I remember music from Handel's Messiah playing on the stereo ..... a tradition that planted the love for that masterpiece deeply into my soul. I remember my two older brothers tromping down from their upstairs bedroom announcing how torturous it had been waiting for morning. I remember the awe when I realized the biggest present in the room, that had appeared mysteriously during the night, had my name on it. There was a fire in the fireplace. Dad distributed the gifts. I don't recall if a big dinner was the norm, but there was always good food. (Potato chips, nuts, and ribbon candy come to mind.) Anyway, it was everything Christmas should be.
Being the youngest and last to leave the nest, my teen years were sometimes rocky and my relationship with my stepmom was strained. I remember one Christmas morning, when I was about 17, opening presents alone. I have no complaints ..... I mean, I had gifts! A lot of people don't. But to this day, I empathize with all youngest family members. The older kids get to have all or most of their sibs there for their whole childhood. The youngest often doesn't.
Then came the best Christmases of all. There is nothing as good as being the Santa and the fun of watching one's own kids on those magical mornings. I loved everything Christmas-related when our kids were growing up. (I tried to enhance the true 'reason for the season' and extending the family tradition of playing The Messiah music .... although .... one of my favorite parts that says, "All we, like sheep ..... all we, like sheep ..... have gone astraaaaaaay .....", our kids would sing along: "Oh WE like sheep .... Oh WE like sheep!")
We always stayed home on Christmas eve and it was my labor of love to make everything as homey and memorable as a Hallmark card. There'd always be a fire in the wood stove, music playing, classic Christmas movies to watch, home-baked cookies, re-enactments of the nativity and other traditions .... and sitting together in the living room sharing memories of favorite Christmases past.
The one that stands out was the year when, after all the presents were opened, we pointed out one more gift tucked up high in the tree branches. It was a metal coil .... part of something the kids had to find. They began to search, unsure of what they were looking for ..... then the screams erupted when they discovered a new trampoline in the backyard. We worked hard to give our kids happy memories but no doubt, their dad and I had the most fun of all.
Fast forward to now. I don't know why, but Christmas has become difficult for me. And try as I may, I cannot seem to remedy it. The expectations seem unattainable. Helpful, listening friends have suggested I simplify and I've almost simplified it right off the calendar ... leaving a pile of guilt in the wake. I've stopped sending cards. I hardly bake because I am like an alcoholic in a liquor store when sweets are around. Decorating is a chore that has to be all undone in a few weeks. Choosing gifts is stressful and whereas I used to start in September with a carefully detailed list .... I now procrastinate as long as possible. Hence I've cut it to the bare bones. On the list of the "Five Love Languages", gift-giving is somewhere around negative fifteen for me.
I cannot explain it. There's no reason for it. Especially when my life is near perfect. Our happily married kids are having their own best Christmases as they are, or are on the threshold of, experiencing it as young parents. My cup is full. I have absolutely nothing to complain about. And yet ..... there it is. I don't like being a Scrooge ..... but the relief I feel when it's over, the last box is stored away, and there are eleven whole months till I have to face it again, is very real.
So instead of a gift or a card or a plate of cookies, may I offer one of my love languages instead? "Words of affirmation".... Here goes .....
I love my siblings ...... who, many years ago, all did that leaving-the-nest thing before I was ready; but are not allowed to leave the nest of mortality without me. I've informed them of this. It's not happening.
I love my kids. If there was a selection process before we were all born, I was at the head of the line. Somehow, undeserving, I won the lottery. Their joy is my joy ..... literally. And I love their kids. Watching my kids become parents is akin to heaven. I wish I was more like a story-book grandma, with sleepovers, tea parties, and full cookie jars; nevertheless, I love them in my own awkward way. And I love my kids' spouses. Again .... lottery winnings. My kids married angels.
And I love my best friend/husband/forever-partner who would move heaven and earth if possible, for me. I could happily spend every day, Christmas or otherwise, forevermore with him.
Thank you all, dear friends and family. You know who you are. We love and appreciate every one of you. The posts in this blog are my Christmas letter. And in spite of my weirdness this time o' year ......
Have a Wonderful Christmas.