face when he opens it.

Then we all nap in readiness for Uncle Bucks!  Yes, Patrick Buchan, fondly and fearfully known as Uncle Buck.  The patriarch of my mom’s family.  My Dad and all my brothers and my mom and Larry head to his house where we encounter the madness that is the Buchan clan.  I have over 50 cousins.  Most of them have children.  When you put them in a house, its a true nuthouse.  Not like the one I described above.  This is one where Nurse Ratchet quit and left the grounds to the patients.

I will miss this so much because it’s the one time we all, or most of us all, can get together and just have fun.  Most of the people my age end up going to my My Uncle Dick’s house (As in We Have An Uncle Dick) and drinking beer and playing boardgames.  It’s a testament to the Irish/Scots Catholic bond in my extended family.  It’s chaos through togetherness and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

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