Year 5, Day 277

There aren’t many uniquely Martin family Christmas traditions, but there is one long-standing holiday standard which, I discovered only a couple years ago, has muddied origins but is still something we all, in our own homes, carry on to this day. I tried to explain this to Miles.

Did he understand the assignment? ELNO!

Let me just fix this…

Ah, that’s more like it!

At some point, maybe around 1993*, my mother came into possession of Christmas elf blocks like those pictured above. Every year she would arrange them to say, as was almost surely the original intention, “NOEL.” And every time I walked past them, I would rearrange them to say, “LEON.” We would go back and forth like this throughout the holidays, a silent war fought between two family members.

Or so I thought.

A few years ago, my mother gifted my brother and I blocks of our very own. My dad was overjoyed to reveal to us that now we could continue the only honest-to-God tradition my family had in our own homes, a tradition that he thought he had started.

How can this be? I thought, knowing that I had absolutely started the whole thing (see the footnote). My brother was also unclear as to who was originally responsible for it. But as we talked about it, one thing was clear — we had all been fighting against my mother for years in a totally uncoordinated counter-offensive.

My mother may have given us a way to keep LEON going, but what about the passive combativeness, truly the root of any good Christmas tradition? If Miles’s attempt at manipulating the blocks is any indication, our silent war will last for years to come.

* I place it in ’93 because I remember specifically being inspired by Leon, star of the 1993 film Cool Runnings.

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