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Mabuhay! I'm an Asian American writer (Back Kicks And Broken Promises, Abbott Press, 2012), martial artist and teacher who was born in The Philippines, raised in Hong Kong and ended up in New Jersey.

12 December, 2011

Christmas Tree

Our Christmas tree mission was a resounding success last Friday.

After work, I shot home, picked up my wife and we got Jude from day care. It was already cold and our favourite radio station is on 24-hour Christmas music so everything was ripe for our Christmas tree adventure. To top it off , we made a quick stop to Starbuck's for a couple of Peppermint Mochas.

With the exception of, I think, 1999 and 2003, I've always bought my tree from The Metropolitan Plant Exchange. It's close and they always have a good selection and there's always other neat holiday things on display uncluding poinsettias, inflatable yard displays, craved yard displays, an assortment of indoor and outdoor lights, you name it. When we pulled up, Jude said, "Oh my God" and screamed with elation when he saw the thirty foot tall inflatable Santa that stood at the shop's entrance. When he saw that he yelled, "A giant Santa Claus!"

On a budget, we went straight for the less expensive trees that would fit in our flat: 5-6 foot tall Douglas Firs. We examined the selection and found one that just right in terms of height and width. If you've ever gone to buy your own tree, you'll know that they slant when on the racks so you've got to lift it up and give it a spin to make sure it's nice all the way around. This one wasn't bad. Actually, it was good but my wife and I wanted to see if there was another one that might be a little fuller without overtaking our living room. That wasn't a good idea. As soon as I put down the tree we were examining and walked to another aisle with Guada, Jude started to cry. It wasn't a 'spoilt kid, give me what I want' cry. Rather, it was a 'Hey man, that tree is mine. I chose it so why are you putting it away?' You see, as soon as I'd picked it up, Jude was into it. He'd claimed the tree - he calls it his "My green. Like big one." - and anything else just wasn't going to be good enough. This, too, was his first time picking the tree; full of awareness of the season and what we were doing. His other Christmases here in New Jersey, he was less than one (2008) and he wasn't really aware of everythign yet (2009). 2010, we went to The Philippines and didn't do up a tree here.

Our tree

Just watching him, Guada and I melted. I picked him up and, with my other hand, held the top of the tree and spun it for him. I asked him if he liked it. He nodded, wiped his nose and was relieved that we were getting it. It's his, you see, and he chose it. It's special and, maybe, will be something he'll remember when he's older.

I ran into the store to check out some poinsettias when Guada and Jude had the tree tied onto the car. My wife told me that Jude was giddy watching the man from the store step onto the tires to lay the tree on top of the roof and tie it with his rope. Of the rope, Jude found a connection with the guy. At day care, they'd had a Wild West party and Jude was given a mini lasso as part of their festivities. Perefect! Oh yeah, and as we pulled out of the parking lot, Jude said goodbye to the giant Santa.

When we got home, wow! I ad to mount the tree in its stand, water it and then we put the lights and decorations on. If he was giddy with the tree being put on the car, he crazy loopy with the Winnie The Pooj decorations, his special Tow Mater ornament, the red Christmas ball,everything. The following morning, the first thing he said after waking was to put on the tree. Later that night, after 5:30pm anticipated mass, we attended the church's tree lighting. Again, Jude loved it but he was also defensive of his tree. He liked the one at church but said his is better.

Jude hanging an ornament

Guada and Jude with our tree

I've always loved Christmas but I'll admit as I've gotten older the season holds less of the carefree, childlike (not childish) joy it used to bring me. I guess that's normal as one gets older with other things to worry about than just what to get for whom and what ask for. However, through Jude, I'm enjoying Christmas with renewed childlike vigour and with an entirely different perspective - as a father who has traditions to pass on. This Christmas, starting with our tree, is going to be different. How, I am not entirely sure but I know it's going to stand out and mean a little more than some of the recent ones we've celebrated. What I do know is that it's all because of Jude.

