This year Christmas seems a little less Bing Crosby to me and a lot more Joni Mitchell. Instead of dreaming of a White Christmas I am wishing for a river I could skate away on. Christmas is clobbering me. Let me rephrase that, Christmas is beating the holy living shit out of me.
I’m not normally like this. I am usually the poster child for Christmas cheer. I have normally watched/recited “Elf” twenty times by now. Wept over the dinner scene in “The Family Stone” at least three times and watched “Love, Actually” a few times in spite of it being a terrible movie. I normally have holiday music going from November 1st on. My trees (yes, we have multiple trees in our home – like 5 – shut up, some are small) are up and decorated before Thanksgiving. Though I do graciously wait until the day after Thanksgiving to put up the outside lights and décor. I usually have detailed shopping lists with check marks and budgets all designed with festive fonts and clip art. On any other year, I would have done my first batch of holiday cookies, prepped gifts for neighbors and teachers and basically have been the holiday cheermister to shame all other holiday cheermisters. But this year it is just not happening. This year, my heart is shrinking instead of expanding.
I keep waiting for some holiday cheer to wash over me. I am ready to be baptized in tinsel and gingerbread. I keep waiting for it to feel like it is SUPPOSED to feel. But right now, it feels like Christmas has become that one guy you dated in college. You know the one who was SUCH A GREAT GUY but you just couldn’t love him. Yeah, Christmas is that guy this year. Christmas is stressing me out, making me question my sanity and leaving me feeling empty and vaguely sad. That’s not how Christmas is supposed to make you feel. Christmas is supposed to be, as my favorite Christmas song so helpfully points out, THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR! But what if it’s not? What if your year sucked so hard that you almost didn’t believe it could suck so bad, and then that really sucky year just went right on ahead and made for a really sucky Christmas? Even worse, what if it is your second (or third, or fourth) really sucky holiday in a row? How the hell are you supposed to manage something like that?
My kids are older now, and expect stuff. They keep talking about our traditions and I have looked at them more than once and said, “What are you talking about?” My daughter, precocious and easily aggravated at my short memory reminds me that Santa brings tooth brushes and video games or movies in their stockings. That we make gingerbread houses on Christmas Eve. That daddy puts the Christmas songs in the piano and we dance. I smile at her and think, “Oh my god, that all sounds exhausting.” I have hardly bought anything because my kids aren’t wanting for a single thing. Their room is bursting as it is, and I have been quietly throwing crap away while they are at school. The idea of bringing more stuff into the house makes my stomach turn. They haven’t even noticed the stuff I’ve gotten rid of – why do they need more?
I find myself lying awake at night thinking, how can I make Christmas magical without making Christmas a huge deal? I realize I brought this on myself. I realize I was trying to give my kids what I didn’t have and in the process I spoiled the shit out of them and made them ungrateful for the amazing stuff they have. I realize that I’m the one who is hell bent on Santa and cookies and holiday cards and all the rest. But somehow it just all snuck up on me this year. Christmas surprised me like an unexpected guest surprises you when your house is a freaking disaster. A panicked mixture of “HELLO!” and “HOLY SHIT!” with the bulk of your emotions being the latter. The thing is, I don’t want my emotions about my favorite holiday to be so tainted. I don’t want my kids to see how stressed out I am about stuff. I don’t want to be this stressed out, but it is what it is.
This is my Christmas wish: I just want, more than anything, a moment of pure Christmas magic. I want a moment that doesn’t have anything to do with gifts or packages. I want just one moment of wonder. I want a moment that catches in my chest and then spreads through me like fire. I want to look at my children and not see ungrateful brats, but magical creatures I created. I want my husband to gather me up in his arms and hold me tight because I am his best gift. I want the overwhelming stress of my life to melt away for a few minutes of unadulterated joy. I want to laugh really, really hard with people I love. I want happiness in spite of some really difficult stuff. I guess what I really want is a Christmas miracle and enough hope and faith to believe such a thing exists.