Christmas is all about tradition. Every year you get out the decorations that you’ve had forever and you get together with family. The Farley family is all about tradition- we’ve done the same thing for Christmas since before I was here. The whole family would gather at Grandma and Grandpa’s house in Tipton on Christmas Eve, they would eat fried oysters and chocolate cake, then open the presents piled around the tree.
This is the environment I was born into, as long as I can remember my dad would load up the car with luggage and presents for the two hour drive from Oklahoma City to Tipton. As much as my dad loved Christmas, he never started shopping until December 24th. He thought that’s when you got the best deals, so that whole day he would be gone, not coming back home until almost 6p. My mother hated that, all the last minute rushing around, hoping that we had everything. Truthfully, it really was kind of annoying but that’s just how the old man was- cheap. After he was home we would drive down H.E. Bailey to Lawton. It was in Lawton that the K-Mart would still be open- he would stop and run around the store chasing the blue light specials, no matter what it was that was just put on sale. Somehow my mom would drag him out and we would continue the journey on Highway 62. It was always the darkest here, just south of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. This is when I would lay with my head against the window, looking out for the flashing red nose of Rudolph, hoping that Santa would remember that we would be back home the next night for him to visit us.
Once we got to Tipton, we would slowly drive through town until we got to Grandma and Grandpa’s house where we would park in the circle drive. As we got out of the car I would always see the little plastic light up Santa Claus that Grandpa put in the front window. Don’t know when or where Grandpa got it but as far back as I can remember seeing that Santa meant Christmas was here and that after we were filled up on Grandma’s fried oysters, the fun was going to begin. Once we were inside, everyone was running around putting the final presents around the tree. For some reason, my uncle Joe was always last to wrap his gifts, so he would be in a bedroom, shouting for my aunts to come help him. Present opening would begin around 11p. My Grandpa and dad had a running joke about dust busters, everyone would laugh at uncle Joe because he bought Hanukkah paper again (he liked it because it was blue, he ignored the Menorah’s on it) and there would always be a wrapping paper ball fight.
This is how every Christmas was for the first 16 years of my life, then the tradition changed. Grandpa was sick, so they moved to Oklahoma City into apartments. Some things stayed the same but there was no long drive to Tipton, no looking out for Rudolph and no Santa sitting in the window. After Grandpa was gone, Christmas changed again- no more fried oysters, now we enjoyed barbeque that my dad picked up from some restaurant. We were also now in Norman at my aunts’ house and the family was changing- adding more members, first spouses, then kids. So we had some new traditions, but still kept some of the old. We were still waiting for uncle Joe to wrap presents, there was still chocolate cake but there was also something missing. Not just being in Tipton and Grandpa but my mother stopped coming after divorcing my dad, then last year after losing both Grandma and my dad, I knew that Christmas would never be the same. You just can’t lose two members of the family and act like nothing happened. Now not only were the traditions mostly gone but so were three members of my family. I almost didn’t even want to go be with the rest of the Farley’s. It’s really just not the same at all but I still have my memories of how it used to be.
So what happened to the little plastic light up Santa Claus- after Grandpa died, Grandma sold the house in Tipton and my dad went down to help clean it out. He stopped at my house with a pickup truck full of stuff that he had taken, wanted to know if there was anything I wanted. Thrown into the back to the truck was that Santa Claus, I grabbed it with the declaration, “This is mine”. I cleaned Santa up, now every Christmas I carry on my Grandpa’s tradition and that little plastic light up Santa Claus sits in my front window to remind me that no matter what has changed, it’s Christmas.