Chris and I had a solo Christmas. More like it was another day. I was so sick we did not even follow through on the food we were going to make. Instead we watched a few movies and I napped, oh and we slept until 11 am. (What is not to love about that?) We were thinking maybe we would just have today be Christmas Day. I think I am feeling better. It is hard to say as there have been many moments over the last few days where I have felt better, and then whoosh I get hit hard again. No one should ever have to feel this way!
In any case, I was thinking about simplicity. We had a simple Christmas which I love. I absorbed many Christmas trees, gifts being opened, and gatherings via Facebook these past few days, and there are two things I want to mention: opening presents and how to share with others on Christmas.
Opening presents. As a kid our tradition was to take turns selecting a present under the tree for someone else in the family, and when it was someone’s turn everyone gave that person their attention. They could take as long (within reason) as they wanted to open that gift, share gratitude to the giver, and if it were not filled with a million pieces they might even get to put it together quickly. After opening up their present, they cleaned up the mess of paper and ribbons and put it in the trash bag available. You would have your own turn when someone else gave you a gift to open, but you could not hand a gift to yourself. That was our tradition. It has stuck with me. There was a patience, appreciation, and enjoyment with watching each person feel loved and grateful for their gift. Why am I telling you this? Facebook photos yesterday showed crazy amounts of toys, with kids surrounded by them and all the paper and the mess. It makes it hard for me to think that they appreciated them, were grateful to the giver (if they knew who they came from), and I wonder if they cleaned up the mess. Maybe I am horrible, but I think my childhood tradition is one I would like to pass to many.
Which leads me to: share with others on Christmas. Another find on Facebook was a mention of a tradition I do want to start when I have kids that are old enough. This specific family writes a note to Santa on Christmas Eve, leaves a plate of cookies and milk, and each child selects a toy of their own (that they like or no longer play with) and leaves it for Santa to take to a kid somewhere in the world that may not have many toys. A brilliant idea! It is a great way for kids to think about others that do not have what they have and it is a way to have children part with unneeded toys (especially when they are going to be getting more the next morning).
The simplicity of appreciating the gifts we open. The simplicity of sharing with others on Christmas.
At times, days and weeks go by before my dad ever comes to my thought. Lately I have had strong remembrances of family, my mom, dad, and grandma. Usually it comes stronger at the holidays, especially thoughts about my dad. For some reason he loved Christmas. The funny part is I am not sure he did much to make Christmas happen in my house. My mom bought or more likely made our gifts, staying up many all nighters to get them done in time, wrapped them, and put them under the tree often at the wee hours of Christmas morning. She made the cookies, desserts, and homemade gifts for friends and teachers. To top it all off, she also made a meal for Christmas eve, our Christmas morning breakfast, and a big meal on Christmas day. I think my dad was into the decorations. The Santas, elves, sleighs, and nativity scenes.
In January, my dad will have been gone for 15 years. We put up our Christmas tree on Sunday, and somehow I have convinced Chris to keep white lights in a tree outside our living room window year-round. My dad would probably smile knowing that I am trying to keep that Christmas spirit. I think about him as I watch my niece grow up and wonder what it would be like for him to have his first grandchild coo and crawl all over him. Next weekend he would have been 73. I see him (when I notice) as I walk down our hallway of family photos. I am pictured at my niece’s age, head full of curls and he, covered with a beard in the late 1970’s. I think about him when I find a favorite childhood book and remember my reading to him. Those were those moments when I remember he was most calm and patient.
I wonder at times what it will be like when I have kids of my own, and how many times I will wish there was a contact in my phone that said: Mom and another that said Dad. Would they text with me? Would they meet up with old friends on Facebook? It is so hard to know, they have been gone for so long that I no longer know who they would have grown to become. Yet, I will do what I can each year to continue the Christmas spirit in my own way, however it may feel right each year. Whether that means to dote on my niece who does not have my mom and dad to dote on her, or whether that means to donate toys to kids in my community.
What I think my dad wanted was to feel apart of something bigger than himself. We can all do that in so many differing ways, all keeping with the Christmas spirit of giving.