When I was a kid, I had serious Christmas-envy.
When December 25 neared, I would steal away to my bedroom, secretly hanging stockings for Santa and listening to The Wall’s Rocking Christmas CD.
My Jewish parents were befuddled as I clamored for lights and a tree, and when that didn’t fly, I enlisted my friends for gift exchanges.
Eventually, I abandoned all hopes of a childhood Christmas and decided that I would live out my stocking-ed ambitions as an adult by marrying a Christmas-ite, instead.
Then I met Brent, a religious mutt with a Jewish father and a long history of well-lighted pines under his belt. We got together in February, were engaged by October, and when December rolled around, Brent made it his mission to give me the best first Christmas ever.
First, he picked me up at my house and handed me a present: a book of cookie recipes. ”Pick out your favorites and we’ll stop on the way home for the ingredients.”
Then we drove out to a farm, where we grabbed a saw and set out into the fields to cut down our tree. We drank hot cider, picked out a couple of ornaments, and stopped on our way home for a fireplace set.
From there, we made a quick pitstop for groceries and drove back to his house – I would move in later that week and it would become our house – where the halls were sufficiently decked and merriment abounded.
It was perfect.
Since then, though, we’ve had a hard time figuring out exactly how to “do” Christmas.
Some years we’ve gone to New England, but his family doesn’t celebrate until the weekend after Christmas so December 25 can be a bit underwhelming. Other years we’ve gathered with friends in Philly. Once we did the traditional movies-and-chinese with my parents and sister.
This year, we weren’t sure what to do for the holidays, and with the franticness of the fall and the end-0f-semester madness, Brent didn’t have much energy for elaborate plans.
So I decided to coordinate a little surprise of my own.
I told Brent that we would be having an adventure. He would need to bring warm clothes and snowshoes, and we’d have to stock up on good road trip snacks and music.
I got a great priceline deal on a hotel, made Christmas dinner reservations, and scoped out the best ice skating rinks in the city.
And I told a handful of friends and family members where we’d be going.
I may have forgotten to tell some of them that it was a surprise.
Fast forward to last weekend.
Laurie, Brent, and I were on our way home from the orienteering meet. We’d stopped at Wawa for our traditional post-race sandwiches and were sitting in the parking lot, chatting and happily chomping away, when the conversation turned to holiday travel.
Laurie lamented the lack of snow for their planned ski trip to Lake Placid, and Brent and I mentioned the possibility of a New Years Eve Josh Ritter concert in Northampton, Massachusetts.
And then, from the backseat, came an innocent question: ”So, when are you guys leaving for Montreal?”
I froze, my veggie hoagie inches from my mouth.
I looked over at Brent, similarly posed.
We burst out laughing.
Laurie had no idea what was going on, so when I was able to speak again, I turned back and said, “It was sort of a surprise.”
So, the cat’s out of the bag. The beans have been spilled. The jig is up.
This weekend, Brent and I are driving north for a Canadian extravaganza.
There will be Montreal fireworks on Christmas Eve, Montreal ice skating (and movies) on Christmas Day, and then a few days of exploring in Quebec City before we head to western Mass. for a New Years celebration with Brent’s family.
Bring on the snow!