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A MATTER OF OPINION: It’s a family tradition

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By Robin Bass

Isn’t this the most wonderful time of the year?

I simply love the Christmas season. The lights. The music. The smell of Chex Mix baking in the oven.

Yes, you read that right. Not gingerbread or sugar cookies, but Chex Mix. It’s a tradition in my family that at the first hint of a wintry breeze, someone’s making a trip to the store for couple of cereal boxes and some Worcestershire sauce.

Like most traditions, this one started in my childhood home. Every year, in the weeks leading up to Christmas, my mother would make batch after batch of party mix. (In fact, she still does. We ate our weight in the stuff a couple of weekends ago at her house.)

At first she tried to follow the recipe on the cereal box by adding peanuts and pretzel sticks, but my brothers and I knew better. The Chex was good, but that other stuff was just filler. Before long, Mom got wise and began making plan, old Chex without all the mix. (Still today, when she adds bagel chips or those cheesy triangle things, we pick around to get at the cereal. Hint for Mom: Stop messing with a perfectly good snack!)

I love to eat Chex Mix, but what I enjoy even more are the memories it recalls. I remember taking pride in our little tree decorated with elementary school projects and handmade ornaments. I remember three not so little stockings taped to the mantle. I would sit in my favorite seat, right in front of our roaring Buck stove, and watch out the living room window as snow fell out on the lawn. Sometimes we just watched TV. Sometimes we played games, but even if we were bored to death, it didn’t matter because we were together – a family.

A couple of years ago, I decided to start a new family tradition in my own home. It’s kind of silly when I think about it, but here goes: we watch the movie “A Christmas Story” while we are putting up and decorating our tree. See, we’re a competitive lot and putting up the tree was beginning to resemble a contact sport. So instead of worrying about branches missing or the ornaments not being spaced just so, we just pop in this movie and laugh.

Pop quiz: Can you recall who said these lines in the movie...

1.) “Put your arms down when you get to school.”

2.) “Flick? Flick, who?”

3.) “It’s smiling at me.”

4.) “Randy laid there like a slug. It was his only defense.”

5.) “You’ll shoot your eye out.”

(For answers, see below.)

Maybe some day when our daughter is an adult, she will look back on this Christmas tradition and recall memories of growing up in a home filled with laughter. That is my hope, anyway.

Feeling stumped when it comes to creating your own family tradition? Don’t sweat it. Our community abounds with opportunities to integrate a new family tradition into your Christmas mix. Consider these suggestions:

• Gather your sisters or girlfriends together for an evening of Christmas Home Tours.

• Turn next week’s FFA Farm Toy Show into an annual father and son outing.

• Help your child write a letter to Santa and send it to the Magnet for publication. (We’ll forward letters to the big guy in time for him to read.)

• Decide as a family to help someone less fortunate by donating to Shop with a Cop.

• Attend a Christmas Eve candlelight service.

This is your Christmas season, so embrace it fully. Not the commercialism that bombards us everywhere we go, but the beauty, the sounds and smells. Whatever your family traditions, however simple or silly, the important thing to remember is that the key word is family.

Answers to the quiz:

1. Mrs. Parker to her youngest son, Randy.

2. The thoughts of Ralph Parker when his teacher questions what happened to his classmate Flick. If you’ll remember, this is when the boys left Flick on the playground with his tongue stuck to the flag pole.

3. This is what Mr. Parker says about the duck served to the family at the Chinese restaurant.

4. Ralph’s thoughts about his little brother one day when the neighborhood boys were attacked by bullies.

5. This is a tricky one because three people recited this phrase: Mrs. Parker, Mrs. Shields (Ralph’s teacher), and the store Santa Claus.