Tuesday, December 30, 2014

So this was Christmas

It's two days before the end of this year and the beginning of the next and I'm finally pretty much over my pre-Christmas funk.

There was no real reason for the blues, but I felt a lot like Charlie Brown when he first bemoaned the lack of Christmas spirit, way back in 1965. Earbaby also said it didn't feel like Christmas, but she attributed it to the lack of snow. I attributed mine to a lack of sleep. With every day chock full of a to-do list before I start the second half of my day at work, I was seriously more sleep-deprived than ever before. I relied on sugar and caffeine to get me through the night working hours, only to be wide awake at 3 a.m., trying to sleep so I could get up and start my day again around 9 a.m. The few days off for the holidays were a welcome respite from the hamster wheel.

I didn't feel Christmas-y though. I waited until two days before Christmas Eve to start my shopping, relied on gift cards for my stocking stuffers and mailed my Christmas cards off in time to arrive before the New Year.

But it was a lovely holiday. EB got a chance to spend time with her cousins (again, we didn't host, so there was less pressure there), I only had to show up with a pie and a big doll for the youngest member of our extended family (oh to have a five-year-old again!), and get the requisite sleep whenever my eyelids drooped.

This year was different somehow. We have always overindulged EB. In years past, there were so many gifts for her, they spilled from under the tree onto the couch, chairs and tables. We have a small house, and we always made the case for the next episode of Hoarders for the next two weeks after Christmas. This year I said I absolutely didn't want more things I didn't need and EB is old enough to appreciate gift cards and money to do all her shopping herself. Granted the couch wasn't filled, but she got what she needed, wanted and then some. And she was grateful.

Our kids are all growing up. One nephew, the oldest of EB's cousins on her dad's side, is studying in Egypt. Even with Skype, he was missed at the table. And EB's grandfather is in the nursing home now, unable to attend the family functions he always so enjoyed. Everyone went by to see him Christmas Day, but still, his presence at the table was missed.

When I think back on Christmases past, I remember the excitement of milk and cookies and Santa, the chaotic joy of a houseful of relatives all having lots of food, talk, drink, games and conversations all at the same time. I remember the stress of getting the house ready (hiding the junk under tables and in the closets), but being glad I could host. We didn't have extended family celebrations in my family when I was growing up. Seeing all the relatives on this special day has always been a big treat for me, even with all the work involved.

EB liked it too. She said later in the week her cousins missed Christmas at our house. They find their huge (!) house boring. Sometimes excitement is just going somewhere else, even if it seems too small to be comfortable, I guess.

My daughter, nieces and nephews are all growing up or already grown. I realize I only have a couple of more Christmases left before EB will be coming home for Christmas, from wherever her next school and next life takes her. I've wanted to see, and simultaneously studiously avoided looking at the old videos of EB as a little girl. She's a young woman now, surly some days, pleasant some others, but not a baby anymore. Her life revolves around her friends, her school, her dance, and her future.

I'm trying not to get too melancholy about Christmases past. They were fun, stressful, chaotic, but ultimately satisfying. As some family members leave the table in the next few years, others will come and take up spaces.

Life really is about change. We may not want it, may try to hold on to the past with clenched fists. Or we can open up, embrace what's ahead, and receive the best that is yet to come.

As John Lennon once sang, "So this is Christmas, and what have you done, another year over, and a new one just begun ... A very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, Let's hope it's a good one, without any fear."

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