I do not think it’s a foreign concept that the purpose of the holiday season is to give your heart, your efforts, and your gifts to those in need and to those you love. As a Christian, I’m aware of the reason for the season. We all know it’s not about how many presents are under the tree, and I know that gifts are not a measurement tool to gauge my love for someone. It’s the gesture that counts, etcetera-etcetera. Yet, year after year, I read and hear people are overwhelmed with the pressures of creating the best Christmas. Sometimes I have fallen into that category and felt hollow inside. No doubt that was why How the Grinch Stole Christmas, A Christmas Carol, and It’s a Wonderful Life were my favorite Christmas stories. As a kid I loved Christmas time. I have fond memories stringing popcorn on thread, making sugar cookies, watching Christmas shows, reading stories, and guessing what my presents under the tree were. What happened?
The culprit behind the transformation into a scrooge is that as an adult, you are in charge of Christmas. You have to manage Christmas. Financing, acquiring, inventorying, wrapping, distributing, sorting, chronicling, prepping, cooking, cleaning, transporting, parking, refereeing —why? Because you are in charge of creating memories. Putting on a holiday season is a grand production requiring skills equivalent to a stage manager of a NYC musical. These tasks are done in the name of love. It is satisfying to give your energy and effort toward creating beautiful memories. If you don’t try to make events special for your loved ones, then who will? But if you aren’t careful, the tasks of love become a chore and the gift of love alters into something less than holy. Before you know it, you’re wishing for the curtain call instead of reveling in the performance.
My daughter is in her 20s and expecting her first child. She is staying with me until Amelia arrives and her husband returns from his Navy deployment at sea. Soon she will be moving back to the Seattle area taking my granddaughter with her. This makes her time with me precious, for what is the likelihood we will be paired up for the holiday season again? Without saying it, both of us know this is one unique Christmas. Simultaneously, we add gesture after gesture to our days in December while both of us are on our best behavior. We celebrates us, mother and daughter. She looks at me and sees herself in her future with Amelia. She is about to say goodbye to her mother and become one.
Only a few more weeks left to be her mother. I make my daughter dinner and we eat together. I make up her bed with clean sheets. We thumb through cookbooks and I try to impart how to cook cheaply and easily for her new family. We try out recipes. She wants to go to mass with me. We try the Saturday vigil instead of the Sunday morning ceremony where our attendance has been sketchy. The mass in the evening is more intimate and glowing. We like it; we give thanks and pray, and it feels good. At home in the evenings, we compromise on the music and I play Jazz Christmas tunes while we wrap presents. We rehang the balls that fell off the tree because the dog whipped his tail and sent them across the room. We’ve been revisiting Christmas movies.
We both love the romantic comedy, Love Actually. It stars many of my favorite British actors, and they are hilarious. Watch this one if you need a diversion from the cutesy and corny. It’s Rated R and for adult viewing. The best part of the movie is the ending song and the shots of ordinary people timed to the repetition of one repeating verse from the Beach Boys, “God only knows what I’d be without you.”
Today, my daughter made sugar cookies while I was at work. She filled up twelve bags and tagged along with our high school group, Interact Club, a community service, Rotary affiliated club for which I am the teacher sponsor. We took our presents and headed to the nursing home and honored the veterans. They all knew we were coming. They had on their veteran hats and smiled when we arrived. As we handed them a gift and card, you should have seen the proud WWII vet who had survived the Normandy invasion. His lips trembled and he kept reading his card, looking at the signatures. I enjoyed the sprightly 91 year old Navy nurse who shared her experiences during WWII. “It was a great time for me. I’m glad I did it.” They became for me the twelve disciples. They were happy just because we touched their shoulders and shook their hands and thanked them for their service.
My Christmas angel carries my granddaughter and a bag of sugar cookies.