This morning I woke up to find that the bipolar weather fairy of St. Louis has given us our first real snow. It’s gorgeous, of course, and I found myself singing, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…” against my will. And then I realized that it is only my conditioning that makes me resent having carols stuck in my head. You see, I have been surrounded by grinches ever since I became a card-carrying member of the adult community. And it’s, like, bringin’ me down, man.
When I was a little girl, Christmas was fantabulous. I was an only child and I was not afraid to make a Christmas list…unlike my son who has this ego-shrinking opinion that we have everything we need. I always made out every Christmas, but it isn’t the gluttony satisfied that I remember fondly. It was the tradition that went along with it.
On Christmas Eve we would usually have people over for dinner, and then we would sit by the fire and open a single present. We had bubble lights on the tree, and the animals would by this point already have tinsel in their poop. A big, natural wreath would be over the mantel and the whole house had that calming woodsy smell.
On Christmas morning, I would wake at 12:01am (okay not really, but close) and go and wake the parental units who would gamely rouse themselves to deal with the enthusiasm of a redheaded child on Christmas morn.
The first thing that would happen would be that I was sent to my room…grounded until everything downstairs had been set up just so. My dad would turn on all the Christmas lights (giving the old bubble lights a chance to percolate prettily) and he would light a fire. There would be homemade hot chocolate for me and the nut bread that Marjorie always made for Christmas morning would be sliced and waiting.
The presents would be fluffed up to achieve maximum wow factor and the stockings were usually so obese and heavy that they had their own seats on the couch. Marjorie would put on some classical Christmas music and at this point, I was allowed to stop my pacing and yelling, “Is it ready yet?” and come downstairs to gorge on Christmas.
Now you may think that it was cruel to make me wait like that. But I loved it. I was certainly able to go downstairs before waking the adults and snoop all I wanted. But it was pure magic to come downstairs to the whole Christmas setting…I wouldn’t have changed anything. I’ve always loved tradition, I’ve always loved drawing out wonderful feelings and events. It was pure magic and I pretended to believe in Santa a lot longer than I actually did because I wanted everything to stay the same…I enjoyed putting out cookies and milk for my dad, and I’m sure it didn’t bother him, so who did it hurt?
Then….I got older. My parents no longer felt it necessary to make me wait while the scene was set. It could have something to do with the fact that as a teenager, I slept until noon on Christmas anyway. Eventually, I turned into an adult and Christmas lost some of its sparkle. Suddenly, Christmas was costing me money (and I never really had any) and wrapping presents became an arse pain, as did finding that perfect Christmas card out of the crap supply that was left on Christmas Eve.
Then came Eben. Suddenly Christmas was magic again. His first Christmas involved him sleeping through most of it, and it took us 40 hours to unwrap presents that might as well have been given to him in August. He didn’t care. But I did! Christmas was back!
So I have gamely tried to restore the magic of Christmas for my son ever since. I have tried to recreate the setting my parents laid out for me, and I was lucky enough to have a fireplace available to me. I bought him way too many presents and fluffed them out. As a result, I’m stuck with a kid who insists that he doesn’t want to be “so spoiled” at Christmas anymore. Argh. And I mean “argh” in a “I love my old-soul child” sort of way. The cool thing is that he still likes the rest of it…the lights, the carols, the opening of a single present on Christmas Eve. Spending time with family, having cheese and crackers laid out, giving hugs and kisses and thanks for even tiny stocking stuffer presents. This will be the first year that my dad won’t have an animal to adorn with leftover bows and ribbons, but I’m keeping this upbeat, damnit.
Anyway…my friends seem to want to be grinches. Eric was the biggest Scrooge I have ever met in my life and it took all of my power not to want to hang myself with garland when he was around. To be fair, he was in vet school for a lot of it, and finals were happening around the same time that the “must buy presents” pressure was put on everyone. I don’t blame him for being resentful. But stop scowling when Christmas carols come on! Stop boycotting Christmas lights! For me! But, no, he was unwavering in his hatred for all things Christmas. He even wrote a letter to Stop and Shop complaining about their decorations being put up too early (and they are, really, but still…)
This year, Eben being gone has thawed out Ericneezer. On our upcoming visit to the Cape, he will have a tree and he will even decorate his house with Christmas lights! Talk about the magic of Christmas! I’m so excited!
As for me, I am taking Eben on a tour of Christmas lights in St. Louis (another family tradition that really didn’t work out once on Cape Cod), and I will be putting Christmas lights up outside even though I will only be here for a week and Jamie is against it. I will fight against the tyranny of grinchdom! I will play Christmas carols in the car…even when Misha is there! I will throw snowballs at anyone who tries to stop me (at least until next week when it goes up to 80* or whatever)! I will throw snowballs at my dog just because he likes it. And I will put “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” in everyone’s head this year. Without shame.
I still have no money. I’ve crafted almost every present I will give this year. And I don’t care if I get a damn thing. I’m going to be with family and my kid will be glowing with happiness just to be around the people that he loves that will put up Christmas lights they morally disagree with…just to make him smile.
I have more blessings this year than presents. Christmas isn’t just about commercialism, so turn off your TV and squeeze the ones you love. Or blast them with a snowball. Whatever. Merry Christmas!