something to honk about
Is that a better title than “I hate Christmas”? – because that is what I really wanted to write.
As a child, I loved Christmas. We didn’t have any extended family close, so it was always just the four of us. One special morning. My mom would spoil us girls with heaps of gifts, all beautiful wrapped and arranged under the tree. We would eat a simple breakfast of scones and jam and tea. (So no one had to do much cooking or cleaning.) I was privileged, and took it all for granted.
I remember in particular, one Christmas morning when I was five or six, waking up before dawn and creeping quietly past my parents bedroom to the stairs. I crawled down the first few steps and peeked through to the living room below. The tree was lit, the presents were heaped. It was picture perfect. My joy could not have been more pure.
As a young adult, rebellious and a budding environmental activist, I grew to resent the commercialism of the holiday. It all came to represent, to me, wastefulness, greed, and the steep divide between the rich and the poor. This was also around the time, when I was 19, my mom died after a two year battle with cancer. My family was broken, my attitude was broken, my role in society was broken. So Christmas became broken, too.
The Goose and the Gander’s first Christmas as a family of our own, I was 24. Our first gosling was just two months old. I made three ornaments out of gold embossed origami paper and satin string. We hung them on our largest potted plant – an aloe. We celebrated the Solstice, loving being tucked away at home with our new baby in the dark days of winter. On Christmas day, the Gander presented me with a ring and asked me to marry him. I’m tearing up now, remembering it. We were engaged and we had SO MUCH LOVE.
We had another gosling, just one year later. A baby boy who was born premature and died after 10 days in the NICU. The following year we had yet another gosling, a healthy baby boy. Three baby boys. Two kids now 10 and 12 to love and cherish.
(I didn’t mean at all to put that into this post about why I hate Christmas. It doesn’t fit. And yet now that I’ve written these other things, I can’t leave him out. So, because I have no editor to tell me what to do, onward…)
Over the years, once our children were a few years old and could recognize the holiday, our celebration of Christmas naturally shifted. I only wanted to celebrate the Solstice, after all, we’re not Christian. The Gander wanted to celebrate Christmas, because hello warm childhood memories, so nice to feel you again. Plus, now we were parents of the first grandchildren to come into our extended family and many people wanted to celebrate with us as well. On my side there is my Dad and bonus Mom, and my sister. On the Gander’s side his Dad, Mom, Brother, and half-Sister, PLUS his mom’s five sisters and one brother. This family of seven siblings has a yearly Christmas eve tradition of coming together to relive the best moments of their own childhoods.
It is so much to juggle. Amidst all that, I try to balance my desire for celebrations of love and time spent together, with other people’s desire to shower my kids with piles of crap they don’t want or need (and yes, once in a while a true treasure of a thoughtful gift, probably, I can’t remember because of the time and energy it took me to sort, store, give away or regift all the crap, plus attempt to recycle all the mountains of shiny giftwrap.)
Ugh. I hate Christmas! I want it to end and go away forever. WHY?!?!
I feel like the joy I experienced as a child is not being passed on to my kids. They get dragged around from house to house, make small talk with relatives they rarely see, open presents that are designed for kids years younger than them. Plus, as their parent, I just can’t compete. We are not rich. I have charged up my credit cards to buy them presents some years, things they really want and do need. And then our modest celebration at home feels like it’s being trampled under the feet of Christmas eve gifting at the rich relative’s house and after-Christmas extended gifting at their grandparent’s house. Where is the specialness? Where is the magic?
Did I mention that I hate it?
More importantly though, because I’ll push aside my own feelings if everyone else is happy, I don’t know how to fix it. I don’t know how to make it the holiday celebration of love and togetherness that I want it to be. I’ve tried telling the grandparents to tone down the gift giving. I’ve tried staying home some years and vising relatives some years.
My kids both say this year, they want to be home on Christmas. They won’t miss the gifts on Christmas eve or seeing their grandparents who we saw all of just a couple weeks ago for Thanksgiving. They just want to be home.
If we do stay home, we have to invite the Gander’s parents. They won’t be left out. We have to submit to their style of gifting no matter what. My bonus Mom is Jewish and my Dad is very reasonable, plus we just spent Thanksgiving day with them, so they are fine with not seeing us on the day of Christmas this year.
I am searching for a way to align my heart and let go of overthinking/planning. I am searching for a way to love everyone when they won’t do what I want, when their wants are different than mine. I am searching for a new way.