One of our friends seemed concerned when we told her we are planning to lay low this holiday season. The children and our parents aren’t boarding airplanes, we aren’t either. It’s actually a good thing. My spouse and I plan a quiet time at home with our dogs- something that we love to do. Maybe we’ll build a fire in our stone fireplace or do something else just as lovely.
The memory of Christmases for my children makes me laugh and shudder. There was so much stuff! Staying up until 4am assembling a bike-only to be awoken at 5 because Santa had arrived, piles of discarded wrapping paper, and climbing over toys to make a pancake and sausage breakfast made for a chaotic but happy time. A Santa doll at the top of the steps clanged a welcome for us at my parents’ house late on Christmas mornings. The charm of these Christmases stays with me and always will.
My mother spared nothing to give us the Christmases beyond our wildest imaginings. She grew up in a hospital because of a back ailment and wanted to be sure that our lives were different. Invariably, on her annual visit, her mother would gift her with a dress that was too small for her to wear. Mom said that she would cut the fabric around the arm pits to make it fit. She told me about my father who’d, as a child, spent days searching for hay for the Three King’s visit- celebrated in Puerto Rico. He never found it. When he looked under his bed on Epiphany, there was nothing there and he was terribly disappointed. Years later, I remembered her telling me that he’d actually found a dime under his bed. I think I made up that dime because it was too painful to imagine his sadness at Christmas- and I gather, many of his days as a child, living in poverty.
Mom made sure that we woke up to a fully lit tree surrounded with mountains of colorfully wrapped gifts. I have one picture where my sister and I could be mistaken for a couple of the dolls we sat amidst. Santa’s cookies were gone and the crumbs, rumpled napkin and the half full milk glass thrilled me with enchantment and magic.
There were some years as a young adult that I so unhappy with some gifts I received because I felt as though the people who’d given them to me had no sense of who I was. They probably didn’t. It’s taken me years to figure out who I am. I was unimpressed by the silver tea set my mom gave me one year. I lived in a small apartment and probably scoffed at it. Now it sits on my server in the dining room of the house I believe she hoped I would one day have.
Times changed. My mom and dad were able to create something different in their lives and so have I. Having the ability to treat the holiday season in a sober manner makes all the difference. Happiness. Check. Love. Check. Peace within. Check. Those are the things that are most necessary to provide me with an inner sense of fullness that no outside object can ever bring. Did I think this way years ago? No, but for today I am different and grateful.
Happy holidays to you all!