Many of you are wondering: What’s the Figys’s first married Christmas like?
And if you’re not, you feel too awkward about walking out now. It’s like you showed up to the wrong class on syllabus day, but already claimed a great seat and asked a question about the midterm—so, why not take Anthro 245? So then, what does mine and Stephanie’s first married Christmas look like?
First off, Stephanie decorated the place. Last year, we didn’t decorate, and found the holiday rather dreary. So this year, she situated a wooden, cartoon-looking moose with a glittery scarf and neatly wrapped gift next to my Kurt Vonnegut doll. We got out four stockings, two for us and two for the rabbits Henry and Harper. Sorry, cats. The stockings continue to sit on the kitchen counter. We got a tree, a little one about three feet tall, and wrapped around a single string of lights.
Our ornaments are mainly crafts from Stephanie’s job working YMCA before and after school care. Herman, cat No. 1, likes this one in particular. It’s a homemade Grinch-stuck-in-chimney ornament—an orange pill bottle rimmed with cotton ball snow, green poof for a butt and two green pipe cleaner legs poking out. Herm would bite the piece of yarn it hangs from, drag it around, then drop it on the bedroom floor each night. An early Christmas present for us.
We opened our stockings early. Half of the chocolate is gone. Devoured. The rest stands no chance. Since we’ll start the six-hundred-and-some-mile trek to Indianapolis to see our families early Christmas morning, we opened our presents, too. As soon as the wrapping paper started to rip, Pumpkin, cat No. 2, got lost in the excitement. She tore off toward the bedroom, paws slipping on the slick floor, almost sliding into the doorframe.
What does our first married Christmas sound like? Not Bing Crosby. We haven’t listened to a lick of Christmas music at home. Instead, my wife has been walking around our small apartment singing Shaggy’s 2000 radio hit “Angel.” Stephanie sings it right to me. And despite referring to me as “girl” over and over, it’s sweet when she croons to me—her “darling angel”—the lyric: “closer than my peeps you are to me.” Then, diving into the verse without skipping a beast, she imitates, quite accurately, the reggae rapper’s flow on thought provoking lines like:
Life is one big party when you’re still young…
But who’s gonna have your back when it’s all done?
We’ve only heard real Christmas music in stores and at Mankato’s Festival of Lights in Sibley Park, where we feed pigs and sheep and goats pellets from candy vending machines in warmer months. No barnyard animals during December—there are reindeer instead! I asked Stephanie, “Can we take them home?” We’re still in negotiations.
The giant light display, synced to popular Christmas tunes, also has Santa’s house, a small skating rink for true Minnesotans—AKA people who actually own ice skates—and a row of Christmas trees decorated by area organizations. We like the fire department’s tree, which is half burned, telling a cautionary tale about the dangers of faulty lighting. We’ve been three times: once by ourselves, once with friends Tyler and Erin, and again with friend and fellow G.A. Irving.
We’ll probably go again. Because it’s festive. Because it’s fun. Because, not gonna lie, I love the reindeer. Because that’s what traditions are about—repeating experiences over and over, establishing a normal.
Tradition helps. Normal helps. When you live in a new place, hundreds of miles from the people and places you really, truly know, from the experiences that are yours, having something to call yours helps. Creating and claiming new experiences as yours—something as simple as eating tacos on Christmas Eve or opening presents early—helps.
Mine and Stephanie’s first married Christmas is about making traditions, since we don’t know in a few years what we’ll be doing, or where on earth we’ll live. Who knows? Maybe Australia or some similarly exotic place, like Canada. Traditions remind us, even when everything changes, that we have each other. No matter where we go, we’ll have everything we need.