So, This Was Christmas

Photo of a Christmas basket gifted to my parents years ago

This year’s Holiday season found us in a strange, in-between place. It’s a place in which we’re sort of getting back to normal, but not really, a place in which you can do all of the things that you used to do, you’re just not sure if you should do them. Add to that the fact that we just bought a house in October and are still doing some renovations, and our already tenuous grasp on Christmas tradition has proven to be sand slipping through our fingers.

I was particularly detached this year, which is something that I lament. Karen handled all of the gift choices except for my helping the girls pick gifts for her, and my own gifting was…lackluster. Which is fine, because I feel like I didn’t receive that one cool gift, either…well, maybe one…so it evens out. After all, we reasoned, we did just buy a house.

I remember going home for Christmas one year in grad school. I arrived on Christmas Eve. The lights and decorations were, as always, impressive, bordering on overwhelming, as is my mother’s reputation for Holiday decor. Instead of that Christmas Eve mystery, however, Dad had already gone to bed…his health was beginning it’s downward trend even then…and Mom was doing dishes. The invasion of the normalcy was almost violent, so different from the magic of my childhood.

This was Christmas?

Karen and I stayed up late on Christmas Eve this year, baking and cleaning. There was, once again, no travel on our schedule, which was at once as relaxing as it was depressing. I made sure, keeping with the history of that surprise that greeted me one Christmas morning, that “Father Christmas” had eaten one of the cookies that the girls had left for him, conspicuous crumbs and a half-empty glass of milk staged for effect.

We were rewarded all too early on Christmas morning to the sounds of our excited 5-year-old charging down the hall and exclaiming, “Santa was here!” I managed to stall long enough to get a cup of coffee, and the shredding of wrapping paper commenced.

And, then, by 10:00, it was over, and I thought, this was Christmas?

I think forward to all of the Christmas mornings that the girls will have in this house, and I took some photos of the disarray that followed gift-opening, because I want to remember. None of my adult Christmases have been what my childhood Christmases were…and none of them will be. I don’t want us to focus on the materialism of the event in any case, but how easily our reading of the Christmas story by light of the final Advent candle on Christmas Eve is eclipsed by the excitement of the following morning.

It’s nothing like the past, but I hope that, in intentionally remembering, some of the magic might return, for the girls at least, if not for me. I want them to experience all of those amazing memories with which I was blessed in my own childhood, to look back when they are my age and remember a handful of Christmas mornings so vividly that it feels like they’re there again. I have no idea what will make that connection for them, so I’m just trying.

Hopefully something sticks. And they will remember.

After all, this was Christmas.

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