When you parent you always wonder….will IT matter…? IT can be anything from using the time out chair to a trip to the beach to an extra story at night… to any of a multitude of moments that wrap themselves into the bundle that is parenting. Will IT matter?
This Christmas has been a mix of memories and precursors, misplaced Christmas dishes and a house too small to decorate the way I like to … which got me to thinking, will it matter?
Last week, I took my oldest grandchild ( 7 years old ) Christmas shopping. We’ve done it every year since she was born. Our son raised her alone the first 3 1/2 years of her life, mom walked out when she was 5 months old and left him with a mortgage, a dog she had to “rescue” and this precious little girl. So when Christmas came that first year, she was 10 months old and her daddy had done everything he could to make it a Christmas like he had always imagined he would have when he became a father. But, there was no one to buy him gifts so baby Ava and I went shopping. Everything she touched or smiled at I bought. He got a lego set, a pink polo shirt and, if I remember correctly , a gazing ball for the back yard. And so it began, the yearly Christmas shopping trip with our girl. When we went back to her house last week to wrap the presents she wrapped and bagged and wrote the tags. She looked at me and said, “so which of these are you taking to your house?” and I explained that they were staying at her house for her to give to family. Her face broke a bit when she looked at me and said “wait, we’re not going to your house this year , you know to open all the presents and eat and everything?? the whole family?” As I explained to her that “Yes, of course you will all come to my house, you will bring your presents then, everyone will be there” — she smiled and continued her task. And I knew, without a doubt, that IT mattered, the yearly Christmas traditions that are so much work and go way too fast, that result in huge piles of paper and misplaced pieces — that I always wonder if the kids are coming to just to appease me — they matter to Ava, and probably to all of them.
This morning my son came to pick up a gift for Ava that had been delivered here.He walked in and surveyed the piles of gifts under the tree. He smiled and said, “All red and white paper this year! It looks like a giant candy cane, awesome.” And, again, IT mattered. The buying and wrapping, the clutter and ribbons, matter. A candy cane. 35 years old and he sees the Candy cane in a pile of Christmas gifts. It matters.
Two weeks ago the youngest, 30 years old, called to ask me what I was doing on Christmas Eve. Our Christmas celebrations depend on when Ava is in town and what years the oldest daughter has to go to New Jersey to celebrate with inlaws….so it was a fair question. I said “not sure, hanging out, maybe church.” She immediately suggested a “7 fishes” celebration at her house — just us and my mom , everyone else had plans. She and her husband could have planned any number of parties or events for them and their kids, but they chose to spend Christmas Eve with us, her parents. It matters. All the years of gathering the family together at our house to play Christmas carols and open gifts, to eat and sometimes drink too much…matter. And, when it came to be her turn and she finally had a house big enough to feel comfortable entertaining in — It mattered. Then when her brother called to tell us what time his Christmas Eve celebration was starting, we all adjusted times so we could do both. and the traditions will continue. IT matters.
On the 18th. all the kids and all the spouses and all 7 grandchildren gathered at oldest daughter’s house to bake cookies. They do it every year, sometimes not everyone can make it, but this year it was full out everyone. Sprinkles and dough, ovens dinging and me and George just standing there grinning. It matters. All the years of gathering them in the kitchen and baking cookies and breads matter. And now, they continue it with their children, and since they are lucky enough to have siblings that they love, they do it together, bringing those cousins together to build memories.
I wonder sometimes if their dad and I are burdens, or insignificant in their lives, but this season has reminded me that it matters. We matter.
Merry Christmas everyone.