December 26th – The Best Gifts Can’t be Wrapped

I woke up today with mixed emotions, feeling both blissful and crestfallen. I am immeasurably happy because of Christmas successes, yet slightly melancholy because the days unfolding in no way resembled what I had planned for it. This morning I am truly ecstatic over the gifts Santa left behind for me and the ones I watched others open with delight, but I am sorrowful over what I was unable to accomplish that I wanted to. Ah, the unwrapping of Christmas..

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Thinking back to 30 days ago, to the first yuletide thought I had, the one occurring directly after the turkey was put away on Thanksgiving, I have to chuckle at how December 25th this year was so unlike what I had planned for it. I remember taking out the bins of nutcrackers and other decorations and scattering them around the house on black Friday thinking, “Tis the season and this year it will be perfect.” After that, all I recall is putting one foot in front of the other until today.

The list I made for gift buying could never possibly accommodate all I would have liked it to because neither budget nor logistics allowed this year, but it held a few names of people to whom homage had to be paid because of the light and love they share with us all throughout the year.

Soon after the quest began for the right and perfect trinkets which would say, “You matter” on this most sacred holiday, I had to hide the packages from our crazy paper chewing cat so that he wouldn’t destroy the corners of all the boxes and gift bags. I have come to believe he does this to somehow be part of the holiday bustle that goes on in our household. Each time I added another package to the pile, I touched the others in hopeful excitement that it would be perceived with the same spirit it was wrapped in.

Today, the wrapping paper which was crinkled in delight yesterday, now fills our recycle bins to overflowing. Our bellies are substantially rounder, at least in this house, and the day is over. But my heart has a tad of unfinished processing still needing to happen, which is why I must write about it.

Christmas this year involved an effort of accommodation which made it awkward to know where we could be and how we would possibly do it all. In my efforts to appreciate all of my family, I made a choice to honor my husband’s hectic work schedule and so, postponed travel plans up north. My son and I agreed that a slightly later celebration together would be just as cool. I also decided to say, “W\e will be here whenever you come, don’t worry,” to my stepson who always makes the effort to see us. This statement of “whatever and whenever” quietly spoken to my husband in the midst of reshuffling our day was made with so much love that I now realize it became the best gift I could ever give anyone. I gave myself and my family the gift of being allowed to set aside expectations in our showing up for one another and to trust in our love this Christmas.

What is it about holiday expectation that creeps in and tries to wreak havoc? Why have I been compelled in the past to analyze the gestures of others and what they mean to my big picture? At what moment did I realize I needed to remove travel stress from my husband this year? How was I able to stay in the now yesterday and allow this Christmas to unfold the way it did? What grace do I experience in my relationship with my son that made it more than OK to postpone our gift giving slightly? How was I able to set plans aside to take pressure off my young stepson in a way he wouldn’t possibly understand until he has his own children? When did it become possible to trust that my friendships are intact enough to simply have to put my immediate family first yesterday?

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I have no explanation for any of it except to say that somewhere in the midst of all the Christmas planning and hoping, Christmas spirit took over and it became about simply being with the person that is my right and perfect Santa, the man who stands by my side always. It became about realizing what was truly best for our family.

Today, December 26th I am in awe of those who thought of me yesterday with calls, texts and presents. I am astonished at the kind invitations we received from people we love who love us back. Beyond that, I am filled beyond overflowing with gratitude for my family. Remembering all the hopes and dreams that came up for all of us over the twelve months past, the challenges we surmounted, the triumphs and accomplishments and the ways we have done our best to show our love, I am proud and blessed,

No, my Christmas did not go at all as I had planned it weeks ago. A few invitations could not be honored and a few others came out of the blue. Yet, it went perfectly. At about 11 PM I texted my son who was celebrating with his girlfriend’s family up in Connecticut. Within seconds his response came back, “To all a goodnight, I love you mom.” What a perfect way to end the day.

And all was right and good with the world as my head hit the pillow shortly after that text. And yet, when I reached over to hug my husband goodnight, the tears simply would not stop falling as he hugged me..

 

 

 

I Believe in the Magic of Christmas – and thank you Hallmark

So, what is it about the Hallmark Channel that comforts me so at holiday time? The families depicted in the movies are not without trials. There are widows and orphans, homeless folks, imposters, cranky scrooges, deadbeat dads, lost and weary travelers, business tyrants and the lot. So, what is it that draws me to these holiday movies?

Without a doubt, it is the happy-ending. The lost find their way. The wonderful family adopts the child. The dog finds a new owner. Neighbors rally and the star shines bright from the top of the tree every single time.

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In this hectic world with all too much madness, with too many media stories of chaos and cruelty, I need to see this holiday delight. It is my oxygen.

