This will most likely be my last post of the year, as today is my last day of work. After today, I become a SAHM for two weeks--a baking, cooking, cleaning, resting, baby-kissing SAHM. I am really looking forward to it. Mostly because I feel like I just need it. Just need the time to recenter and help my house recenter and enjoy my kids. I am also taking this time away from the internet--sure, I'll check Facebook every now and again, but I really want to refocus my efforts on something that doesn't involve a screen.
Unless my husband buys me a new laptop. In that case, I'll be on here 24/7, Twittering blandly about minutiae (Just had some pancakes....mmmmmmm......).
At any rate, the time has come, the walrus said, for a warm and fuzzy holiday post. Despite the fact that Christmas is in winter and that I have come to hate winter with a fiery hate that knows no bounds, I do love me some Christmas. (If you celebrate something else, cool, I don't care. Whatever. But I celebrate Christmas, so this is the post for that.) Matt and I always get super excited about doing stuff for the kids and we decorate and we have all these hokey traditions about driving two hours to cut down our tree and what kind of coffee we drink when we stop by Starbucks when we are shopping and exactly when the gifts for the stockings are purchased (on the 24th--always on the 24th!). And there is copious amounts of food (which is a recurring theme if you are a regular reader of this blog) and we work extra special hard to be merry for a month, and all is well.
Growing up, I was the only child of divorced parents, which means, in layman's terms, that I got a SHIT TON of presents. Not only did I get two Christmases, on my mom's side, I was the only kid, so presents were like rain, ya'll. Little, sparkling drops of rain that fell from the heavens and lit up my life. I distinctly remember one Christmas having gotten so much stuff that it literally would not all fit in my room and my mom just gave up and put it all on the bed and I slept in the floor in a (new) sleeping bag. Of course, when you are a kid, this is what you remember--the presents but also, the overall magic of the season, the feeling of total and complete excitement. Sure, I remember the other stuff--drinking boiled custard out of pewter cups at my Aunt Cora's, the mounds of candy that my grandmom made and the way it made the house smell, my mom singing Christmas carols at the piano, my dad speeding down the mountain every Christmas Eve to get to my grandparent's house and making me car sick. But mostly I remember the magic, the thrill, the gobs and gobs of THINGS waiting on me to give them my attention, if for just a fleeting moment.
When I was 20, though, that all changed. My 20th year was the year that I moved into my own apartment, in Williamsburg, VA. It was my first apartment, and as first apartments go, was not a total pit. However, it was small, especially given the fact that it now housed me, Matt, Gabby, and a newborn Sam. Sam had been born in September, and I had taken two weeks off and then headed back to school. Life was, in short, hectic. I worked at a fine dining restaurant--lunch shifts on Saturday and Sunday and one dinner shift during the week, and went to school full time. Matt worked in the Modern Languages department, and went to school full time. We lived off of our small paychecks and student loans. We studied and worked almost constantly and as I sit here typing this, I have no idea how we even survived. But we did. We ate dinner every night around our tiny table, sitting in folding chairs, and we lived, we felt, like kings.
But then Christmas came. With exams and work and money and all of that, Christmas came, almost unbidden, almost unwanted. I remember my parents pleading with me to just come home after exams and let them buy for the kids and let them give us Christmas at home. But for some reason, I said no. I promised to leave Williamsburg the day after Christmas and come back home, but said I preferred to let the kids celebrate Christmas in their house, with Santa coming in their front door (no chimney!) and leaving gifts. I promised that we could do it. And somehow, bit by bit, we put together a Christmas that year. I have no idea how--couldn't tell you if you paid me. All I know is that somehow, we bought a tree (a fake one--no real trees in apartments) and some decorations, and slowly, despite everything, Christmas began to grow around us. I bought a ham with a gift certificate to the grocery store that we had gotten when Sam was born, Matt made innumerable batches of sugar cookies. We bought Sam a newborn Santa suit, size 3-6 months. We called him Samta and serenaded him with "Samta Baby." There were gifts that were wrapped and I could see that glow in Gabby's pre-school eyes when she looked at the tree and saw the gifts resting there.
But nothing, NOTHING could prepare me for the feeling I would get on Christmas Eve night that year. I talked to my dad's family on the phone--it was the first year that I would miss that tradition--and felt sad. Had I made the wrong decision? Should I have gone home? I remember talking to them and sitting on our couch as Matt wrapped more gifts in the floor. And when I got off the phone, and really felt at my lowest, Matt looked up and said, "Ok, let's go be Santa." So we pulled out the things we had gotten for the kids and surreptitiously placed them in front of the tree. We filled the stockings. We wrote a "convincing" note from Santa and took bites of cookies and milk. And then we sat down and looked around the apartment.
I can only describe it as magic. I felt so giddy at the thought of what we had accomplished, of what the kids would think in the morning. I felt like laughing and crying and screaming and whatever else. Matt just kept taking pictures of the tree and the presents, pictures that I look at every year still and one of which is sitting on our mantle right now. We were so proud, so incredibly proud.
And I realized that the magic that you feel at Christmas when you are a kid, the magic that keeps you up at night with excitement, that magic lives in us all. And that sounds horribly cheesy, and yes, I know that, but that magic is amazing. And it helps you do things that you never thought you could and that, well, you probably should never have been able to do, to be honest. That magic helps push you when otherwise you would have had enough and makes you into something better than yourself. Christmas is the time for that.
It is my sincerest hope that this is a magical and wonderful time for you and your family. May you eat lots of wonderful food, may you receive at least one thing that you adore, and may you give gifts to those around you that enrich their, and your, life with love and excitement.