December 5, 2008 by Judith Liebaert
When my children were little, Christmas time was a flurry of decorations, school and church programs, baking and making presents. The budget was tight and shopping was last on the list. My first Christmas as a newly wed, I purchased cheap paper doilies and with a little bit of folding and tape, turned them into three-dimensional ornaments for our tree.
When the youngest was in grade school, her teacher sent home a blank cut-out of a huge Christmas stocking. We were instructed to decorate it in a way that represented our family. Out came the shoe box of photos from over the years. Before long both of her sisters, much older than she and far too teen-jaded for warm-fuzzy family fun, had joined us at the table strewn with scissors, glue, ribbon and glitter. We spent the entire evening cutting and pasting our family history onto that poster-board stocking.
Those were the days!
My children, of course, have different memories. Such as the first year I won the battle over harvested tree versus artificial tree. Every December their father and I zipped ourselves into snowmobile suits, trekked out into our wooded acreage and cut down a tree. The first year, I was 9-months pregnant, hiking through snow up to my thighs and wondering if I’d be giving birth in the back forty. By the tenth year, it just wasn’t fun anymore.
So I over-ruled the majority and purchased our first artificial tree. After it was assembled and decorated my middle daughter said, “It’s just not Christmas.” I’d argued this point with her father one too many times and I didn’t appreciate her coming in on his side. I restrained myself from choking the little Benedict Arnold and she concluded, “Mom isn’t cussing a blue streak about the lopsided tree with bare spots and Dad isn’t hiding out watching the football game on TV”.
Now my children are all grown up and each of them, in their own way, hates Christmas. They can’t afford gifts – that stresses them out. They have too many obligations (multi generations of blended families) – that stresses them out. They don’t see eye to eye with each other’s spouses and significant others – that stresses them out. They would prefer that Christmas come and go without them – and that stresses me out.
For too many years now, I have been spending the weeks before Christmas turning myself inside out and upside down in an attempt to deliver a Christmas holiday that everyone will enjoy. I do this mostly for my husband, whose only wish is to have all of our children and grandchildren in the same place on the same day for a family holiday. After many failed attempts, I have one thing to say. Good luck on that.
As for me, my idea of the perfect Christmas would be making homemade decorations and gifts – from the sea shells I gathered at the beach, attending sunrise services – on the pier, baking – clams, crab and lobster in the sand and sending postcards in lieu of Christmas greetings – Wish you were here! Hope you can join us next year.
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