This post begins a new series of stories that I will post on occasion. I hope you enjoy them. Christmas rituals and traditions are hard to break. We attempt to embrace Christmas with all its meaning as a celebration of the Advent of Christ, but we are torn by the reality that Christmas isn’t quite right without certain surrounding props. We remember the fragrance of a freshly cut tree, the warmth of hot cider and the unique attachment to tacky decorations that clutter our mantles. Things would be wrong without these. It just wouldn’t be Christmas.
I remember our first Christmas in our new house in east San Jose. I was five-years-old. Years before we were without a father and now we had one. My mother remarried earlier that year. This was not our first Christmas with Ron, our new dad, however. I recall that the year before during the courting process with our little single-parent family. Ron brought us presents by the bagful to our little King Road house. The peculiar thing to me was that he decorated them with glitter and made the packaging so nice that it seemed like the gift inside might not live up to its exterior beauty. In fact, I was afraid to open it.
When my mom and Ron were dating, I recall a holiday visit to his bachelor pad apartment. I snuck into his bedroom closet to find a thing I had never seen before—men’s shoes. A row of size 12 shoes looked pretty impressive to a four-year-old’s eyes. The collection was full of golf shoes with spikes, tennis shoes, and the ever-imprinted image of his wing tips. In this bachelor’s living room was a huge burgundy easy chair and a strange shrub-like tree. A “Christmas” tree? This was like no tree I had ever seen before—or since, to be honest. A manzanita bush had been placed on a table, spray-painted sliver and dressed with mini-lights. This was an unusual site, to say the least. The beef stroganoff dinner Ron prepared was also a test. My oldest brother, Randy, declared his opinion swiftly at the table upon the dish’s unveiling. Strange shoes, decorations and even stranger food marked the experience for me.
Back to our first Christmas together. The chair, the shoes and the food came with us to Woodridge Way along with our new dad. Yes, that strange looking tree arrived, too. The tree was just not right. We were in a state of crisis as it appeared Christmas would be ruined. What could any of us do? My brother David, the number two brother in the family, took it upon himself to solve our dilemma. On the last day of school for the year, David convinced his elementary teacher to let him take home the class Christmas tree. David single handedly dragged it all the way home. I don’t quite remember, but I’m pretty sure the tree was not in good shape after its journey, but I do know that it was put up and forever changed the Kirkpatrick family tradition. Bye, bye manzanita tree!
Our new dad was deeply moved at this event. He resolved to fix this issue in the future like any good dad would. From that year on we had the fullest, biggest and most impressive tree that we could find or afford. In fact, we even scaled the Santa Cruz mountains and cut down our own tree in the years to come. Instead of the tiny lights, we put on the large multi-colored bulbs. We were a complete family now, so bigger is better. The presents under this bigger tree grew in proportion to the tree size as did our crew from a family of five to a family of seven. Two new brothers would come in time—Ronnie and Daniel. Bikes, trains, hot wheels and many board games would clutter the landscape of our living room on Christmas days with enough toys to make five boys very content. In fact, it would take mom and dad all night on Christmas Eve some years to complete the wrapping of the presents. One thing stood the test of time after the silver manzanita tree and burgundy easy chair disappeared—beef stroganoff became a family favorite.