Friday, December 30, 2011

True Christmas Spirit

            “How many cookies have you had!?” I asked abruptly.
            Celia pulled her hand back from the big colorful plate and looked at me seriously. “One.”
            I chuckled, looked at my friend, and raised my shoulders. What do you say to that? “Okay, go ahead.”
            Granted, at that time she may have only eaten one, but judging by the sugar coma she had an hour later, I’d say she probably ate half a dozen by the end of the party.
            Christmas is a joyous time for our household. We have many traditions and throw some great parties. Even though we didn’t make a single dessert of any sort, we ended up with mountains of treats in the house, expanding our bellies and transforming our children into hyperactive bees.
            Back in the day, my parents’ gave us dozens of memorable traditions around Christmas – crafting gingerbread houses from scratch, caroling to friends the night before, opening presents one at a time so everyone could appreciate them, a large buffet of food to share with friends, lots of singing and family time. It makes sense that I’d want a lot of the same experiences for my own kids.
            But recreating experiences for our children is always sure to be only partially successful. Those who were the kids before are now the adults, and they somehow seem to spoil everything.
            We did make gingerbread houses on the morning of Christmas Eve. My brother showed up with the baked gingerbread, and we involved our kids as well as we could, creating delightful little cottages with bright trimming and a skier daring to swoosh upon one rooftop. We ran out of frosting so my mom made more, using raw egg whites.
            Later that evening we had a grand old time dragging our kids out in the snow for Christmas carols to a few friends’ houses. But my brothers both skipped out to work at their restaurant, and instead of the big feast we’ve shared with other families for the last few decades, my kids got hungry so intensely and drastically we had to pack up and go home for a quick meal, and then bedtime.
            Christmas morning I felt queasy, but we packed up the kids and headed to the grandparents’. There were carols, presents, and a breakfast feast, but by noon I was feeling wiped out.
            “I need to lie down,” I told Michelle.
            We packed up the kids and headed home so everyone could take a nap. I snuggled into pajamas, and slept instantly.
            The food poisoning really kicked in when I woke up. I sent Michelle back to the grandparents’ with the kids and lay on the couch clutching my stomach for the rest of the day. The whole time I sat in the living room, all the bright new toys stared at me.
            How did we end up with so many toys this year? I thought we were being more careful not to succumb to the consumerism our culture pushes on us – so what happened?
            I guess, if we trace the lineage of each toy, they all make sense in their own way, but I started feeling a bit like a Christmas scrooge on that couch – belly aching, missing out on the big Christmas feast, all alone, and surrounded by a bunch of plastic meaningless “stuff” that’ll eventually take up space in some landfill.
            But then I closed my eyes and reflected on what Christmas is all about – the birth of a special child to a homeless family, living life on the run, in fear of their life and living in abject poverty. Not a fluffy red-garbed elf.
            A little perspective does wonders to a persons’ spirit. I suddenly felt utterly thankful for my two little ones, my loving wife, and palatial home.
            So, with my belly aching and my heart full, I sang one last Christmas carol before taking another nap. Christmas didn’t go as planned, but at the end of the day I’m thankful I did get to feel even a tiny bit of that true Christmas spirit.

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