December 20, 2010 § 6 Comments
There has always been, for as far back into my childhood as I can remember, one tradition to which our family adheres every single year. This familiar Christmas Day routine never varies or changes in any way. You may be thinking I am going to tell you about a loving family ritual, or a fun, exciting activity. Don’t get your hopes up. Don’t smile yet. Instead, I am going to tell you of the most hated Christmas tradition in our family. As children, my siblings and I would beg and plead to escape this penance. It was a severe punishment, a torturous device conjured by people who couldn’t possibly be the same as our normally loving and generous parents. And on Christmas Day, too! The agonies we endured! The horror we had to face on that most happy of mornings for small children!! You can probably guess by now what this tradition was. The amount of terror it strikes in hearts makes it not easily forgotten. I am talking about that excruciating Christmas Day tradition of not opening our presents until after Christmas Mass!
You read in stories about kids waking up their frazzled parents at 4 or 5 AM to open gifts. Hah. Not us. We knew that Mass had to come first. Why bother waking up so early when all you were able to do was flop on your stomach in front of the tree and stare longingly at the bounty? And even when we did wake up at 8:30 or 9, still they sat there, those sparkling, tinseled boxes of joy, their splendor reflecting the bright lights of the tree above them. Piles on piles of mysterious packages were laid at our feet because even though we were poor, when you have eight kids the stack of presents looks large no matter what.
Minute after minute, slow tick by tock of the clock, time would go by. Mom and Dad would get us ready for Mass in the usual manner, as if they had no idea what tortures they were inflicting on our poor souls. No matter how we pled and begged and quoted research, they were deaf to our cries. To be forced to see the gifts under our tree, to touch (but not shake!) the boxes, to guess at the mysteriously shaped ones, but to be kept from tearing into them until after church, this was our fate!
At ages less than 10, it is not very easy to attribute to Christmas its true meaning, and we were no different from most kids in the desire to put our presents before Christ’s Presence. Mass was an hour! An eternity to our young minds. And the kindly priest would go on and on to the children in the pews about: ‘oh how excited they must have been to open their presents and did they get what they wanted and were they going to run home and play with everything the moment Mass let out?’ Oh Father, the agonies of mind we suffered as your homily reached the 15 minute mark and continued.
Eventually though, as it always does, Christmas morning would catch up to our expectations. The stampede up the front steps after Mass, the cries of “Hurry, hurry!” as Mom poured a quick cup of coffee, and then finally the moment when the youngest child unwrapped the first present. It was a moment of bliss, a time to sigh in relief and know that soon enough, it’d be your turn. And of course, there were memories made.
I’m glad now to have experienced our family tradition. I understand what my parents were trying to accomplish with it and I like it. Christmas has come to symbolize many things in our culture, but to me, it will always be the time when I learned my best lesson on what, and who, really needs to come first in life. As a child at Christmas I knew it was good to receive, and now it’s even better to give, but best of all is the adoration due to our Messiah on His birthday. That is the true meaning of Christmas.
December 6, 2010 § 4 Comments
Hockey is one of the most exciting sports ever played and not just for the fans in the seats and the players on the ice. No one becomes a linesman without a love for the sport. It’s hard to be a linesman, though. You love hockey’s speed and flow just as much as anybody and yet most of the time, you’re responsible for stopping the game. When you’re officiating, you have to keep the players in check and allow the rules of the game to act as they were intended. And then there’s the physical aspect. Think about this: You’re doing your job best you can, skating hard along the ice, puffing a bit, and suddenly two overgrown, potato-fed young rookies decide your exact section of the boards is where they want to bang their hips together. As the collision occurs, the glass rattles fit to break and your head is suddenly ablaze with searing pain and shooting stars. To make it worse, the crowd is laughing at you! What the heck? Incensed, you promptly decide to make a bizarre offsides call on the home team. Before you extract this delicious revenge, your better sense kicks in and you remember this is your job and that “Hanging out with Henrik Lundqvist for hours” is a way better pickup line/job description than “Unemployed”. Okay, so no fake offsides. What can you do though, as a linesman, to spice up your own personal enjoyment of this fantastic game we call hockey? Here’s some suggestions:
1. As a linesman, it’s your duty to break up the players when they start or finish a fight. And it’s the most under-appreciated aspect of your job. Do people really think you want to invade the intimate personal space of two hulking men, both dripping with sweat and maybe blood, both still angry enough that they might punch you just to get you out of the way? Does the audience realize if it were up to you, you wouldn’t go anywhere near their rank jerseys and perspiring man-hands? Well, have a little fun next time you need to delve into the depths of irate hockey goon B.O.! If you feel like he’s about to toss you aside like a rag doll, startle him into calming down by whispering words of love in his ear! Wrap your arms around him in typical separating fashion, but then squeeze real hard and let him know hugging him is the fulfillment of all your dreams. Or look up into his eyes and murmur: “I’ve been watching you all game long…” He’ll immediately try to detach himself from you and skate as far away as possible. Not only do you stop the fight, you’re now a rink-length away from his gross hockey gear. Double win!!
2. Who says those baby-faced college kids get to have all the fun on and off the ice? Turn your job into a frat party that rivals anything Patrick Kane and the Chicago Blackhawks can cook up! When the goalie takes a rare break from his fiercely intense concentration to guzzle some liquid, skate over to him and yell “CHUG! CHUG!” right in his ear. Added bonus: bring him over a beer bong to increase the fun! Chances are the goaltender will love this! It’ll boost his confidence immediately by reminding him of the parties he threw as the cock of the walk at college, when some chick with big eyes and Farrah Fawcett curls would simper up at him adoringly while mentally calculating his future net worth. He’ll probably tear his jersey off and give everyone the rock sign with his left hand while sinking to one knee in classic bong form. You’ve just helped his game on the ice exponentially by reminding him of the game he used to have at parties!
3. Everyone wants to be as close to Sidney Crosby as possible. This is a given. So when your job allows you to drop a puck less than a foot away from him, don’t miss your opportunity for internet fame! Pull out your cell phone and snap a picture, upload it to your facebook, and be prepared for a notification bomb to explode on your homepage! Forestall the vile hatred that surely will be spewed by disgruntled Capitals fans by tagging Crosby’s left hand as “Stanley Cup Ring, haterz!” Perhaps you can even start a ‘Like’ page for your personal Sid picture, replete with grammatical errors, misspellings, and a passive-aggressive shot at that jock in high school who stole your dream girl with his giant biceps and letter jacket. Don’t forget to update your status with the latest, greatest song quote by a pop starlet that embodies everything you’re feeling as you crouch down to that face-off dot. After all, you are a linesman. Your job involves the greatest game on earth. Be proud of that.