'Tis the most wonderful time of year upon us, and I have to admit I still have a little of the Christmas blues. It truly may not have been until after my dad passed away that I realized he was a big part in my obsession with the Christmas season. We really did, and still do, make Christmas a big deal in the Essell household. Admittedly, my sister and I have been incredibly spoiled every year since we can remember, but it wasn't without appreciation for what we have, our family and the holiday season, and we have our dad to thank for that. He loved Christmas. The whole idea of it, and everything that went into the crazy season. And he definitely did it up big each and every year, even the last few when he wasn't feeling the best, we still made it as big of a deal. And wow, do I appreciate that now looking back. But with fun memories sometimes comes sadness that he's no longer here. It's hard not sharing this season with him, and all the traditions that come this month. So to get myself out of the Christmas blues, I'm going to self-medicate with sharing memories of why Scott Essell truly had the best Christmas spirit. Traditions! The biggest and best tradition our family has is getting our Christmas tree at Big Tree Plantation. We don't go down the road to pick up a tree at any old place. We go to a legitimate Christmas tree farm about 30 minutes away to physically cut down our tree. Even during years when my dad was sick and not physically able to help cut down the tree, we'd have his friend or our grandparents come and help. It didn't stop even through his illness. If anything, it was more of a reason to get ourselves out in the cold and make it happen. To many people the whole thing probably seems a bit extreme, but for us, it is a Christmas must! It's a tradition that has its own hilarious story each year. When Olivia was younger, she used to cry when we didn't cut down the one of her choice. One time she slipped on the ice and fell in mud during one of her tantrums, and I will never, ever forget how hard we all laughed. This year, Jenny, Olivia, Kevin and I tried endlessly to cut down our tree with a dull saw, until some poor family next to us came over and offered their electric saw and helped us out. I really kid you not, every year something hysterical happens and even when there are tears, we end the day in laughter. I really do believe my dad is smiling down the whole time knowing we're continuing on the tradition.
The joy of giving! Like I said, my dad did Christmas up big. In life in general, he had a "work hard, play hard" mentality that I definitely have picked up. He worked very hard and always wanted the absolute best for his three girls. I know now the reason the three of us still make Christmas a big deal is because of how much he loved it and always wanted us to enjoy every minute. But it wasn't just about material gifts, he truly enjoyed giving. On the last Thanksgiving we all had together, we took a trip to Chicago to go Christmas shopping (yet again, testament to how much he loved this season, willingly spending a weekend of shopping with his girls). On Black Friday, Olivia and I wanted to sleep in a bit, but he got up and went to stand in line at the Apple store at 6 a.m. because he wanted to get iPods. Not for himself or for us, but for his employees at the hospital. I'm so glad I could have someone like him in my life that not only taught me to work hard, but to enjoy the act of giving.
And on his last Christmas, which looking back I should have realized it probably was going to be his last, but really I treated it like any other, he gave his girls the best gift of all. He had three presents wrapped up that he had us all open at the same time. (I tear up still every time telling this story, so prepare the tissues.) Each of us opened a framed picture, and while we opened it he said each of them were how he wanted us individually to remember him. Olivia's was a picture of the two of them decked out in luau gear, at a father-daughter dance. Mine was a picture of him standing next to his bike, with a huge (rare) smile on his face. And Jenny's was a picture of his legs, a few years back, because he wanted her to remember how strong he was. Without anything else needing to be said, he was the best gift giver and we are so forever grateful.
Celebrations! Selfishly, I mean the celebration of birthdays, and mine specifically. My love and obsession for Christmas is also because my birthday happens to be Christmas Eve. I can't tell you how many times I've been asked in my life if I hate it because it's so close to the holiday, but I've never been able to say yes. All of my parents and family have always made sure my birthday is not overshadowed by the big day. I sometimes feel bad for Kevin because there's just no way around it, for the rest of my life, I will expect Christmas and Christmas Eve to be separate (both made a big deal) days and occasions. I just can't get over it. But it's the memories celebrating my birthday with my dad and my family that I have to treasure. Half the time we'd celebrate my birthday early in December so that it was all separate. And to this day, God forbid I don't have a Bonbonerie cake for my birthday. I get the best feeling of nostalgia seeing "Happy Birthday Molly" in purple icing on an opera creme cake because it reminds me so genuinely of my dad and all the Bonbonerie treats we shared over my childhood. So basically, I'm blaming my dad for my birthday obsession too, in a very good way. Because I know I will be just like him and hopefully one day be able to spoil a little one and make them feel like the most special person in the world, like he did to me each year.
And with that, I feel better already. It's hard to admit sometimes that I can get so down this time of year, missing him, when I know he would want me to have a season full of love and laughter. So with that, I'm changing my tune and will use this to spread some holiday cheer to all of you.
During the hustle and bustle of this hectic season, I hope you can remember to hug your loved ones and tell them how much they mean to you. You never know when it's going to be the last, but you sure can make the most out of the present. And if you're in the same boat as me, missing a loved one even more this time of year, I wish you a season of peaceful memories.
Merry Christmas! Xoxo, Molly