Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Night Before Christmas

From 1974 until 1988, my extended Stevens family had a tradition of reading "The Night Before Christmas" on every Christmas Eve. After we participated in what could best be described as a constant ripping and opening "gift orgy," we capped the night with the classic Christmas tale.

A total of 15 Stevens family members attended Christmas Eve during the stretch from '74 and '88, and each one read the book, starting with the oldest.

So my Grandpa Stevens read first when I was only 15 months old. I am the youngest of those 15 Stevens, so I read last in 1988 when I was a sophomore in high school.

I am not sure everyone feels this way. But for me, looking back, I had such comfort, excitement and good feelings during the holidays and on Christmas and Christmas Eve.

After we had Christmas Eve at my parents' house at 9911 Garfield Drive, Garfield Heights, Ohio, we opened presents on Christmas morning. We then had Christmas day at my maternal grandparents in Slavic Village, then Christmas evening at my paternal grandparents on Edgepark Drive in Garfield.
All of my grandparents have passed away with my Grandma Stevens the most recent to pass away in October 2010. Shortly, after that, my Stevens family turned topsy-turvy with pain and death as my dad, the XMan, unexpectedly passed away in February 2011. Then my Aunt Nancy Stevens was diagnosed with a brain tumor in August 2011 and passed away this March.

Only 11 of the original Stevens 15 remain, and despite conventional wisdom, the Stevens family is mortal. I am flooded with good memories from the great times the 15 of us shared during the holidays and engaged in our gift orgies.

I venture to say that all of us 11 - Uncle Ed, Sally, Ed Jr., Jen, Uncle Bob, Aunt Lynda, Rob, Melissa, my mom, Fred Jr. and me - share similar memories. We are adapting to our new lives, and if I ever truly need to hear "The Night Before Christmas," I will click on the video below.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


The plans for 12-12-12 are not happening.

Of course, the Stevens family is absolutely sad and shocked that there is not "The Biggest Party in the History of Parties" on this day. The fact remains that somehow my father, Fred "X" Stevens, passed away 22 months ago and will not be celebrating his 65th birthday today.

Although it is a Wednesday, I had planned to get to Cleveland to be with the XMan no matter what. I did that for his 60th birthday and surprised him at his favorite restaurant, Mallorca, and that remains an awesome memory. Nobody let the XMan know I was coming in from California that day, and when I saw him, he gave me a bear-hug embrace I will never forget and shed a couple tears. Damn, man, I love that guy.

So what am I to do today? I will not be going to Cleveland (until later this month), and I guess I will have to go through with the day "as usual" and not weep as I teach. Somehow, the XMan passed away before the coolest birthday date I can think of, and I understand that I must accept that he is gone. The only problem with that is that I do not want this, still pretend he is here and would give anything for just one more day with him.
Yeah, I am forced to buck up, deal with my new reality and understand that to be human is a strange, precarious situation. Just as the seasons pass, so do we — or something like that.

My mom says that the XMan planned to retire completely on 12-12-12. I do not deny that he probably said that, but I am not sure he could fully walk away from his law practice. He was semi-retired for about a decade, and I think he would remained that way. But who knows?

Not only is 12-12-12 the coolest birthday I can think of, but Dec. 12 also is the birth date of Francis Albert Sinatra, who shares the exact same initials as my dad, whose official middle name was Alan. They both did things their way.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Holidays replace unexpected soccer pain

Phew! I made it to December. Thank God!

I am not the type of person to count down the days to something new, but this past November presented difficulties to me because of the unfortunate and painful end of the Lavender Ladybugs. I found myself crying - yes, literally crying - in the bathroom of a place called Frog's Bounce House, and when that happens, something has gone drastically wrong.

The Lavender Ladybugs were a tight group of 11 kindergarten girls that featured my youngest daughter, Chloe (pictured on the right with her best friend). I coached the team, and I enjoyed it way more than I thought possible. I vaguely got into the mind of 5-year-old girls and enjoyed the experience of thinking about unicorns, rainbows and princesses.

We had a vibrant team with supportive parents, great assistant coaches and a dedicated team mom. I contend that we were the best team in the league because we had a lot of fun and nearly all of the girls looked forward to our practices and games. Also, we were good. Every girl scored during the course of the season, and more than half of the girls plan on playing for sure next season.

We even had a catch phrase promoted by me. It was simple: Soccer is awesome! (TM)

On the final weekend of the season, things took a drastic turn, and I was extremely hurt. It happened to be my daughters' weekend with their mom. For our final game on Saturday, Chloe was a no-show. Later in the day, Chloe's best friend (pictured on the left) had a birthday party in which the entire Ladybug roster was invited. Chloe was not taken to the party.

For the next day, the Ladybugs had our final season banquet at Frog's Bounce House. Despite my offering to pick up Chloe (as I did for the other events), Chloe again was a no-show. I gave out trophies to the other girls, but I had to give mine to Chloe when I saw her Monday after school. By the way, Chloe was uncharacteristically sick for school Monday and Tuesday following the weekend stress.

The purpose of this blog post is one last effort for me to put the pain of that November weekend behind me. I felt wronged. But what hurt even more is that my daughter, Chloe, was wronged.

Coaching the Lavender Ladybugs was an effort to add more normalcy into my daughters' lives, and it worked for a while. It all came crashing down, and I realized a lot about the reality of the situation that I am living.

OK, yeah, the holidays await. A Christmas tree was put up this weekend. I also put up 1,320 Christmas lights on the outside of my home. I had never put outdoor holiday lights out until now, and they are classy.

I appreciate Snooze Button Generation Nation for taking the time to hear the tale of the Lavender Ladybug drama. Now, it's time to embrace the holiday season and continue to love my daughters as I do.