Christmas is always a hectic time of year in our house. Even when it was just me, and then me and DH, our families live in different states and I don’t recall a holiday in nearly two decades for which I was not in a car, airport, bus terminal or train station. Until last year, when we shook things up by announcing we were staying home and all were welcome to join us. Needless to say two sets of parents and siblings, not to mention hosting friends and extended family on Christmas Eve, leads to a lot of work and a very full house.
This year has turned out to be nearly the opposite of the chaos of Christmas past. My parents decided to head to Mexico, and for the first time we won’t be together to celebrate. I’ve been pretty down about it for months, to the point of dreading Christmas even more than I usually do. To make matters worse, work has been ridiculously busy but the timing of the holiday brought the benefit of a pre-celebratory three-day weekend to unwind and prepare. I spent two days baking, which may sound awful but is cathartic and as close to zen as I’ve permitted myself to get. Rolling dough and measuring ingredients takes just enough attention to keep my ADD from kicking in so I walk off to start something else, but not so much that I can’t let my mind wander. Ten dozen cookies leaves plenty of time for thoughts.
T’s first gift to me came in the form of a stone. It was during our family vacation last summer and we had hiked quite a ways, especially for someone for whom bipedal mobility was a fairly new accomplishment. There, in the middle of the Pisgah National Forest, my sweet peanut bent down to examine the trail and after several minutes looked up and offered me his find – a nondescript piece of gravel that may have meant nothing in a different time and place. But the smell of the forest and the blue of his eyes looking into mine, the feel of the rock and the sound as my breath caught as he placed it my hand, are burned forever into my brain. Each time I think of that moment or spy my treasure sitting on the dresser my heart melts in what can only be described as Joy.
We moved so much growing up that most years it was just me, my brother and parents. I cannot recall specific holidays when there were more or fewer gifts, although I’m sure they existed. I remember putting up the train and hearing it clack and clang around the tree; cinnamon rolls baked fresh on Christmas morning; my brother and I testing out our new sleds in the crisp new snow. Simple memories of love and family and togetherness, rather than feelings of dread over too much money spent, too little time to prepare, too many people who don’t get along having to share the same table over a meal it took too long to make and too little time to enjoy. I think that’s why, as an adult, I’ve struggled with Christmas as a holiday and tradition; somewhere along the line everything else started getting in the way.
I definitely missed spending this time of year with my parents, especially since we see each other only once every several months. But they gave me the unexpected gift – the chance to start new traditions, ones I hope T will remember as I recall those from my childhood. I want those traditions to be based on the sights and smells, sounds and tastes of home, family and love, all the ingredients for a holiday filled with Joy.
Happy holidays and best wishes that you will find your own Joy in 2013.