Had enough yet?
Let’s talk about Christmas merriment, shall we? You know, the holly jolly elf-on-a-shelf-ridden clang that some find a little bit too much. Is it all necessary, really? Sometimes, all of this merry-making seems a little plastic. Like, is anybody really that cheerful at Christmas? Or we all trying to out-happy each other?
This year I’ve skipped cards and lights, and our tree is dropping needles like a needy stripper. We haven't finished our fireplace re-do, so drywall shows where the mantle should be and the stockings are lying in a pile on a nearby chair.
And I am totally fine with it. In fact, I am full of warm fuzzy Christmas sap. Really.
I.V. poles come with a dose of perspective
You see, a year ago today I was standing in a hospital hallway, listening to the attending physician talk to a dozen students about my son. It was their final chance to see a rare condition before we left for home later that day. We'd carried our boy in four days earlier with strange symptoms and lab results that his pediatrician “hadn’t seen anything like in over 20 years of practice”. By the time we left the hospital we had a terrifyingly vague idea of what we were dealing with and a referral to a specialist. Doctors told us that a specific diagnosis could take months.
Two mornings later I sat in our living room with only the Christmas tree lights on. Just out of sight at the top of the stairs, my children giggled and whispered while they woke each other up. I sat there on the couch with my coffee and soaked it all in.
It was one of the happiest moments of my life. And completely unexpected.
What I had expected was unbelievable stress, just like every other year of my adult life but more. Christmas craziness PLUS a 4-day hospital stay with a yet-to-be-diagnosed illness lurking over our heads? Most of our normal pre-holiday tasks didn’t happen. We didn’t make our traditional Christmas cookies. I’m pretty sure we didn’t go to any Christmas services. I think. It’s a blur.
But instead of stress, I experienced pure joy like I hadn’t felt since I was a child, backed up with a healthy dose of perspective. My children’s excitement spilled over and filled me up. Everything else sort of faded out. Some might say the peace of the Holy Spirit took over. I can’t explain why, but all of the other holiday happenings made me happy rather than stressed. I was so thankful we were home rather than in the hospital. It all seemed like one big gift.
Enter the Snowflake
Fast-forward one year. Everyone's healthy, but we’ve had to make some major adjustments to our lives. We’re still too busy and can’t get to everything. And like every other Christmas, there’s plenty of superficial busyness available for us to get distracted by.
And once again, I was reminded. Not by a medical crisis this time, but by a cookie.
The other day I pulled the tub of cookie cutters out of the basement in hopes of getting the kids motivated to DO something. For reference: they’re edging into teenager-hood, and two weeks prior I threatened tears in order to get them to decorate the tree. Not one of my prouder moments, but I use the skills I’ve got.
As I pilfered through the box of cookie cutters, I saw the giant Snowflake. This is the special cookie cutter I bought when the kids were tiny so we could make a showstopper Christmas cookie. The recipe was from Martha Stewart, if that gives you an idea of how cool and how much of a pain in the ass it was to make. But the kids loved to help. The cookies, wrapped in cellophane, made impressive gifts. Making them was super stressful, but it was worth it because of the memories I made with my children.
So when I saw the snowflake I waved it at my kids: “Guys, remember this?” I said with all the syrupy mommy nostalgia you can imagine.
My 11-year-old took one look at it and said, total deadpan, “Yeah. That’s the cookie cutter we used for making the cookies you wouldn’t let us eat.”
We’re not making those this year.
We did participate in our church’s scrappy little Christmas pageant. It was fun and imperfect and helped remind us what it’s all about. We’ve watched all of our favorite Christmas movies. We have a couple of surprises up our sleeves for those we love most. I should probably get around to wrapping presents in the next 48 hours, and I really wish I had sent out those Christmas cards. The rest of it might or might not happen. Who knows?