We lie to kids all the time. We should stop. I often talk to Chris about all the Hallmark holidays that have gotten out of hand. Maybe I am a buzz kill, but we are basically telling kids lies and then later expect them to trust us. My parents did it and I turned out fine (at least I think I did), but I think I might just stop the craziness when I have kids. I thought Stefanie Wilder-Taylor said it just right in “Gummi Bears Should Not be Organic:”
“Early on their life is filled with fantasies they believe to be true, such as Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy (notice I capitalized Tooth Fairy—because, like God, the Tooth Fairy is still very much a real and venerable life force in my house.) And who puts those fantasies in their head? We do. So when your child tries to convince you that the reason they took all the forks out of the kitchen is because they needed them to help run the jelly bean factory in their closet, how can we be mad when we’ve convinced them that a fat guy with a sack of toys is going to be sliding down their chimney?” page 92-93
She is right. We lie and then we expect them not to lie to us. Besides I think most kids do not even know the true meaning of Christmas. They think of it as a plethora of gifts, a tree, photos with Santa, and whatever other crazy traditions we have started. What if instead we all went back to the true meaning of Christmas? Giving to those in need and being together. Sadly, because of all the crazy hubbub of Christmas, I have become a Grinch. I do not want to buy you a gift just to get you a gift, and I do not want you to do the same. I do not need a thing.
It is funny — I decided to Google “the true meaning of Christmas” and I got such an array of answers about Jesus, God, and lots of other religious babble. One site did give me an answer I liked — that the true meaning of Christmas is Love. Now that is something I can wrap my arms around. Can we show our kids that? Instead of telling them about a fat, jolly Santa, the North Pole, and lots and lots of presents, why not show them how to give to kids in their community that do not have as much? Maybe sharing a coat with someone who does not have one? Or selecting toys to give to children that do not have any. What then are you teaching your kids? Love, gratitude, sharing, and appreciation for all they have each day?
I do not want to raise kids that feel they are just going to get presents upon presents under the Christmas tree, and so many they cannot even begin to appreciate them. That is commercialism and consumerism at its best. I would rather dote on them throughout the year, rather than swoop in on one day out of the year. Besides it feels like a lot of pressure, and is it really worth it? Call me a Grinch, but I do not want to start that tradition.
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.
If you celebrate Christmas, do you have a tradition of hanging a stocking? Chris and I have not done it at all during our marriage, but growing up it was part of our tradition. We did not have a fireplace, or mantle to hang our stockings, but instead my dad hammered nails into this makeshift bookcase. It was about my height at the time, so maybe four feet high, and we each had our own stocking. Even our dog, who always received dog bones of different varieties — from rawhide to Milkbone, and if our dog was lucky maybe a new toy. Probably to distract them from all the sounds, lights, and interesting happenings in the house.
Everyone’s stocking was different. My grandma knit my sister’s, brother’s, and mine. I have no idea how she did it, but she knit our names into the stocking so we always knew if it was ours. She was an impressive knitter, and I still have my childhood stocking today. While we never received much at Christmas, for some reason my stocking always intrigued me. What did my stocking usually contain? At the bottom (and I think to weigh it down) there was usually an apple or orange. Followed by a pair of socks, a handful of candy, and maybe a tiny toy. Every once in a while there was a coloring book or some sort of object that did not fit into the stocking itself. Any items that did not fit were laid on the floor just below the stocking.
The tradition was that we were not allowed to leave our rooms on Christmas morning until we were given the approval from our parents. We would scurry out to the living room to scope out the Christmas tree and whether Santa had made it to our house that year. Were the milk and cookies gone? Then we were allowed to go to our stockings and dump out the contents. We could do whatever we wanted, play with anything included, and even have our own candy. We were not allowed to touch any gifts. Then we had breakfast together (my mom’s coffee cake). Once everyone finished their breakfast (my parents made us stay at the table for what felt like forever) we would make it back to the living room and our Christmas tree to open the presents that were under the tree.
I have not had a traditional Christmas since I was twelve, and so that was probably the last time I had a stocking too. These days I am such a minimalist. I do not want “stuff” just to give/get. Thus, we have not continued the tradition. Maybe someday I will knit a new stocking for a little one and start our version of stocking traditions on Christmas morning.
