We Sniders love Christmas because we Sniders love tradition. We love gift-giving and gift-receiving and “Away in a Manger,” too, but it’s the season’s traditions that capture our hearts the most. If we Sniders do something a certain way one time, we prefer to do it the same way again the next time. We Sniders are probably mildly autistic.
One year when we were children, my three brothers and I wanted to stay up all night on Christmas Eve, presumably so we could prove or disprove the existence of Santa Claus. Our parents wouldn’t have allowed this, of course, so we schemed in secret, planning how we would occupy our time and keep ourselves awake. The only specific detail I remember is that we knew we would need snacks. So on the afternoon of Christmas Eve, the four of us walked to the Circle K a half-mile from our house to buy junk food, the centerpiece of which was a box of Hostess donuts. Not the little “donettes,” either, but the big ones. We were serious.
This was the early 1980s, and we lived in a fairly small town with no more than the average number of child predators, so we were allowed to roam freely and were thus able to execute the Circle K mission without detection. When we returned, we kept the donuts hidden, lest our parents see them, put two and two together, and realize we were planning to stay up all night. Why else would you have Hostess donuts — and not the little ones but the big ones — on Christmas Eve?? Our parents were no dummies.
That night we went to our room to “go to bed” (wink wink), retrieved the donuts from their hiding place, ate them, and promptly fell asleep. I doubt we were awake any later than we usually were.
Now, I told you that story so I could tell you this one. Many years later, when we were all in our twenties, my brothers and I recalled this incident and decided that since we’d done it that one time, that meant it was a tradition. We hadn’t observed the custom for many years, but now we would reintroduce it by walking to Circle K on Christmas Eve, buying donuts, eating them, and going to sleep at more or less the regular time. Our parents still lived in our childhood home, the Circle K was still there, and they still sold Hostess donuts — indeed, some of the same boxes were probably still on the shelf — so there was nothing stopping us from celebrating our newly revived holiday tradition. The only significant modification we made was that we didn’t have to keep it a secret from our parents anymore, because we were grown men.
We skipped merrily to Circle K that Christmas Eve, as grown men do: reminiscing about childhood; pointing out the house where So-and-So used to live or where Such-and-Such happened; fondly recalling events from our youth and making fun of the individuals involved — our customary activities. We bought snacks and ate them as we walked back home. And a merry Christmas was had by all!
A couple years later, in 2001, our parents sold our childhood home and moved to the other side of town, the side with fewer meth labs. It was much too far to walk to Circle K from this new house. Mom pointed out that there was a Circle K down the street from the new house, and suggested we walk to that one. We responded to this heretical notion with derision and scorn. Sure, Mom, we’ll walk to A DIFFERENT Circle K for Christmas Eve! And then we’ll hang our pantyhose by the thermostat and wait for Gandalf to come fill them with pudding! COME ON, MOM.
No, the obvious solution was to drive to the old house, park the car, walk to Circle K, walk back, and return to the new house. I’m pretty sure we all thought of that immediately and didn’t consider anything else. We were lucky our parents had moved only a few miles away, making it an easy trip, as it was unclear how far we’d have been willing to drive for the sake of tradition.
So for the last ten years, we’ve driven to the old neighborhood to make the Circle K trip. Those of us who live out of state make sure we’re in town by noon on Christmas Eve at the latest. If someone isn’t coming home for Christmas at all, as has happened a few times, we go without that person and say the things that he would normally say. Our two sisters, who were not yet born on that fateful Christmas Eve so long ago, are not allowed to join us. They claim they don’t want to go with us on our stupid Circle K trip anyway, but we know that they are jealous.
When my brother Jeff got married in 2003, there was briefly some talk of his wife joining us on these excursions. Looking back, I don’t know why we even entertained the idea. Probably out of consideration for Jeff’s feelings, I guess, although that doesn’t sound like us either. The four of us finally put it to a vote, but we wanted it to be a secret ballot so no one would feel bad for voting against our new sister-in-law, so we stood in a circle and closed our eyes and gave a thumbs-up or thumbs-down — but with our eyes closed we didn’t know what the vote was, and it wouldn’t be fair for only one person to know who voted yea or nay, so we agreed we could all open our eyes for a split-second and then close them again. I don’t remember the final score, but the result was that the Circle K trip is officially ONLY for Eric, Chris, Jeff, and Lane Snider, always, forever, no additions. The only way we would revisit the issue is if we discovered a long-lost biological brother, and our parents have assured us that no such person exists.
Last week we received shocking news: Our Circle K has closed. We were prepared for the possibility that it might change names at some point (this would have been acceptable), but not that it might shut down completely. We’re not sure what to do now. We can still drive to the old house and walk to the old Circle K, but we won’t be able to buy snacks there, and snacks are a crucial component of the tradition. One option is to walk to Circle K, then keep walking another couple blocks to another convenience store and buy snacks there. This means a little more walking, but it’s only once a year.
Another option — the one I favor — is to have one of our sisters buy snacks somewhere else and meet us at the boarded-up Circle K so we can buy them from her. This transaction would have to be conducted in the parking lot, of course. We wouldn’t break into the building and have our sister stand behind the counter and pretend to sell us junk food, just for the sake of tradition. That would be childish.
A Year of Snide Remarks was funded by a Kickstarter campaign. This week’s column was sponsored by Laremy Legel and his dog Bugsy (pictured). Sponsor had no editorial control over the column, and the author alone is responsible for its content.