It’s all about presents.
You spend weeks in anticipation. Writing and rewriting as your idea for the perfect toy to top your Christmas List changes faster than your choice of perfect Halloween costume just weeks ago. You stand, trembling with equal parts anticipation and apprehension, in a winding line of overheated, overstimulated fellow petitioners waiting to plead your case to a large bearded man in a red velvet suit.
Eventually someone bursts your Santa bubble. I remember a heated discussion on the front porch of the neighbor boys, general consensus being the truth about Santa was obvious. Secretly I think we were all uncertain.
No matter where your presents are coming from the excitement builds as each newly wrapped package appears under the tree. You inspect them, pick them up to test the weight. (Too heavy to be clothes, maybe it’s the juggling set I asked for!) You shake them, listening for evidence. (ugh. I think this one IS clothes.)
It’s all about food and family.
As you get older you still count down days, but now it’s the number of days left to buy presents and accomplish your lengthy to do list. You run all over town searching for the last ingredient needed in the family’s signature side dish. You scour the city for the toy out of stock in every store. The cards must be mailed. Everything must be wrapped.
The family gathers for a giant meal and a day of telling stories you’ve heard so often you all recite the punch line at once. The stress finally melts away and you laugh until your sides hurt. If you’re lucky, you realize how grateful you should be for your time together.
It’s all about transition and new traditions.
Sooner or later a major life change comes along and throws you into a state of transition.
Happy or sad, permanent or temporary, new people join your family or loved ones depart, separated by circumstances or distance. Distance between cities, between continents, or the distance between Earth and Heaven. Changes force new traditions.
That’s where I find myself this year, a state of transition, seeking new traditions.
Christmas day last year was exactly one week after my mom passed away. Just four days after her funeral. You would think that would be difficult, but I was still in a state of relief. Relief that my mom was in Heaven and no longer in intense pain. Relief that I no longer had to watch her suffer.
This year the holidays had an entirely different feeling for me. I visited family for Thanksgiving. That was great, but incredibly difficult. I had never been to a gathering on my mom’s side of the family without my mom. Ever. I started crying as I walked in the door.
The holidays aren’t the same for me anymore. I just can’t celebrate as I have in the past.
But how DID I want to celebrate?
I wanted to decorate, but not in the traditional way. I wanted to watch Christmas movies, but not the ones my mom and I watched together. I wanted to play Christmas music, but not the songs we had sung along to in the past. I wanted a meal I’d enjoy, but not a stuff-fest. I love my extended family dearly, but I wanted to spend Christmas by myself.
I am an extremely introverted person. I both enjoy and NEED to spend time by myself. If I don’t, my head explodes. My mom loved family gatherings, so I felt I was letting her down wanting to spend Christmas alone, but I also felt the only way I could not just survive Christmas, but enjoy it was to spend a quiet day in my own home.
No traditional tree. The sentimental decorations of my past were staying boxed up, at least for this year. Instead, I found my decorating solution in my love of graphic design. I found several boxes of Christmas cards and rolls of wrapping paper full of prints I loved. Add in some cinnamon scented pinecones and a five foot silver tinsel tree and I was happy.
I made a sandwich for lunch. I had a frozen pizza for Christmas Eve dinner and a frozen turkey dinner for Christmas. I ate chocolate and cookies and toaster waffles with peanut butter. Everything was delicious. I didn’t spend hours cooking and my tummy didn’t hate me after.
I read my Bible. I listened to Christmas music on the radio. I watched Christmas movies on television. I read a book I was excited about.
I sat by the open window, breathed in the fresh, crisp air and wrote.
As I was typing the line in the opening of this piece, about the childhood disappointment of shaking a present only to realize it’s clothes, a medallion on the tinsel tree suddenly reflected in my eye. It shone so bright it blinded me. One single medallion commanding my attention.
There was no sun. I don’t know where the light was coming from.
Yes I do. It was coming from my mom. A sign she was still with me this Christmas, smiling at my recollection of childhood Christmases past.
We all celebrate differently.
There are as many unique situations and traditions as there are people in the world. But we all share one common thread, our holiday celebrations will continue to evolve as our lives continue to change.
What will be next for me? Who knows?
All I know is Christmas was good this year.
Happy Holidays, Everyone!