On Wednesday night, Joel arrived home late. As he opened the door, there I hovered, waving a list in front of his face and shrieking excitedly, “I’ve found us some traditions!”.
He is used to these kinds of statements and didn’t miss a beat. “Awesome!”, he said, and kissed my cheek. He then asked, “So, Rach, what specifically are you talking about?”. I let him pass me at the door, and as he went about his just-got-home rituals, I followed him like an eager puppy reading all the things you guys told me you do at Christmas.
1. Make rum balls
2. Read Twas The Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve
3. Watch National Lampoons Christmas Vacation
4. Eat a s###load of ham
I think the Tradition To-Do list hit 15.
After I’d finished he looked at me – in pain – and I knew I should probably resume the conversation the next day. I remembered that someone once told me that men need about twenty minutes of alone time when they arrive home, so they can shake the day off them and settle into veg mode. One must never bombard them with questions, or jobs, or too much activity, I was told. I quickly went REALLY silent, which I think confused him even more.
The next day was Thursday. Joel has Thursdays off, and we usually do something nice as a family – just the 3 of us. Because we’ve got this new fancy car with dials and supernatural abilities, Joel wanted to take it to the beach and go 4WD-ing, so these magical abilities could come alive. Just before we left, he announced that we didn’t have a snatchem, and then looked at me and asked if we should still go as if I knew what in the darn blazers he was talking about. Since he looked serious and a bit hesitant, I said, Hmmm, it’s probably not a good idea that we do then and tried my best to look as though I was thinking hard about it. We piled into the car and I decided to say nothing further but to just sit back and wonder where it was we were headed to. I’m a family man now, Joel said. I just want to be careful. “Mm-hm”, I said and nodded very seriously.
Turns out we ended up at the beach, while the car sat in the car park.
However, something exciting happened on our way there.
Somewhere between Brisbane and the Sunshine coast, Joel pulled off the highway and turned the car down some random old dirt track. “We can take it a little off road”, he said. “Just a little.”
After driving for about ten minutes and getting VERY excited that we were going over more bumps than usual, we stopped the car and went exploring through the forest we had driven ourselves into. There were pine cones all over the ground, and as I began picking them up, I suddenly got an idea. I ran to Joel and Ella, a million pine cones bundled in my arms and yelled out, “Guess WHAT you guys! This is our first tradition! COLLECTING PINE CONES!” Joel stared back. I continued. “Then, on the 1st of December, we can spray paint them silver and put them all over the house, and it will be so FESTIVE and CHRISTMAS-Y!”
I’m not sure what it was, but Joel suddenly broke out into a huge grin, and we spent the morning, as a family, foraging around the forest floor, collecting pine cones and branches and bundling them all into the car.
This was the little ice breaker we needed to resume the Traditions Talk from last night. On our way to the beach, we talked about all the other things we would do, and we both got excited for our first Christmas as a family and creating all those special traditions that would fill our memories when we are old and grey and the kids have all grown up. As I sat there in the middle of it all, I got that feeling. That cozy, humbled, overwhelmingly grateful feeling that I was part of a special little circle. That it was just the three of us, in our own secret world, making a life together out of these tiny little moments. These unexpected moments of picking up pine cones from deserted tracks off sides of a highways. These moments of teeny tiny small things, and how they aren’t really teeny or tiny or small at all.
Of course, the day ended in a trip to Target, because nothing says Christmas Spirit like wreaths and tinsel and cute little Santa sleigh candle holders.
It’s an investment, I told Joel. Once we buy these decorations, we will have them for LIFE. Besides, it’s what we DO now. It’s our tradition. On the 1st of December, we decorate the house all pretty and Christmas-y, and we can’t DO that if we’ve got no stuff.
By the time we got home, the good vibe we had going on between us all day had begun to slip. I had a sneaking suspicion that Joel didn’t like the Santa sleigh candle holder. At home, when I started unpacking all our new things, Joel came over to me with a look. You know the one. The one that says We Need To Talk.
You guys, we had the money talk. The one where the man says he feels like he spends all his time making the money, while the woman spends all her time being the boss of it. The one where the man explains that he communicates to the woman about major potential purchases so they can decide together, whereas the woman does not. The one where the man says, I can’t buy a hand-held vacuum cleaner for the car but you can buy vanilla scented candles and fake ivy?
We’ve got allowances now, you guys, which you and I both know means I have an allowance now, since Joel hardly spends much.
That’s what you folks do, right?
Money sure is tricky business.
Especially when one is set loose in Target.