Monday, December 6, 2010
Funny thing happened on the way to Christmas....
*I wrote this for my college paper-enjoy
The holiday season is upon us once again and as I drive around seeing the beginnings of holiday cheer being strung up on houses and trees aligning the streets, I can not help but think of holiday seasons of the past. Growing up in my house meant that holidays were a hit and miss affair. Depending on my father's mood, which could change like the weather in Wyoming, we might get to celebrate with reasonable good cheer, or watch dejectedly as he flung our decorated tree out the front door yet again complaining about the space it took up or the fact that it was just a merchandising gimmick for the already rich. Unlike most children my age I did not look forward to Christmas in quite the same light. For them it was charging into the holiday spirit with a mix of family visits, shopping trips, holiday music playing non stop and possibly church attendance and other religious gatherings. For us it was more or less tiptoeing into it with shopping squeezed in when he was not around, decorating when he was not watching television, phone calls having to do in place of family visits that we rarely were allowed, and the only gatherings we took part in were usually done at 3 a.m. as he drug us from our beds to stand at attention while he prowled back and forth with one of his many guns in hand as he ranted on yet again about how ungrateful we all were and he would be doing himself a huge favor just to blow us all away and be done with it. After 2 or 3 hours we would be allowed back to our beds but sleep was a long time coming. Not to mention on those Christmas mornings that actually did arrive with tree and gifts intact, I do believe my sisters and I engaged in the quietest present opening finale ever in the history of children and Christmas.
My married life was spent overseas with a man and in a country that did not celebrate Christmas or the holidays (though generally the expat community took part in a more subdued low key scale) as the major religion followed was not Christianity, which means it has been over 23 years since I have been free to celebrate this holiday free of stress and with my own family traditions. Of course at this time I have no family traditions concerning the holidays. I am lucky that I am free to create my own, to take on those aspects of the holidays which appeal to me and discard the parts that do not. I do not have family clamoring for me to do things "how it has always been done" nor do I have that frenzied aspect that has me creating lists and "checking them twice" and wondering who I left out of the holiday card/gift giving round. This first real holiday will be baby steps for me. Tentative forays into the great unknown, grabbing onto familiar objects along the way to ensure I have the support I need to take my next step. First I had to buy a tree.
The other day I went to the store to buy decorations for that first tree I have ever bought and walked up and down the aisles for an hour picking up and discarding a myriad of decorative choices having no clue what I wanted. It seemed that decorating my own tree was going to be a lot harder than I thought. I wanted it to be perfect but had no idea what perfect was. Eventually I came home with a string of lights and two boxes of colored bulbs and that was all. A week later the tree has the lights and only 4 bulbs on it as the placement of those 4 bulbs took me to levels of anxiety I have only ever felt while trying to fit in all this college homework with deadlines ever at the forefront. I told myself I would not get sucked into the whole holiday season stressed out nerve wracking aspect of it but the fact that I can not even decorate my own tree without needing a time out in between bulb placements does not bode well.
I visited the stores on Black Friday and could not find a single item that I felt required my hard earned money to be sacrificed for. I came home with some paper towels and some jingle bells that hang from my front door...and a little jingle that hangs from my backpack. For some reason, as I pushed my empty shopping cart through the throngs of frenzied shoppers, I kept thinking to myself, is THIS what I have been missing all these years? Shopping for things I do not need for people I do not particularly care for, or do not care for me, and putting myself in debt that I might pay off just in time to do it all again next year? I was the only one in the 12 items or less lane as I paid for my items and left. I could not help but notice the cashier eyeballing my mostly empty cart and giving me a sad look as if she "understood" my situation...possibly that I could not afford to fill my cart like the other 99.9% of the stores customers?
Because my children have not been raised with that holiday expectation that builds up as commercials and radio jingles bombard them with the latest "must have" as the magical day draws closer, inquiries as to what they would like "from" Santa have been met with shrugged shoulders and the rolling of eyeballs. It apparently pains them to humor their mother and let me have something on this list I am meant to have. My list is empty just now...all though underwear and socks are always holiday gift giving favorites. I am sure they will receive those with the same amount of joy that I did when I parted the colorful paper, opened the red/silver/green box and discovered clothing as my reward for being a child and having wants and desires that did not include cotton or the words "one size fits all". I guess my habit of gifting them for bringing joy to my life all throughout the year has sort of turned them into cynics about this whole end of year gift giving extravaganza. Darn spoiled kids!
So every night as I pass my still yet undecorated tree and tiptoe by my sleeping children that are most likely NOT dreaming of sugar plum fairies, it is only 3 weeks until Santa arrives and "good will and peace on earth" reigns...at least for a little while. For one brief moment we can forget CNN and it's nightly round up of mans inhumanity to man across the globe. We can skip right over FoxNews and get our source of entertainment from family and friends that make us laugh and feel good rather than just laugh from sheer jaw dropping idiocy. We can put aside our differences and focus on our similarities and let the small stuff slide off our horrible holiday sweatered backs. Later we can drive through neighborhoods and admire other people's ability to defy gravity and put lights in places only squirrels should have access too or who seem intent on spreading the message of Peace on Earth to any lifeforms that may be passing by our galaxy and happen to look down and see a house with enough lights that the glare on their spaceship window causes them to crash into a passing weather satellite.
As each of you head into your own holiday season and pull out your well worn family traditions concerning it think about how those traditions came to be and whether or not they are a true reflection of what the holiday really means to you. As we are all struggling to get through this recession the best way we can, consider trying to experience a Christmas season that is less focused on "things" and more on feelings and that good will everyone keeps going on about, including myself..and if you hear someone walking down the hallway here at college jingling all the way...that would be yours truly.
Have a wonderful holiday season and try to make at least one person smile that maybe has not had a reason to in a good long while. That is a gift worth giving.
p.s. for those curious enough to consider the "hidden meaning" of this post...no I don't consider myself a Christian and see enjoying the Christmas season as an affirmation of that...I just happen to like twinkle lights and decorated trees and the general atmosphere of "be kind to others" mentality that seems to take over this time of year. I enjoy the joy...so to speak...and that has nothing to do with religion...and probably despite it.