Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas*

I think I might finally be a grown up … ish. 

You see, my whole life, as far back as I can remember I’ve loved everything about Christmas.  I’d plan cutting down the Christmas tree from my parents land well in advance, like the first cold day in October.  I’d bundle up and go out for a walk, looking for the tree that was the most uniform, the most well-rounded, the most Christmassy.  I’d usually pick one that was entirely too large for our living room, but no matter, usually that tree would be lost among all the others by the time Christmas actually rolled around.

So it was about the anticipation, the preparation.  One year I went through a Christmas craft book, planning all the stuff I’d make for my family.  I think I was 8, maybe little older.  There were lists of ornaments and pictures and food that I would painstakingly and lovingly create, complete with a timeline and schedule.  I finally realized that it was a little ambitious and so decided to just make chocolate covered cherries the morning of Christmas before everyone else woke up.  But the day arrived and unfortunately for my family I was just too busy opening presents to mess with things like asking my mom to turn on the stove and measure ingredients and, you know, cook them for me. 

And every year I’d wait so very impatiently for Christmas to come because with it came excitement and joy and gifts and family and food and songs and sometimes, on the most fantastic and special of Christmases, snow.  There was one year most people around here probably remember that included not just snow but lots of it, and super-cold weather.  It was so cold, in fact, that my cousins, my sister and I went ice skating in our boots on a pond close to our house.  I count that as one of the best years.

But of course there was the one year I snooped and found out what presents I was getting before Christmas.  And that, my friends, was the most disappointing of all Christmases.  It’s the anticipation, the surprise that I enjoy, so much more than the gift itself. 

And so you’d think that being an adult, growing up and having that excitement shift to my children would be a disappointment.  But it’s not.  Not at all.  In fact it now is so, so much more exciting because I get to relive everything, every excitement over decorating the tree, every thrilling rewatching of The Polar Express, every new retelling of exactly how Santa comes into our house, or how it’s Jesus’ birthday but we celebrate by giving each other presents out of love through the eyes of my 3 year old.  And this boy loves Christmas.  He reminds me so much of myself this time of year because he just gets so into it.

And that makes Christmas so much better because I get to create this wonderland for him, and for my daughter, who, while not completely aware, is still excited about taking the ornaments off the tree or touching all the lights. 

My husband and I are responsible for starting our family traditions, maybe keeping some from our parents, maybe creating our own.  And while we do that, we’re creating our own family, our own memories that maybe will be talked about lovingly in 25 years by our children to their own children.

And that is why I think I’ve sort of grown up.  Christmas is no longer about me, what I want to do, what I want to create.  It’s about the little kids running around my house singing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

And I couldn’t be more satisfied.

*I wrote this for the newspaper, then realized that I was turning in my column a week early and it wouldn't run before Christmas so this one wouldn't work.  It's been a busy few weeks.

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