I’ve always loved Christmas. When my four kids were little I think I got more excited than they did, if that’s possible. Christmas Eve was my favorite day of the year. So much anticipation in the air!
I searched for perfection. The perfect gifts, perfect tree, perfect Christmas dinner. I have an old photo of three of my four kids posing for the perfect Christmas card picture. I had them dressed in coordinating Christmas-colored outfits and I had a red bow around my big toe, which was sticking out of a walking cast propped up on a footrest.
Perfect. Except that both girls had big frowns on their faces. They didn’t like my choice of enforced attire; didn’t want to pose for a picture–and my prodding only made it worse. So there we sat, me and my cast, the two pouters, and a what’s-all-the-fuss-about toddler in my lap.
When the older three were grown and gone, and I was down to just the fourth child and no more husband, I made a big deal out of Christmas Eve. We had a special dinner for just the two of us in the dining room instead of the kitchen, with a million-dollar view of the neighbors’ extravaganza of lights, while Alvin and the Chipmunks belted out “The Twelve Days of Christmas” on the stereo. Later that night, hot chocolate and Christmas stories. Pretty perfect, actually.
And, then, there was the Christmas my father was dying of cancer. I shook my fist at the gods and decorated the house for my annual holiday dinner with a vengeance. It was as if I thought I could cancel out the gloom in my heart with each poinsettia and bough of holly and candy cane. It almost worked.
But times have changed. Since then, as my family has dispersed itself hither and yon, and the older generation has passed away, I’ve begun to celebrate quieter Christmases. There’s a time for all seasons, and a time for new traditions. Now my tree is tiny and I put out just a fraction of the holiday folderol I used to, and Christmas mornings are spent walking through the neighborhood while families with children tear open their packages like mine used to.
I just don’t have the desire to devote the whole month of December to Christmas anymore. Others can start decking the halls right after Thanksgiving, but two weeks of Christmas is enough for me. I yearn for simplicity these days. The hyper-anticipation and hunt for perfection seems to have slipped away with my youth. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Perfection eluded me most of the time anyway. If I had it to do over, I’d let my girls pick out their own Christmas outfits, even if they were mismatched. Maybe they’d have had smiles on their faces!