Day by Day: Come Christmas, there’s some Scrooge in all of usThe Christmas column falls to me this year and it is pressure I just don’t need. On the other hand, it might be just the thing to shake me loose from the tension of all those little things left to do and the knowledge that a lot of them won’t happen and to appreciate, instead, the bigger picture.
By: Meg Heaton, Hudson Star-Observer
The Christmas column falls to me this year and it is pressure I just don’t need. On the other hand, it might be just the thing to shake me loose from the tension of all those little things left to do and the knowledge that a lot of them won’t happen and to appreciate, instead, the bigger picture. To that end I find myself channeling Ebenezer Scrooge, examining Christmas past, present and future.
My Christmas past is a lot like Scrooge’s. My mother loved Christmas and worked hard to see that my seven brothers and sisters had a truly wonderful time every Christmas Eve opening gifts and eating food we didn’t usually see the rest of the year.
But note, I said eight kids. My mother spent the whole year buying gifts and squirreling them away into that seemingly bottomless closet in her bedroom. We would occasionally tunnel into it when she and my dad were out delivering eggs but she had us convinced that if we crossed that line, whatever was in there for us just might end up in the hands of pagan babies in Africa. Along with the ritual was one that occurred almost annually every Christmas Eve. As Mom proudly perused the fruits of her year-long efforts, she invariably would gasp, jump up and head for her closet to retrieve one or more gifts even she forgot were in there and that we believed was on its way to Africa.
Our Christmas tree was very “Charlie Brown” before anyone ever heard of a Charlie Brown tree. Somehow they always looked much fuller out in the woods. Fortunately we had these very large colored Christmas balls that had each of our names on them in glitter. They were made all the more special because Mom made them and she was not the kind of woman you would consider “crafty.” That said, it isn’t exactly true that everybody had a big ball with their name on it. By the time my last two brothers arrived, Mom didn’t have time to be crafty and they went ball-less. I suspect they got more gifts to make up for it.
Christmas, like the rest of the year around our house, meant food but at the holidays there were things we rarely ever saw — like potato chips and dip and Hawaiian punch spiked with ginger ale. I remember clearly the year my mother brought out the onion dip for the first time. It changed my world. I also remember the first time my young son discovered it and promptly told me it was the best recipe I’d ever made. It continues to be a favorite for both of us.
As I wrote out some cards this weekend, I was reminded of the year my mom allowed me to help with her cards and I managed to stick about 40 – 4 cent stamps on the flap side of the envelope. We were pulling those stamps free and reusing them for the rest of the year.
Christmas present is pretty good all in all. The kids will be home, they are well and both in love. Good for them. As for me, I am just about over the aches and pains that come with going up and down a step ladder to hang lights, standing on your feet all weekend making cookies and chocolate sauce and cheese balls (without the missing Kraft Roka Blue), and the headache that comes with trying to figure out which credit card still has room on it.
It also occurs to me that come Christmas morning it won’t be just the four of us but at least one of the kids’ significant others will likely be there as well. That means it will no longer be acceptable to roll out of bed, make the coffee and plop unwashed, uncombed and unbrushed in my favorite chair till the chaos dies down. No, this year I have to give some serious thought to personal hygiene and some new PJs that won’t embarrass any future in-laws. Bah-humbug!
And although I swore it would never happen, I wrote a Christmas letter this year – not the nice, little personal one I have in the past, but one of those generic ones that end up like lists of things people probably already know or could maybe care less about. That’s harsh but that’s Christmas present for you.
As for the future, I don’t know why I’ve been thinking about it but I have. I actually like decorating the house — everything, including me, looks better in the colored light of the tree and lots and lots of candles. My sister, who is a decorating aficionado, has had to make some adjustments this year to accommodate her one-year-old grandson. I found myself thinking about what it would be like once that happens at our house.
The window display is done. A kid could do serious harm there. Maybe I could make something work with colored Tupperware. And all those candles would like have to go or go up very high. I’m thinking there will likely be a sugar limitation imposed and wine may even have to be rationed. I likely won’t be able to make it up a step ladder to hang the lights. Maybe I could just line the driveway or attach strings of them to a Frisbee and throw them up and over the trees.
I think the best advice I ever got about this season was from a psychologist I interviewed about holiday stress years ago. He said to “lower your expectations.” It’s good advice for Christmas past, present or future.