Don’t Spit on the Tree

30 Dec

(This post may be late, but who doesn’t love some lingering Christmas cheer?)

Every year, my family and I go to my grandparents’ house for tea and cookies and Christmas tree decorating. It’s always really fun because it means I get to decorate TWO trees instead of ONE.

And that’s why Santa loves me more than anyone else. 

Seriously though, this tradition is one of my favorites. Maybe it’s the combination of herbal tea and sugary treats, or maybe it’s the invigorating scent of a freshly purchased tree, but somehow, things always get a little bit crazy.

The tradition begins when my grandfather puts on one of the six Christmas albums (so one of the six albums in total) that are permanently on rotate in his six-disc CD changer. He usually just kind of pushes ten or so buttons before settling for whatever comes onto the speakers. 

But my family is very particular about our Christmas music. So, we usually ask him to search through all of the CDs for “that one really upbeat but kind of slow and sad song,” or, “that one by Mariah Carey…or maybe Cyndi Lauper? Nope, definitely Bing Crosby.”

It’s not a party until the Mariah-Bing mash-up is playing!

Step two of the process: finding our favorite ornaments.

I ALWAYS hang the “Santa on a Surfboard” ornament. ALWAYS. What is cuter than a little bald man with a white beard hanging ten on a surfboard? If that doesn’t scream Christmas, then I don’t know what does.

This year, however, Santa seemed to be missing. I looked in the “main ornament” box; I looked in the “these may be ugly, but we keep them because they’re tradition” box. I even looked in the “miscellaneous” – which is a step up from the “ugly but traditional” – box. He was nowhere to be found.

Feeling very agitated, I settled on a misfit peanut ornament that I found in the “reject” box. Not the same as Surfing Santa, but it did prompt a lot of “peanut jokes” and photos…which prompted my dad to say, “Girls, stop doing weird stuff with the peanut”…which prompted a lot of laughter because, well, we are 12 and anything with the word “nut” in it causes the same reaction as an “I Love Lucy” episode paired with laughing gas.

Step three: The Annual Josh Groban Jam Fest

Post-peanut hysteria, my sister and I decided to do simultaneous Josh Groban impressions, while our other sister choreographed a jazz number to accompany our singing. 

In another family, this might be a big “let’s get the camera and film this charming and funny performance” kind of event.

But in my family – where “creative juices” (aka ADD) run rampant –this is just a regular Friday night.

Thus, all my mom had to say to this comical and musical burst of inspiration was, “Sophie, if you don’t stop causing a raucous, you’re going to have go sit on the Naughty Stairs.”

She wasn’t joking. That is a legitimate threat in my family.

So, I was forced to cease with the Josh Groban impressions.

(When my grandfather tried to get the Josh singing going a little while later, my grandmother said, “Oh Vin, please stop. You’re upsetting people.” Sorry Josh, we tried.)

Step four: Find Surfing Santa!

We were about to finish the tree, when my sister announced that she had “found Sophie’s midget Santa ornament!” When my mom told her that “midget” is no longer a socially accepted term, my sister said, “Okay, fine. Sophie, I found your ‘elf’.”

I made sure to hang Surfing Santa near the top of the tree (because we put a premium on political correctness in this family). 

Step five: Cookies and Tea and…avalanches?

After the tree was finally decorated, we settled down for some tea and cookies, and admired our work: 


As most tea time conversations do, ours quickly transitioned from “oh, look how beautiful the tree is,” into, “how do you escape from an avalanche if you have a ten minute window of survival and nothing but the clothes on your back?”

Apparently, my sister has been harboring some serious concerns regarding “Sophie’s time in Geneva and avalanches caused by the ‘slab movement’ of unstable snow.” This is the kind of conversation that occurs when you teach Earth science to an anxious 14 year-old.

It turns out, the way to free yourself from an avalanche is three-fold: first, pee your pants to melt some of the surrounding snow and to create “wiggle room.” Second, spit upwardly to see where “up” is, relative to your position, before attempting to dig your way to the surface. 

If I were to end up “trapped” in any substance in Geneva, it would most likely be a vat of chocolate, a vat of cheese, or some combination of the two. (Which would probably be gross, but I’m not above it.) I appreciated my sister’s concern, though.

Step number 6: Hugs and kisses and words of wisdom.

After the tree was decorated and the cookies were consumed, it was time to say goodnight. I said goodbye to Surfing Santa, re-located my earrings (which had somehow fallen off during a particularly rowdy verse of a Josh Groban tune) and headed for the door.

As I was saying goodbye to my grandmother, she whispered, “Remember: when in doubt, just pee yourself and spit upwardly.”

And just like that, I had the best Christmas gift of all: the title of my memoir.

‘Tis the season.






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