During my last massage, my massage therapist chatted excitedly about her Christmas plans. She told me of their traditional orange-in-the sock, the 11:00 brunch and gift-opening at her parents, the 3:00 a.m. attempts to open presents, and her overall joy for the holidays.
As I was paying my bill, I realized she was me. Her story was my story – my bottomless pit for the love of the family traditions. I was the Christmas tyrant who insisted my sister and her 5 kids and (probably very hung-over) husband stumble out of bed as early as possible, race through their own Christmas, then pack everyone up and rush over to our place. I loved buying them presents and watching them unwrap them. One of my favourite Christmas memories is of the year Cathy and family came home, and we had we were all so loaded with presents that half the living room was taken over with gifts. I was the one who insisted we cuddle in one evening just before Christmas, start the fire, and watch Sound of Music, White Christmas or It’s a Wonderful Life. Then, we all had to get dressed up to Midnight Mass so we could hear the choir sing – especially the years when Mom sang the descant for Silent Night.
As the years went by, and it became more and more difficult to follow every single tradition, my frustration with the season grew. If it wasn’t going to be perfect, I was depressed and anxious. I spent many late nights crying to myself over my perceived lost of this very precious time. . Twenty years ago I was the first to put up a tree, wrap the presents, and put on the Christmas carols.But each year I started to prepare later and later. And now that I am retired, I can see through the thick fog of expectations that blankets us in December, and blurs our view of the real important parts of Christmas.
Lately, I can’t make myself get excited about the trappings. I don’t need to stay up all night just to watch the Christmas lights glitter, or see the latest sappy Christmas show. The “things” of Christmas are in the past.
I am thankful I have so many wonderful memories of Christmases past. I wish I could go back in time to when we were all young, excited kids or twenty-somethings still able to chat excitedly about the traditions. But I don’t have the energy for it any more. I now long for a quiet day, just a few us of playing some silly game, enjoying a simple but tasty turkey dinner, and getting lots of rest.
Yikes – I really sounds like an old fart, especially with the “rest”. But what I mean is a rest from the expectations of more, and the peace of mind knowing that I can be thankful for what I have, and more importantly, who I am with.