When you are young, and your children wrap themselves around you in excitement every time you even whisper Christmas, or Santa…you get lost in the magic, the anticipation, the stress that is Christmas with toddlers. As they grow up, you begin to marvel, or at least I did, in their creativity, their evergrowing list of “have to buy for” friends, their ability to believe, really BELIEVE that this guy is going to come down the chimney and bring the gifts they lust after. Because our children were so ready to embrace the magic, we built traditions: I swear I invented the Christmas elf, we chopped the tree, watched the shows, sang the songs. We attended, and they acted in, the Christmas pageant at Church, we baked cookies, made brunch, left milk and cookies, and later a carrot….we bought Christmas outfits, donned reindeer ears, lit the advent candles, hosted the Christmas Eve and the day after parties. We DID Christmas right around here. Effortlessly. Joyfully.
And then they grew up. Family members branched out and had other events to attend. The allure of Santa lost its magic and it became the “I want” game for a few years. We sang Christmas songs around the piano, went caroling, added Scrooged and “Ralphies Christmas” to our must watch 100 times in December list, listened to their band and chorus concerts. My kids always ALWAYS attended each other’s events — sitting in the front row smiling with pride. We still snuck into their rooms and put their stockings on their beds, still hid the gifts and refused to let them “pick out” their own presents. I let them taste the “special eggnog” and We continued to DO Christmas.
And then, one by one, they went to college, came home, moved out, got engaged, married and had babies (mostly in that order). I remember the first year no one was living home with us at Christmas. I dreaded Christmas Eve. They were coming here, and then they were leaving. LEAVING. to go to their own homes. Funny thing though. It was wonderful. They came, they laughed, ate, drank, opened their Christmas Jammies and then went their merry way. And I sat with a glass of “special eggnog” and congratulated myself on a job well done. They were grown.
Its been several years now since anyone woke up with my husband and me on Christmas morning. Several years since anyone searched daily for the elf, snuck around looking for their gifts. But, it doesn’t feel like anything is missing. Everything I do, every cookie I bake, or tree I decorate is overflowing with the memories and warm feelings that doing these things with my children evoked. As I watch, for the second time today, “Ralphies Christmas” (A Christmas Story) I can almost feel them sitting here with me, hear them laughing, see them draped across the floor. Christmas hasn’t lost its magic at all. the magic is right here, in the memories, the excitement of doing these same things with my 5, count em, 5 grandchildren, in the flannel shirt that I wrap for my son, or my careful attention to the “list” making sure the numbers match.
Man, I love Christmas. The miracle of Jesus’ birth and the miracle of the feelings it evokes just warms my heart.