Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas Memories

It’s funny... thinking about Christmas past...  most overall memories aren’t that good.  Not that I had bad holidays - but I kept expecting Norma Rockwell and getting Armageddon.  I kept thinking that if I did this right, my family would turn into the Waltons.  Obviously, most of my memories are filled with the powerless child who had unrealistic impossible expectations.... and the supermom who must fulfill them.  Most Christmases had a serious meltdown in the middle of them!

As a child, Christmas was always exciting... but I always had a knot in my stomach waiting for something bad to happen.. for lots of typical familial dysfunctional reasons that we all experience (!) and because when I was very young, my father had heart surgery in December.  After that, December was check-ups and missing parents along with the annual Christmas BLUR of activities.  My parents protected me from knowledge though - so I didn't know about the WORRY for my father... I knew about my parents' absence.  And, because parents are all powerful, it had to be voluntary.   I got the wrong message!

As an adult, I spent a good bit of time as a single parent, fearful of making ends meet and being able to provide a good holiday spread.  Everything we bought from October on ended up in the Christmas pile.  Nothing made me feel more accomplished than a huge pile of presents under the tree.  Nothing made me feel more inadequate than NOT being able to provide what "everyone else" was providing their kids.  And I was always glad when it was over so I could get back to business and begin to dig myself out of the debt hole.

And then there is early marriage experiences where my husband’s and my experience and expectations were completely different.... LOTS of friction there!  (You know - like feeling unloved or unappreciated when I didn't get a gift.... you know the "poor me" feeling, I know you do!)

There were always those warm fuzzy moments.... those first few moments of a family gathering when you were actually glad to see people .... you know – BEFORE you remembered why you didn’t see each other by choice all year long. 

There was the attendant childhood excitement of all the baked goodies.  AND the adult excited dreams about MAKING them (I say dreams because MY cooking realities never matched the dreams!)

There’s that quiet moment when the kids finally go to sleep before you & Captain Morgan spend the next 6 (or 2) frantic hours trying to pull off that morning miracle. 

And, my personal favorite... Christmas night.. when the hoopla ends.

My past few Christmas memories are much better. 
        *Our focus is enjoying the season and each other. 
        *The focus in my family is no longer on the gift – and my last two children have never expected a lot of material presents.  I take full responsibility for this... if you buy into the culture.... you buy into the materialism.  I firmly believe this.. that is why I harp so much on taking charge of the season!  It is too easy to get swept away by the tide of the culture.

       *My adult children do a small gift card exchange where they draw names, get a gift card for the person and wrap it in an interesting way.

       *As a group, we do a white elephant sort of exchange of things we already own that we don’t use any more.  This is always fun :-)

      * This year, one of my kids made a donation to a charity in my name - LOVED this!  A win-win all around :-)

I feel like the past few years have been my best Christmases ever - because I have taken charge... I have made choices and rolled with them.  I still worried a bit because it "feels" like I didn't do enough - but when I got to the finish line, it was more than good.  (And THAT recognition / experience is golden because I will hold that success in my heart for NEXT year and be able to enjoy even more!)  I LOVE chalking up another holiday without a meltdown :-)

** Sometime I will write some small vignettes of specific Christmases... there are great stories once I get past memories of my own frantic meltdowns that spoiled everything for everybody..  the unhappy memories are the most forefront right now because of my personal proactive work on taking charge of my holidays (and improving my life!)**

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