Tuesday, November 25, 2008

What's your holiday mission statement?

I am sitting here, listening to the quiet sounds of my sleeping house. The soft glow of my newly hung Christmas lights have made this insomniac very happy. I am filled with fond and funny memories of Christmases past... And I have been able to reflect upon the sheer strength that a single day can hold.

Why is it, exactly, that the Christmas season is so stressful? So anticipated? So dreaded? So... Much? How does this time of year bring out the worst in people, when the entire purpose is the complete opposite?

Perhaps it is knowing that the memories our children will retain from their youth are scattered. How many of us can honestly remember more than a handful of "normal" days before we turned 8 or 9? I can bet you that most of us DO remember the holidays, though. The smell of my mom's lasagna or fried smelt on Christmas Eve... The feeling of walking into our finished basement and seeing the huge, old-fashioned lights glowing midst the heaps of tinsel... Seeing my grandpa (Papa) sleeping on our old black-leather chair, the baseball bat that he always teased he was going to whack Santa with (I know, crazy, right?) held loosely in his hands....Knowing that this day, this ONE day, would be documented with photos, video, and visiting relatives....

I believe it is our fear of our children not remembering the daily activities that we do with them, that stresses parents out at Christmas. I know that I have many memories of Christmases where things weren't so wonderful.

The year my Papa passed away, just a few days before Christmas. My sisters and I made most of that Christmas dinner ourselves, as our mom was planning her father's funeral...

The year all 3 of my children were sick, with Justin throwing up at the Christmas dinner table, Evan unconscious through the unwrapping of gifts and Corinne ending up in the emergency room from dehydration after deciding to quit nursing cold turkey and contracting the flu simultaneously...

Or the year they were all healthy the big day itself, but suffered for almost all of Christmas vacation with the flu....

But it's the good memories that outweigh the bad. It's watching my husband dance with our daughter by the light of the tree.

It's the ordinary days made into something special, just because it's December....

I am surely guilty of forgetting the purpose of the season, and focusing on the wrong things at Christmastime. I have fallen into the spend-spend-spend! trap. But the things that my kids really like about the holidays? The memories we have made with traditions that aren't expensive. Filling the house with lights and music. Tromping through a local tree farm together to pick out our tree. Decorating sugar cookies until the icing is properly coated with crunchy sweetness.

These are the special memories my kids already have. These are the things they are holding dear. All of the "perfect presents" bought with debt would never come close to the joy they will remember of spending time together, as a family.

This is my mission statement, this holiday season:

Create memories of love and joy, not clutter and debt.
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