Humor helps resurrect family Christmas spirit

A new Christmas spirit has come to my family in the most unexpected way.

The heartache that a family feels after a loved one dies is one of those universal aches — we all have the memories of traditions, ornaments, meals and gifts that don’t feel quite right.

Carrying on as you always have feels like a betrayal.

But Christmas memories and unintended traditions run deep.

My aunt gave my brother, sister and me tiny golden reindeer ornaments with our names engraved on them.

And every year, we would

scour the tree up until the last minute trying to make sure we had found each reindeer and tucked it away safely before dad tossed the tree.

Each year, when I look on my parents’ tree for my reindeer, I remember all of those Christmases of my childhood.

Then there was the year that my brother and I discovered that if you touch one of those icicle decorations — you know, the tinsel that is one million individual sparkly strings — to the TV, the person holding the icicle gets a little electric shock. Weeee!

Every Christmas morning,

the three of us would lay in our beds waiting to hear Dad’s truck. He had to tend to the farm before we could fly to the tree, and those moments were torturous.

My sister and I would call out to our brother in his room around the corner, and we would constantly ask how long, how long, how long.

My mom’s confession from a few days ago brought all of those memories flooding back: She said this was the first time in nearly a decade of Christmases that she has felt festive and wanted to celebrate and be happy.

This is our 10th Christmas

without my brother, and the holidays have never felt right without him.

But something has changed

this year, and I give at least partial credit to Christmas underwear.

No, not those funny shorts that have the Grinch on the hind-end.

I’m talking about the Hanes-Her-Way picked-out-by-your mother undies that have filled my stocking every year since — well, since I got out of diapers.

On Christmas Day 2013, my niece Alli let the cat out of the bag when her mother, my sis, started unstuffing her stocking: “More underwear! But you haven’t even opened the packages Nanaw put in your stocking

last year!”

Ah, childhood honesty.

Underwear has been a source of laughter for our family on Christmas Day for years.

I go back to 2000. My sister is huge and uncomfortable, seven months pregnant with her

first child.

My brother is going through his stocking and out comes the obligatory package of underwear.

He opens the package, and we discover that my mom mistakenly had purchased thongs.

We are rolling. Thongs. For her only son, who happens to use a wheelchair. My prego sis ran over to him, grabbed the underwear and pulled them down over his head. We snapped a picture. Best. Christmas. Ever.

A few weeks ago, my mom started dragging her Christmas decorations down from the attic and letting my twin sons help her set them around the house.

They are almost 2, so all

decorations are about 2 feet off

the ground and clustered on

one table.

I asked her how the day was going, and this was her text message response: “I am letting Jack and Henry decorate the house with some Christmas thongs.”

I was rolling again. She meant “Christmas things.” Darn smartphone keyboard.

That was one text-message typing error that I’ll treasure because it marks the return of my mom’s Christmas spirit.

She says enough of this funny business, and we are not getting underwear in our stocking this year. We shall see.