09 December, 2011

Christmas Season

It's the holiday season. Everywhere I go, whether it's the supermarket or the mall or the gas station or the nearby Target, Christmas, Hannukah and Kwanzaa (although there's less obvious representation of Kwanzaa than the other two) is in your face. And, I love it! This is my favourite time of the year. I'm one of those nerds who can get in a mood in the sweltering humid summer months, think about the cool late autumn and early winter days, their sights and sounds and pop Christmas music - whether a CD or through my iPod - into my car and sing along with them. Sure, the Christmas season does have its stressors - getting things decorated nicely, buying all the presents, enduring all those unresolved issues from childhood, trying to avoid the annual holiday weight gain - but, overall, it's the best time of the year. Everyone is nice to one another, they're polite, generous, you name it. I wouldn't want Christmas to be all year long becaue that would diminish its meaning and I'm not going to be corny and say everyone should have Christmas spirit all the time but this is really a special time of year.

This was further brought home to me when we took our son to The Radio City Christmas Spectacular a couple of weeks ago. He's three and a half so he's more aware and articulate than ever and he's really becoming his own person. When we walked into the Music Hall he looked up, amidst the crowd of people - we'd literally just stepped into the main lobby - and said, "This is amazing!" Granted, The Radio City Music Hall is an amazing place. With its grand stairway, which one can imagine has seen its share of entertainment legends walk down it, brings one back to The Golden Era. The Hall's fantastically high ceiling is another impressive and intimdating sight; the kind of ceiling you don't see anymore. And, of course, there are the brightly coloured Christmas decorations. I like to think, though, that it wasn't just the spectacle that is The Music Hall that awed my son. I like to think it's the amazingness (is that a word?) that is Christmas. I'll admit that we did play up the show and we've been talking about Christmas and showing him ornaments, movies and other Christmas-themed things but if Christmas weren't brilliant by itself already I doubt I would feel the way I do and I don't think Jude would respond the way he does.

As far as the show went, he loved it. The next morning I asked if he'd dreamt about Santa and the kings and camels and the baby Jesus from the Nativity part of the show. He nodded that he did and then he asked about the "superhero green ones," referring to a new addition to the program. Obviously, he remembered the show - his memory and recollection of things from day-to-day and even of things from, say, a year ago has really skyrocketed - which brought warmth to my heart because, in addition to A Chorus Line, The Christmas Spectacular is one of my favourite shows I've ever seen. During the show, when The Rockettes were kicking up their heels, he turned to me and said, "I love Santa." It was so cute and touching and a memory I will not soon forget. He was sitting on my my lap,with his lighted spinning Wooden Soldier flashlight toy in hand, pressed against my chest.

The other day, though, was something else. After the sun set and dusk had turned into night, we hopped into my wife's car and drove through our town and the neighbouring towns to enjoy the different Christmas lights and other decorations people have put up. My wife and I would point them out. At first, Jude was smiling. Before leaving our house, he'd looked out the window and excitedly pointed out our neighbours' brightly lit tree outside their house.His smiling turned into nodding. Then he said, "Mommy, Daddy. What are we doing?" I couldn't help from laughing because, generally, I am the same way. I have a hard time just hanging out or just driving around. I need to have a purpose; getting somewhere for something then back home. So, when Jude said that, while I was a little disappointed that he didn't get excited about the lights the way my wife and I do, inside I had to say "That's my boy." Eventually, Jude fell asleep on the drive.

Today, we plan on getting Jude early from day care and getting our Christmas tree. We've talked about it all week so hopefully he'll be into it, enjoying the background Christmas music, the smell of fir trees and stadning toe-to-toe with lawn Santas, Snowmen and manger sets. I'll let you know how it goes in a future post. For now, enjoy all of your holiday festivities and decorating. And, even though there's still two weeks to go, Merry Christmas everyone.