My sister and a good friend just had babies in the last two months. It is fun watching (well I guess more through pictures at the moment) and thinking about Chris being a father someday. It has also prompted me to be reflective about my relationship with my own father. It was not really a rock-solid relationship. We had hard times, we had good times, but through it all we had memories. Here are a few remembrances of my dad:
If I knew I would lose him at such a young age, I would have kept all the letters he wrote to me on Christmas Eve (aka Santa who ate my cookies and drank the egg nog). Of course we left out egg nog for Santa, my dad LOVED his egg nog. The letters from Santa though, I guess I got rid of them, and they were the few letters I had from my dad. It would have been fun today to hear his wisdom. Especially during a holiday he loved. I am positive his letters probably shared his best self.
I wish he had been here long enough to meet Chris. He would have inadvertently taught him about construction. Chris would have picked up things quickly and learned to leave the truly professional jobs for the professionals.
He would have fun talking to Chris about cars. His “Automobile Quarterly” was a cherished possession. The two of them would geek out, although he would probably talk Chris’ head off with his endless stories of growing up on his Dad’s car lot.
The only movie I can remember seeing with him is, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.” Seriously? What was he thinking? Bad movie, Dad.
His blue pickup truck was, well honestly, a piece of shit, but it was his truck and it contained all of his endless notes, crappy construction items, odd-shaped pencils, tape measures, clipboards, and what I will never forget, the device you could wire to the horn and play my favorite ever – the Dukes of Hazzard theme song. How cool I thought it was to have that blaring from the truck as we drove down the street.
I wish I knew I had a short time with him. I would have gotten over the grudge I held for so long. Not that it would have been easy for him, but I would have made us talk through our differences.
I do not remember it as much as a kid, but as I got older and saw him less and less, he seemed to show his emotion more and more. If only that had started earlier on in my life. If only.
He was a good/big hugger. Maybe that is where I get it from.
He had an addiction to Ritz crackers and peanut butter. I do not share this addiction. It just makes me think of sandpaper and glue. Dry and sticks to your mouth. Lime chips are where it is at! Wish I could spoil him with my addiction.
He would have loved iPhones. Not for the email, or phone, but for the games. If he knew you could play Cribbage, Euchre, Scrabble, Solitaire, I can imagine how unproductive he would have become. I think he would have played me from wherever he would be living.
December has gone fast this year. It baffles me that Christmas is tomorrow. I have done everything I can to not step foot in any store, and do whatever shopping I can online this year. Is it sad that Christmas has in some ways made me want to stay away from people? That this holiday now makes me cringe? Our credit cards have made us greedy, stressed out, and potentially the true meaning of Christmas is lost in bags, receipts, and frustrated shoppers.
Somehow during the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, it is music that makes me grounded. I am usually one to quickly run out of the store, or change the radio station when a Christmas song is played before Thanksgiving. Yet, it is Christmas music that takes the Scrooge out of me. It is one of the few things that gives me a nostalgic feeling about Christmas, and reminds me of my father and his avid love for Christmas. I wish I knew what made him enjoy it so much. He loved decorating the house for Christmas, with lights, wreaths, our tree, and other Santa figurines around the house. Was he trying to compensate for Christmas’ he might not have enjoyed as a child? Or was he recreating his own memories?
Chris and I have leaned towards Christmas being a quiet day together, and potentially further towards “just another day in our life.” We lean towards a simpler life. Why has it come to that for us? We usually do not trade gifts, and this year we never got around to putting up the Christmas tree. Sometimes we decide to find a gift together for our home that we can share with each other. We always lean towards doing nothing rather than doing something just to fill a need to give a gift.
So what makes me nostalgic again this year for Christmas past? Music. I have always loved the Leonard Cohen song: Hallelujah, and my favorite is the Jeff Buckley version. Over the weekend, I came across this “Cloverton” version of “A Hallelujah Christmas.” I especially love the beginning with just the piano and vocals. For some reason I feel it in my bones. It makes me think about past Christmas’ with my parents. I wanted to share and, if you celebrate, wish you a wonderful Christmas. Cherish this special time with your family and friends.