'Tis the season to make mama happy

This long Thanksgiving weekend, I detected a collective cussing of Christmas tradition — not, of course, the real reason why we celebrate, but the husbandly duty of helping with decorations during the yuletime season.

It's a tradition far older than Kris Kringle. Somehow, the episode of the wisemen showing up after the birth of the Christ child with gifts has morphed into every human with two X chromosomes buying a Christmas nicknack for any open spot in the home. A secondary trick has developed by never getting rid of any of them. So after you've been married for 20 or more years, you have gobs and gobs of what my dad calls "Christmas frap." Except he used a more alliterative word choice.

I helped my parents, married 50-plus years, get their boxed tree down from the attic. Dodging the roof frame rafters, I also handed down two large trash cans full of decorations, three big plastic tubs, three trash bags full of fluffy things, and assorted other storage units filled with decorations that are supposed to fill our hearts with glad tidings of comfort and joy.

But by the time, I was handing the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh storage containers down the wooden attic ladder to my father, I could sense his blood pressure starting to rise and his patience starting to fade. Mom had even done her best to time this ritual so that neither the Cowboys nor the Texans were playing.


"Grumble, grumble, grumble Christmas frap grumble grumble," I heard him say.

"Christmas frap" describes all the Santas, elves, tree decorations, garland, stockings, ribbons, bows, special dishes, punch bowls, lights, extra smaller Christmas trees, Santa hats for the husband and kids, and much more. With all of this, mom festoons the Cooke household, transforming it into a winter wonderland of sorts, though one not totally devoid of grinches.

Mom loves all this frap and we love mom, so we get it all down each year and put it back up for her in January. It's just what you do for your mama.

Mom even has about 10 Nativity scenes, which I hesitate to call frap because I might get struck by lightning. But does any person not participating in the retail trade industry really need that many Nativity scenes?

I kid my mom, of course. Each Nativity scene she has triggers a special memory, like the ceramic one she bought when we were little that she has glued back together many times. And each other piece of Christmas frap reminds her of a yule season gone by, memories in each small thing, each cosa, as they say at my in-laws home in El Paso. Lots of memories get triggered. Lots of 'em.

I also drove by a friend's house on Friday and he was sitting on a stool in his front yard, trying to figure out lights and decorations. He had a look, not one of seasonal joy, but one of weary resignation, knowing there was a college ball game on that he was missing. Knowing these few hours when he would put up the same decorations as the year before and the year before that, were to be gone forever. I didn't dare stop and ask if he needed help, so I honked and waved, to try and cheer my fellow man in his plight. But he was not happy. He had his frap to deal with.

I won't put him on the spot, but he is Rockdale's favorite junior-high assistant principal. And he must be a pretty good husband, too.

So good men of Christmas, we schlep. We schlep it up and down the ladder for mama, for our wives, daughters, and other women we love. We put the tall things on the top shelves and plug in the plugs to make lights blink.

And we'll pause on Christmas day, after the worship, after the presents, as children play excitedly and as our bellies are filled with bird. We'll look around with our mug of wassail or egg nog — candles glowing, soft winter light from the windows, cozy with the warmth of the fireplace and our big sweaters, and Bing Crosby's music in the air.

And it's then we realize that without all that frap, Christmas wouldn't be nearly as special.

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2009-12-03 digital edition

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