celebrating the everyday exquisite and the unanticipated updrafts that keep me aloft.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Makin' a (Short) List and (Reality) Checkin' it Twice
For years, every little holiday observance that we undertook with our children became an instant “tradition.”Over the course of a decade or so all of these warm little rituals collected and grew, sort of like PeeWee Herman’s foil ball, until we had a shiny sphere of Christmas “must-do’s” the size of a small planet. No December could possibly bear up under the weight of it.We sprinted from the fourth Thursday of November straight to the New Year in a festive-if-frantic blur and then spent January in an almost comatose stupor.Then there was the year we fondly remember as the “Fa-la-la-la-la Flu” or “Retching Around the Christmas Tree.”
We had blasted through our daunting holiday calendar with candy canes blazing. Tens of thousands of calories had been delivered to our neighbors and friends on dozens of goodie plates. Halls decked. Shopping done. Christmas cards mailed on time.Only the holiest of holies remained—Christmas Eve at Grandma’s, the wonder of Christmas morning at home, and a huge dinner with twenty loved ones gathered around our long pine table.
December 24 found me with the aches and the shakes and a mounting fever. Bob came home from work early looking as green as I felt.We spent the next 36 hours barely able to move from couch to bathroom and back. No Christmas Eve at Grandma’s. We opened a can of soup. Our four children made a brave go at the nativity story and cuddled down with their miserable parents on the couch to watch Christmas videos then put themselves to bed. Santa crawled off the couch long enough to shove the presents under the tree (about fifty percent of them wrapped.) Christmas morning we dragged from bed to couch to watch the kids open gifts. No huge Christmas dinner. I think the kids ate cold cereal around 1:00 pm. And I cried—cried for all the essential elements of Christmas my poor kids had missed that day.
At bedtime, our first grader, Heather, surprised us. “This was the best Christmas ever,” she sighed happily. Was she joking? Six year old sarcasm? Actually, she was sincere and her siblings chimed in their agreement. “You and Daddy just played with us and read books with us all day.” They were right. We hadn’t budged from the couch. Lying there we had played board games and read stories and assembled Legos.I hadn’t bustled around to clean up the debris and get dinner for twenty on the table. We had snuggled and dozed and played and laughed. And it had been perfect.
Talk about a holiday reality check! I began to re-evaluate all those perceived “essentials” of a perfect Christmas and pare down the list to a few truly meaningful things: unhurried, focused family time and the same glad tidings of great joy that caused heaven itself to break open in exultant song more than 2000 years ago.Open hands, open hearts, an open door– and on earth peace, good will to men.
So you may not get a Christmas card from me this year, definitely no goodie-plate. But knock on my door and you’ll find me in my flannel pajamas at noon and a fire in the fireplace. My now adult kids will be sprawled in front of it, book in hand or a board game between them. You’re welcome to come in and have some hot chocolate and gab awhile or beat us at Boggle.Perfect Christmases are best shared.
How do you keep Christmas sweet and soul-satisfying?How have you simplified the holidays to create memories that matter? What meaningful traditions do you continue?
This post originally appeared on The Peanut Gallery Speaks