Sunday, December 16, 2012

Christmas Traditions and the Kindness of Strangers

*An aside-- It goes without saying that I am in constant prayer for the people of Newtown, CT. I just can't even begin to wrap my head around it, and I've quit trying.  I've just hugged my babies tighter, prayed without ceasing, and tried to swallow the sick feeling in my stomach.  I've also done my best to keep Jeremiah completely unaware of it, which is so hard when it is splattered on every TV, radio station, and newspaper we see. Even passing conversations and "code words" aren't lost on him. An entire school of babies has had their innocence snatched away in an instant, and all I can do it try to shield Jeremiah and Parker as long as possible.  As far as they are concerned, it's just Christmas as usual.*


I am a complete sucker for traditions.  I think it's due to my very happy childhood and the memories I have from it.  I am also a complete sucker for taking the same picture to document said traditions from year to year.

One of the greatest Atlanta traditions is the Pink Pig.  You could ask me how it got started, and I would tell you that I have no idea.  All I know is that for many years of my childhood, and for many years of my parents' childhood before that, it was assumed that no Christmas season would be complete without a ride on the Pink Pig.

What is it?  In my day, it was a floating pink death trap with caged windows.  It hung from a rail and squeaked along, flying around the Great Tree on the roof of Rich's department store downtown.  I can so clearly remember the clanking and the vague feeling that I might not make it out of there.  Therein was the thrill!!

Priscilla and Percival.  Can't really describe to you how small these trains are.

The Pink Pig was closed in the 90s, more than likely due to the obvious lawsuit waiting to happen.  It has been resurrected by Macy's at Lenox, and though it be a mere SHADOW of the former glory, we will take our kids there every year until they go to college.  And they will love it, doggone it!
Now it's a glorified mall train inside a shockingly pink tent.  Silly safety.

Jeremiah truly does love it, for now at least.  I was thrilled to be able to take Parker this year.  Yet another time that Mike and I held hands and said, "Can you believe we have them both?"

Want to see what I mean about being a sucker for tradition?  My crazy has spread to my husband, bless his bones.

 My sweet boys.  Same Daddy-n-me plaid shirts.  Same pose, 3 years apart.  Tickles my heart.

After the Pink Pig, we stopped by Santa's Wonderland at Bass Pro Shop for our visit with Santa.  We go here for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that it's free (even the Santa picture!).  Mostly, it's because Bass Pro is every little boy's dreamland on a regular day, but when you add in merry-go-rounds, shooting ranges, train tables, and 4 wheelers, it just doesn't get any better.

 Two items that will NOT be coming to the Knoll house this year.

Jeremiah had practiced and practiced and practiced for his Santa visit. (We instituted the three present rule when he was born, more to keep ourselves in check than anything... and also in response to my years as a teacher that made me fear nothing more than raising kids with entitlement issues.  That's a whole other story for a whole other day!)  Anyway, he had it down pat and when the time came, he nailed it:

 "Size 18 bike, new Bible, and night vision goggles."

He also took it upon himself to communicate Parker's wishes (or what he imagined Parker's wishes to be) in his stead...
"My brother wants squeaky toys."
(Parker was unimpressed with Santa.  At least he didn't fall out crying.)

Our trip to Santa's Wonderland was a bit rocky this year-- they've instituted a new crowd management system to see Santa that was not explained clearly to customers.  In years past, you just stood in line and went up there.  This year, they've added a "Bass Pass" with an assigned 30 minute window to visit, thus freeing you up to walk around and play while you wait.  GREAT IDEA!  However, the signage explaining this new development said "If the line is longer than 30 minutes, this Pass will free you up to roam the store while you wait."  When we arrived, there was no line.  We sashayed on up there, only to be told that we needed a pass.  We went back to get one, only to be told that they had handed out all the passes for the REST OF THE DAY and we would have to come back another time.


I tried very hard to not be ugly, as I appreciate that they make Santa a free experience for all kids.  It really is wonderful.  However, I expressed my confusion and was told that there WAS a 30 minute line, I just couldn't see it.

"The line is invisible?"
"Well, no, it's just that there is a group of people waiting ahead of you that you can't see.  They are the ones with the Bass Pass for this time period."
"So the Bass Pass is required?"
"Only if the line is longer than 30 minutes."
"But there's not a line right now."
"Yes there is, but you can't see it."
"So the line is invisible?"
"Well, yes, I suppose it is."

Mike and I were in the process of figuring out how to communicate to Jeremiah that he would not be seeing Santa that day when a very kind woman in a green sweater tapped me on the shoulder.

"Do you need a Bass Pass?  We have an extra."

You, kind maiden in your green sweater, were Angel #1 of the evening.

So we took her Bass Pass and grabbed some dinner.  We got back into the invisible line (which was now 50 people deep) at our appointed time, and went to see the Big Guy.  As our turn approached, we dug for the video camera.  And dug.  And dug. And emptied the diaper bag.  And emptied the bottom of the stroller.  And broke into hives and sweating because all of our family memories are housed within its shell. (I do NOT back it up to our computer as often as I should)
Our turn with Santa arrived, and we had to give up the search.

Devastation.  Fake smiley happy times for Jeremiah's sake.  A long, slow, painful walk out of Santa's Wonderland.  I asked Mike to just double check that no one had turned it in.  He stopped at the merry go round and asked the operator if he knew anything about a camera.

"Yeah, I saw it back here and turned it into customer service a while ago!  Small, silver one, right?"

I burst into tears and hugged our Angel #2 while he was trying to operate his merry-go-round, thus causing his finger to come off the switch and the merry-go-round to stop suddenly in midtwirl.  I cared not.

It's so easy to throw up our hands and say, "This country has gone to hell in a handbasket and there's just no coming back from it.  The whole world is full of terrible people."  It seems that way, especially after yesterday.  However, I don't know how it's possible to live life with that attitude and try to raise happy kids at the same time.  And so, this year, while it may seem childish, it may seem like sticking my head in the sand, and it may seem out of touch with reality, I'm making a choice to believe that there are more Bass Pass hander-outers and camera rescuers out there than we think.

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