I turn off the shootings and muggings, the terrorism and the bullying, the slandering political campaigns and the sadness, and I turn on the light.

In the hustle and bustle of searching for the right and perfect gift, in the line waiting and the all too quick last minute wrapping, I need a pull back to the reason for all of it. I have to find reminders of the magic of Christmas. I have to believe that there is good in the world, that people truly care, and that many others out there want the best for one another too. I have to hold on to hope that there are believers, more than just me, who are tired of all the ugliness and who want to focus on the beauty within us all.

photoI have to trust in Santa the way my mom encouraged me to, so long ago. The way my little boy did when he flew down the stairs on Christmas morning for years. The way he still does today when he opens his gifts, knowing they come from a place of love. I must insist that a far away St. Nick is leading a sleigh full of reindeers to some believers somewhere. Yes, I believe in Santa, absolutely. So, thank you Hallmark for reiterating why I do, and for helping to stay in that magic for a little while.

P.S. my husband sometimes watches it with me, although he will never admit it. 🙂

HO HO HO…I guess…

Ho Ho Ho

Thanksgiving weekend is over…
And on to Christmas…Ho Ho Ho…

And I am wondering…what are the Holidays really for? What do they mean? A time of wonder and delight? Or a time of tripping over each other, pushing to get that last Black Friday deal? A time of writing profound notes in the cards to folks you cherish far away or a time of quickly sticking a photo in an envelope to someone you got a card from that hadn’t been on your list…

A time to wrap the exact perfect gift for that exact perfect person you have found to spend Christmas day with? Or a time to compare Christmases past and worry how he spent them before you and what gifts he bought for others? A time to delight in the joy you got from hand painting your cards? Or to be sad that you don’t have the mantle that you used to decorate with fresh greens and berries? A time when you still believed in magic and family and tradition and when you didn’t get blocked by images of the photos you saw of the mountains of gifts “He” had under the tree that his children decorated when “He” had a different Mrs. Claus? Or a time when you stress out over finding gifts for stepchildren who might possibly wish you weren’t even in the holiday photo card, let alone buying them gifts.

A time to go over the river and through the woods or to struggle to find an airline ticket that you may finally pay off two years from next Friday because fares are so jacked up at this time of year. In fact so pricy that you have to bail on getting a ticket for your son because it costs as much as one months rent…actually more…

For me…it is a time of giving yes. But also a time of an ache so utter and so deep and so visceral that I cant imagine it ever going away. A time of “If only” and “what if” and “What else” and “How come” and “Where did it all go?” “Where did they all go?” Where are my mom and my dad and Grandma Kay and Pop, Aunt Pat and Cousins and company and magic? A time of knowing there is no Santa but knowing there absolutely is. Of hoping beyond hope that He will come and of wishing you had appreciated all the times he came before dressed up as other people who aren’t even on your list this year because they have played out their role in your Christmas story past.

The stockings may be hung, again, but the feelings behind them are conflicted…Hope that they will be filled, but sadness that they were hung on other fireplaces and everyone is grown and tired….especially me.

I am babbling, rambling, but that’s where my thoughts are at, where my heart is on this Christmas that mom will spend in heaven. I feel sad and lonely. I want her to ask me where my list is. I want to pretend not to be spoiled and acknowledge that dad was getting socks and underwear wrapped up as a present because it was all they could afford after taking care of us kids. I want the magic of this Christmas to fill my heart and overcome the heaviness living in there over missing Christmases past.

I want the family Christmas and don’t want to wonder what his Christmases were like before. I don’t want to feel sad that my son has to be torn between his mom’s house and his dad’s …although I am so very proud that he works to figure it out in a loving and graceful way…to accommodate step parents and all that entails…

I don’t know how to describe the sadness that comes over me when I think of sitting around the table at mom and dads before they went to Christmas in heaven and feeling stuffed not only with dessert but with the fullness of family. Family that I took for granted and complained about having to sit in traffic to get to on the drive from Connecticut. But family that I would kill to be able to spend the holiday with today. All of us, together, under one roof, at one table, with wrapping paper getting thrown into the fireplace in shifts- never all at once because there was so much of it –

I don’t want the feeling (totally irrational that it is) that I am the family after the other families’ Christmas that is weighing heavy on my heart. I want tradition but it hurts too much to pull it together here, because of all the other tradition that came before for me…and for him that I imagine… And I really miss my mom. Maybe that’s really what all of this is about. I miss her because She WAS Santa. I miss the way she had us all believing that this holiday actually was magic…

OK Mom, I guess I better turn off the computer and go make a list and get into some kind of spirit, because as I am typing I know that you, my Santa, Our Santa, would tell me to and that even if noone else ever sees that list, you somehow will.