Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve ...

... and getting ready to head over to my godsons' house for the traditional thing.

Tons of amazing food, including homemade pies and cream puffs.

Tons of presents and toys. It's a madhouse. You think I'm exaggerating, but you have NO idea.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Three days and counting ...

Christmas is approaching at warp speed, it seems.

I find myself vacillating between not being able to wait until it gets here to not being able to wait until it's over and done with.

From the commercial/social side, I have all my shopping done except for two people, who I plan to take care of today. Wrapping of all the gifts will be done tonight.

Does anyone else sometimes worry or have anxiety over what others will get them for Christmas? Perhaps there have been too many instances of "Really? This is what he/she/they thought I wanted/would like?"

To be fair, there also have been many instances in which gifts to me were "perfect" ... or at least suitable and apt.

From my end, I used to delight in examining a person in my mind's eye, their likes and preferences, their needs and wants, their style and personality in determining what present to get for them at Christmas. A vast majority of the time, I succeeded. I know when I put thought into it and make an effort, I usually succeed in doing a very good job at gifting.

But now I rarely do that, at least not for all the people on my list. This year, for example, the vast majority of people to whom I will be giving presents will be getting gift cards. Well, that's the main part of the gift. The trick I do now is getting a few little things to accompany the gift card. For example, one woman will get a few small bottles of Bailey's, as I know it's her preferred alcoholic beverage. Kids will get candy and little toys together with their gift cards, some other women will get fine chocolate (Godiva, usually).

Not to say they aren't appreciative. Every one that will get a gift card will get one to a vendor they frequent and enjoy, whether that be Macy's, Home Depot (the guys, duh!) or Game Stop (kids can't get enough video games and accessories!)

But maybe next year I'll break this recent pattern and go back to being more of a "Jingle George," like I was in the past. Then again, maybe I won't. I guess it just depends how much more Christmas-y I feel in 2012.

Friday, December 02, 2011

it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas ...

It's just the second day of December and yet I'm actually starting to feel the Christmas spirit.

I live on a tropical island, so there's no cold weather, no snow, no icicles hanging from the roof. There are no reindeer, only karabao. No winter wonderland, just palm trees and sun and blue sky for miles and miles.

Yet I'm getting giddy. I can't wait to start wrapping presents. To hear more Christmas carols. To see the excitement of my godsons and all the little kids in my life.

People always seem nicer at this time of year, friendlier. I love exchanging "Merry Christmas" with strangers. Seeing acts of goodwill toward fellow men.

I dread the craziness of shopping malls and stores, especially with the tax refunds going out this weekend and lots more crazy sales just a week after Black Friday, but I'm still eager to shop. I'll just make sure I go when it's the least crazy.

This time of year I especially miss my family. My mom's in the states, as are two brothers and a sister, who I haven't seen in soooooo long, and her beautiful daughters, my nieces, as well.

And I miss my father even more. He died 15 years ago and yet it still seems so recent. I can't think about him without tears welling up, without my heart wrenching and aching. He died far too early.

My dad reveled in Christmas, though he wasn't blatant about it. But I think of all the little things. Making holiday wreaths from the computer punch cards they used back in the '70s. The boƱelos aga and dagu. The late brunch on Christmas day. The sleepy Midnight Masses. Opening one small present after coming back from Midnight Mass and trying hard to fall asleep. Waking the next morning to find presents under the tree that hadn't been there when we went to bed, especially the year he had to put four bicycles together between us coming home and going to sleep, and the children waking up early.

I remember the times he would have me wrap his present to my mother, some surprise out of the blue.

I remember him telling me and my brothers and sisters not to "waste" our money buying him presents. And him keeping all the bad ties and cologne we got him, even if he never used them.

I remember him going out to the jungle to cut down our "Christmas tree."

When I became an adult, I realized that my parents always did their utmost to get us good Christmas presents, even if it was just one small stocking stuffer and one main present.

My dad was an NCO in the Air Force and my mom didn't work full-time till I was in high school — that means we didn't have a lot of money, but they always managed it. I remember my dad saying he liked the back and neck of the chicken, not realizing until later it was so the rest of us could have our favorite pieces. How he never through much away so he could use things later — hammering out bent nails, having coffee cans filled with nuts and bolts. Fixing our old washing machine or doing the brakes or changing the oil on our cars ... and trying to teach us to do the same once we were old enough.

I remember going out to the jungle with him and my siblings and cousins, to get betel nut for the family, and how he let us sell the excess so we'd have our own money.

I remember his delight when I was working and able to afford to get him gifts I knew he'd like, such as a big television, a recliner or a bush-cutter.

And how he'd revel in the joy of his grandchildren, especially at Christmas. He was so patient, so loving, so giving, so caring.

My one regret is that I don't think I will ever be even close to the father he was ... mainly because I have no kids and doubt I'll ever have any, let alone meet a woman who'd want to be with me and bear those children. Likewise, I'll never be able to be the kind of grandfather he was.

I can only try to live up to the standard he set by trying to be the best man I can be, by living the kind of life he wanted me to lead, by following the example he set in the way he lived his life. By being kind and generous and helpful. By being there for others. By not bitching and complaining about the little things. By being strong and good and virtuous.

Merry Christmas, Pop. I love you. And God how I miss you and wish we'd have had more time together.