Monday, December 22, 2008

Ho ho hold on a minute

Cue the music: "It's the most wonderful time of the year." And it's one of the craziest. Regardless of how much planning I do, how much ahead of time finding and wrapping and making, I am invariably behind. It's like a rule of nature.

Of all my lists (and there are many), my list of Christmas projects is usually the longest, and the most involved. And every year, I fail to complete about 50% of it.

I should put it on the calendar:
December 19th: Have a small breakdown because today you will realize the "great Christmas list" will not be finished. Feel sad, feel overwhelmed. Worry about how Christmas will not happen because of incompleted (fill in blank here).

I know I'm not alone in feeling the pressure to "make" a good Christmas for our family. The holidays do indeed conjure ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future.

For me, the ghosts of Christmas past seem to urge me to control every element of the whole season with deadly earnestness. As one might guess from my accounts of my own childhood holiday seasons, parts of my childhood were chaotic. Christmas was, for most years, a fun though limited blip on the screen of our family, something to be experienced in its entirety in the space of 36 hours, including the decorating, cooking, and gift-preparation. I am the cliche of the rebellious adult child, and I have shaped my own family life in the mirror image of the compressed holiday. Ours is a lingering, slow experience, with presents or small advent events each day of December. It sounds lovely, and it is. But I've also fooled myself into thinking that the perfect Christmas is a handmade Christmas, from the gifts to the decorations, And it's this misconception that gets me into trouble every single year.

Though I'm not sure you'd know it if you saw me, there is some part of me that shudders with fear at the thought of not making good on all my Christmas plans. Seriously, I quake at the thought of not finishing the stockings for each of us by Christmas eve. Where will Santa put his gifts? Never mind that we do have store-bought stockings that work quite well and look cute. I've dropped the ball--and I'm "ruining" Christmas.

Don't forget the handmade mouse (with babies), the flannel pjs and matching pillowcases, the embroidered felt ornaments for each of the girls, the collaged bookmarks for each of us, the gumdrop chain for the tree, the Santa outfit for Mr. Mouse, the Christmas pjs for Ada's babies, the matching Santa sacks for us to use each year, and the holiday skirt for Ada and the corduroy jumper for Esme. There is much more to add to this list, but I will stop boring you and overwhelming myself with it now.

This is where I stand today, and where I stand on so many Christmases, surveying all of the unfinished things, each in some form of progress, stacked around my studio and serving as reminders of my inadequacy. I just can't do enough.

But wait, I said I had conjured the ghosts of Christmas present and future, and this is what they tell me:
This whole month of December has been full, so full, of beautiful moments for our family. And there are gifts aplenty, even homemade ones, to give to our family. My husband would tell you, as sagely as Dickens' ghosts, that the best present I can give him and myself is to be present. For his ideal image of Christmas, I am calm and with them on Christmas eve, not fussing about the perfect wrapping, shiny bows and the best frosted cookies, etc.

The ghosts of Christmas future will forgive me if I don't finish all the great homemade projects. So will my kids. What they won't forget (or perhaps forgive) is the frantic and manic mommy that emerges on December 19th each year, fitfully aiming for a phantom ideal that eludes her each time.

I have made my lists, and the list is as long this year. But this year is different. This year, I give myself and my family a present of being. Just being, and being enough, too.

I'm signing off now to laze on the couch and watch Grinch with Ada, and then make messy, frosted cookies for Santa.

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1 comment:

La Belette Rouge said...

I read a study about children's memories in regards to holidays and rarely is it the presents or the homemade pj's they remember. It is the time spent with parents watching Christmas shows, stories told to them as they sipped cocoa and time together frosting cookies. The spirit of this years Christmas will long be remembered by your girls, I am sure of that.
Happy Christmas to you all.

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