Their Christmas lists hang on the refrigerator door complete with web addresses, color selection, and required sizes. The tree stands in the corner, unadorned, unlit; schedules have made finding time to decorate a challenge. The house across the street shines colorful and bright with multi-colored strands of lights, while ours remains dark. Santa isn’t coming this year and his absence has stolen the magic and joy from Christmas.
Presents will be purchased, wrapped, tagged, and bowed, but this year there is no need to have neighbors fill out gift tags. The youngest of my sons knows the truth and we don’t need to have Santa’s name forged. I listen to Christmas music on repeat, from the classics to contemporary, the jubilation won’t attach and my insides resemble deflated lawn ornaments.
I didn’t expect this to crush me. With a 15 year age span between my youngest and oldest, I’ve been blessed with 25 years of Christmas magic. My favorite Christmas mornings have been the ones where the sounds of my kids giggling and trying to read name tags has been my alarm clock. I’d creep into the living room, unobserved, and watch their faces light up as they located another package with their name on it. I’d watch them shake it, sometimes cringing and hoping I’d be able to find the receipt, but their innocence and joy was infectious, and the excitement and wonder of Christmas would fill me once again, giving me a taste of innocence I myself had lost long ago.
This year there is no need for secret shopping trips disguised as date night. We don’t have to wait up until the kids fall asleep and then scramble to wrap presents in wrapping paper they’ve never seen. We don’t have to put out a plate of cookies or a glass of milk and hope the dog doesn’t eat it. No, this year, we have to find devious places to hide presents, talk about realistic price ranges and debate why we’re not bringing in yet another gaming system. And this year, no one is excited about putting up the tree, decorating the house, or baking our annual cookies.
I moped around all last week grumbling about my family’s lack of interest in Christmas. I played the martyr and complained I’d end up doing all the work myself, and basically I sucked the remaining joy out of the Christmas season. My husband, knowing how much I love this time of year, seeing my state of emotions, and reading the first half of this letter, went and bought a giant lighted wreath for the front of the house. He hung it with the help of my youngest, and proceeded to order the boys to help me decorate. I loved the wreath, appreciated his sentiments, but belligerent helpers wasn’t quite what I had in mind. However, his act of kindness gave me the kick in the pants I needed to snap out of my mood. If my Jewish husband could go out and buy a wreath to bring the magic of Christmas to the house, then I could get my rear end in gear and start decorating, too.
The boys grumbled. Unpacking and hanging lights didn’t quite measure up to playing video games, but my husband must have said something meaningful because they were there, even if reluctantly. I turned on Christmas music and my husband poured eggnog, and spirits lifted. The boys scurried to get nails and a hammer, and my front porch and bannister soon sported a few hundred colorful lights. Oversized ornaments hung from golden ribbons thumbtacked to the roof of the porch, and blinking snowflakes finished the scene. Dusk had fallen and the boys let out a collective “cool” when my husband plugged in the cords.
In the house, we unpacked boxes of Christmas decorations and ornaments. The boys unwrapped each memory and held it up to the light. Each bauble had a story to tell, a breath of Christmas to share. They hung each moment on the tree. Every story had its own place; moments with nannies, favorite preschool teachers, and years when I stayed home. School pictures showing chubby cheeks stared out from popsicle stick frames. Kindergarten, First Grade, and the years written on each. Each branch held an ornament or two by the time we finished and every face held a smile.
I found an extra box filled with clear lights and both boys jumped up, begging to hang them in their own bedrooms. I smiled as my answer was greeted with “Awesome!” and my youngest hugged me and whispered, “I love Christmas.” They grabbed the hammer and thumbtacks and framed their bedroom doors and windows. They shut off their bedroom lights and sat in the glow of Christmas.
We didn’t lose our Christmas magic. I was looking for it in the wrong place. Maybe we don’t have Santa this year, but we have memories. We have years of shared Christmases, years of traditions, and years ahead of us to create even more. And, since there’s an age gap of 15 years between my oldest and my youngest, grandkids can’t be too far off in the future and Santa will find his way back to my house once more.
For more thoughts on Christmas, visit our guest Shani’s post here.