Ever-Changing Holidays

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.

A rare Christmas visiting Santa and Mrs. Claus at my dad's work where I didn't "take one for the team" and settle for a visit with Mrs. Claus instead, because her line was shorter than Santa's line. I actually saw Santa himself! The look on my face reads: I'm uncomfortable.
A rare Christmas visiting Santa and Mrs. Claus at my dad’s work where I didn’t “take one for the team” and settle for a visit with Mrs. Claus instead, because her line was shorter than Santa’s line. I actually saw Santa himself! The look on my face reads: I’m uncomfortable.

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.)

I think this might have been the year of the Barbie McDonald's.
I think this might have been the year of the Barbie McDonald’s.

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 placed cards all over the house. Putting away the decorations this year will be a bit like an Easter egg hunt.
I placed cards all over the house. Putting away the decorations this year will be a bit like an Easter egg hunt.

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.

While writing under a cloudy sky, one lone medallion reflected an unseen beam of light to grab my attention.
While writing earlier under what was at the time a cloudy sky, one lone medallion reflected an unseen beam of light to grab my attention.

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!

Advertisements

10 thoughts on “Ever-Changing Holidays

  1. I am so glad you were able to find a way to have a good holiday. And you are spot-on with the stages of Christmas we all go through. Wish I could have read that about 20 years ago!

  2. I really, really like your photos!

    Before each holiday season I ask myself what I want it to be about, and what I want to do with my free time (re. friends, family and solitude; activity and rest, etc.)

    Being mindful helps appreciate. 🙂

    I’m glad I discovered your blog!

  3. I loved this, truly. My first holiday change cam in divorce, 13 years ago. Christmas was shattered, and I caught holding the mallet. The first few years on Christmas eve I just wandered into the woods alone with a tent and truckload of regret, only to emerge the day after Christmas as if the holiday was swept under the rug.

    Eventually it got better, and I became a part of society again on holidays, though I have not decorated since I’ve been on my own. It is ritual, above all else, that binds us as human beings.

    Next year my daughter moves to Turkey for grad school. My new ritual, at least for a few years, will involve a hotel room in Istanbul, and no mallet to be found.

    1. Very well put, Roy. Ritual does bind us as human beings. As I said, who knows what’s next for me. Maybe I will someday rejoin society on holidays as well, but this year, I was truly and honestly happy in the refuge of my solitude.

    1. 1. Your dad’s choice of syllable emphasis and “Iron Butterfly” were the highlights of that evening.
      2. Okay, you’re the second person this season to whom I’ve had to admit, with all my movie knowledge, I’ve never seen Christmas Vacation. Next year. I promise.
      3. Yeah, pretty sure I was content with Mrs. Claus the next year. Maybe my dad tipped Santa to give me the creep eye, so we’d be back in the shorter line next year?!?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s