My Christmas spirit is always hit or miss, and depends a lot on what’s going on in my work life, since that determines how much free time I have to think about the joys of the season, etc. etc. This year, with just about a dozen major deadlines looming in December and the sudden return to orange alert (which involves a lot of prepping and meetings and other sorts of stuff), I just wasn’t able to get very into it. And I squandered the best light-putting-up days on bike rides — in fact I knew I was doing it at the time, and the bike rides were all the more satisfying as a result. Besides, I don’t put up lights in November. Couple that with the fact that I really haven’t handled well some of the fundamental changes in the holidays that have come over the years. My dad died, then Jimmy died, then Hank died, then Duane moved away, and over the course of a few years all the people I loved to see on Christmas Eve were gone, and that big boisterous lasagna-fest at my Mom’s house became more sedate. At her old house, we had all our babies under our feet, but at the new place, our babies are 5 and 7 and 9 and 10 (and the children of divorce only come every other year) and they run off upstairs to watch the Grinch in the back bedroom and we don’t see them until they come down for presents (I’m thinking we should put upstairs off limits next year — what’s Christmas Eve without kids making noise?) (And this comes from someone who really can’t stand noise). So it’s all just not quite the same. The holidays are about remembering those who used to be with us, that’s part of the bittersweet, but sometimes it makes it hard for me to be fully in the moment.
But this year, things really just came together for me. The girls were perfect, starting with the Nutcracker performance and right through Christmas. Hannah started the season knowing there was no Santa, and Rebekah was voicing her doubts, but by the time we got through all the excitement and wrapping and “It’s a Wonderful Life,” I think they were both back into believing, believing hard enough that they didn’t notice the price tags on the snowshoes Santa left them. And for a few days before Christmas, as my wife said, it was like they were constantly chanting “Christmas! Christmas! Christmas!” under their breaths, there was such a buzz in the house. On Christmas morning, we had a delightful time here with one set of grandparents, then moved on over to my sister’s charming new house (which my Mom slaved over all summer to get ready) and had their first Christmas in the new house. Very cozy and fun. My sister gave us a delightful plush, clad-in-furs Father Christmas figure, about two feet tall and beautiful, the most unlikely gift I could imagine and just beautiful. I gave her an extension pole so she can crank her skylight without getting on a ladder, and she was thrilled no end. It was that kind of Christmas.
And in the world of material gluttony, the kids were spoiled rotten, as usual, though my mom put most of her energy into clothes, which is a good thing because we just don’t have room for much more in the area of toys. Hannah got all things Harry Potter – the second movie, the second Playstation game (which she begged, hinted, and pleaded for mightily after testing it on a demo on the iMac), the first Playstation game, but not Harry Potter toothpaste, which she didn’t like. (I did – bubble gum flavor.) Rebekah got her first American Girl doll, which I used to think was about conspicuous consumption but is in fact about really really well-made dolls that girls love and take amazing care of. Lee and I are giving ourselves the gift of a rug, once we find it. And, as I mentioned, there’s the Simpsons Playstation thingy, which is keeping me more than a little busy.
Now, we seem to have accidentally invited a whole mess of people with little girls over tomorrow night, which doesn’t sound like us, so I think there’s going to have to be some vacuuming today….