The Christmas season is in full swing now. I think our late Thanksgiving threw things off a little because we usually don’t do any decorating on Thanksgiving weekend and it’s normally the first Saturday in December that we go and pick out a real tree. I’m big on holiday traditions and our routine of going to get our tree ended up getting rearranged this year and taken care of a week early, but all turned out well.
I realized that our usual tree spot on Main Street — kind of where Munster and Highland and Schererville all meet — didn’t have any trees. It was quite a disappointment. We’d gotten into the habit of going there to pick out our real tree and then driving a few blocks down Indianapolis Boulevard to have dinner together at Texas Corral in Highland. It’s perfect for a family outing. The food is good, but not too expensive. You get big portions. And the kids are thoroughly entertained by the jukebox and the peanuts — scooping the shells into big mounds, competing with each other to see who can eat more and getting to drop the shells wherever they wish without being told to clean it up. I admit, I had a hard time with it the first couple of times we went there. I remember snapping at one of the boys, “Just because you’re allowed to make a mess here, doesn’t mean you have to.” I’ve lightened up and go with the flow and accept the sound of peanut shells crunching under my feet.
There really aren’t too many times during the year that all seven of us go out to dinner together. With that many people, it gets pricey and is a rare treat usually reserved for when we are traveling. Also, I like to spend some one-on-one time with each of the boys each month and I’m more likely to take one of them to their favorite restaurant alone than to have everyone tag along. My oldest son is often working when we plan an outing, too, so sometimes we have six out of seven. But when we get our tree, it’s always all seven of us.
When we realized we’d need to find a new place to get our tree, we figured we might as well find a different place to eat. Hubby was eyeing an ad in the newspaper for the Bennett-Curtis House, an 18-room mansion in Grant Park, Ill., that has been converted into a restaurant and wedding venue. It’s been on my restaurant bucket list for years as I’ve read about their murder mystery dinners, which sound like so much fun.
When I looked at the menu and found that there were no kid options, I resisted going, but my husband was really looking forward to it. He pointed out it was a once-a-year thing and the boys might like dressing up and going somewhere they’d have to act like gentlemen. I gave in and I’m so glad I did. Next thing I knew, the boys were all dressed in suits and ties and ready to go off on our excursion.
I cringed at the thought of ordering a $21 steak for an 8-year-old, but the kids are such carnivores that nothing went to waste. A little bit of unfinished food was lunch the following day.
They all behaved nicely and we were entertained by the music being played by the DJ for the wedding in an adjoining room. The place was decorated beautifully for the holidays inside and out.
So, we had a nice dinner, but still no tree. We considered buying one at a local store, but they all wanted the experience of wandering around a big lot and making their pick. At the suggestion of a friend, we made our way out to Peotone to Bengtson’s U-Pick Tree Farm. While I often insist on my favorite variety, the Frasier Fir, there were none. So, I just sat back while the boys made their selection. I often accuse my husband of picking out a “Griswold” tree. If you have seen Chevy Chase as Clark Griswold in "National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation," you’ll recall the monstrous tree he picked that barely fit in the house. That has been us a few times. This year, they got one that was a reasonable height, but they were all very big around. This one takes up twice the room as our previous trees, but it is beautiful. We carried on our tradition of playing Christmas music that night and decorating the tree together and everything fell into place. Things went so nicely, in fact, that it may be the start of a new tradition.