Oh… fudge. This year I celebrate my 40th Christmas.

At my relatively advanced age, it’s hard to pick just one Christmas memory or tradition. Plus my hazy mind sometimes mixes up real-life events with those from holiday movies. For example, upon further reflection, my family didn’t leave me home alone when they went to France. And I never got my tongue stuck to a frozen flagpole. And I never singlehandedly saved a building full of people from German terrorists (though being a red-blooded American male, I’m always prepared for the possibility).

But as I look back, I realize a lot of holiday memories are more than events I was a part of. Some of them are intertwined and inspired and connected to holiday movies I’ve seen and holiday songs I’ve heard. So what follows are some memories, traditions, favorite movie moments and songs… all mixed together in a crazy Christmas quilt that is The Lawrence Family Christmas 1974 – 2013.

  • My Tradition: Whenever our two kids bicker or cry on Christmas morning (this is a tradition in itself, going back to 2001), I look to my wife and repeat the immortal words of Ellen Griswold: “I don’t know what to say, except that it’s Christmas, and we’re all in misery.”
  • My Memory: For some people, the holiday season begins at Thanksgiving. For stores, it starts around Halloween. But as a kid, it started in September, when the Sears and JCPenny holiday catalogs would come to the house. I would flip to the last 50 pages, which showcased the toys, mark the ones I wanted and leave it out for Mom and Dad to see.
  • Movie Memory: The “Home Alone” church conversation between Kevin McAllister and the Old Man Marley. The dialogue is just perfect. (“You can be a little old for a lot of things, but you’re never too old to be afraid.”)
  • Music memory: The songs sung by the choir in the background of that “Home Alone” church scene. If you don’t have the “Home Alone” soundtrack, get it. And it was composed by John Williams, better known by his nickname “Hot Rod.”
  • My Movie Memory: When my wife and I were first dating, she and I watched “It’s a Wonderful Life” at Christmastime (at my request). I had always loved that movie. Years later she told me she hated it and wished that “George Bailey had drowned when he jumped off the bridge.” I’ve been married to this soulless woman for 14 years.
  • My Memory: Our kids have a Santa Shop at school, which gives them a chance to use Mom and Dad’s money to buy overpriced gifts for Mom and Dad.  One year my son got me an ornament that said “World’s Best Dad.” The next year he got me an ornament that said, “Dad.” I’m not sure what I did to lose my title. And I’m concerned that this year he’ll get me an ornament that says “Uncle Mike”.
  • Movie Memory: The “Love Actually” boy tearing it up on the drums and the airport chase that follows.
  • My Memory: The last day of school before winter break, where the most strenuous thing we did in class was watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” And on the bus ride home, it felt like it would be forever until I had to go back. Then break would fly by.
  • My Memory: The occasional Midnight Mass, which was the only time my brother, sister and I liked going to church, because it meant we were up really late.
  • Movie Memory: Ellen Griswold’s Christmas Eve blouse.
  • Music Tradition: My stepdad makes a holiday music mix every year, called “Fleas Navidog” and hands copies out to the family. Some of the best songs: “Christmas Must be Tonight,” by The Band; “Thank God It’s Christmas” by Queen;  “Merry Christmas from the Family” by Jill Sobule; “Last Christmas” by Wham!
  • My Memory: My wife and I getting our first Christmas tree together. From Lowe’s. We still have it.
  • Movie Memory: Kevin McAllister’s house. Geez that was a big-ass house.
  • My Memory: Getting Christmas tips when I was a paperboy. (Another memory from being a paperboy: my dad telling me that I should be careful out there when it was cold, because I could fall, hit my head, be knocked unconscious and freeze to death. But the $40 in Christmas tips made it worth the risk.)
  • Movie Memory: What’s with Nakatomi scheduling the office holiday party on Christmas Eve? What kind of boss is that? (On the plus side, he played it off real cool when he realized Ellis had just snorted a line of coke. “Bubby!”)
  • My tradition: Every year I realize how time stood still in December when I was a kid, and how it flies by now that I’m an adult.

This is what I’ve Ben Thinking. And I’m glad I get to put all this down now, so when my memory gets even worse in the years ahead, this blog post can be a nice little record of what I watched, listened to and experienced.

Happy holidays to all, and to all a #goodnight.