Just as quickly as the shopping had begun, it was over. All packages shipped - either from the supplier, or wrapped and shipped by me. I had at least 3 trips to the post office. Our house is decorated from top to bottom. Lights hung on the outside, and I even bought 10 white Poinsettias to mass together on the front porch. It all looks really pretty. And then I took a look at the tree. The tree with no gifts underneath it, other than one for my mother, and one for my aunt. And I realized that what was missing was my family - all the little ones, as well as the big ones - MY little ones. Now, they're scattered here and there, all over the country. None are within easy driving distance, and holiday airfare is prohibitive for families even if schedules permitted. I have to confess I've been feeling a little bit down. I really do miss them, and doubly so during the holidays.
I mentioned the giftless tree to L, thinking he would understand. And he does to a point. But he's not a mother, and his solution was to wrap about a million gifts for me and put them all under the tree so it wouldn't look so lonely. It both helped and didn't help. It doesn't look as lonely now for sure. It actually looks exciting. (I do love that boy...) But it still didn't help me from feeling very disconnected from the ones I love so much. A gift from my daughter arrived. Excitement elevated. Today another arrived from Tim and Autumn in New York. More anticipation. (Did I mention that I'm still a kid at heart? I still get excited...) I confess that I love receiving gifts almost as much as I love giving them. Almost. I was ashamed to realize that - it doesn't portray the spirit of Christmas very well, and it made me feel selfish to admit that fact. But then I began to understand that it's what helps me to feel connected to family, to have that validation that I'm still important in their lives. Childish? Definitely. But I am letting you have a peek into the imperfect person that is me, with all of my insecurities. I put so much into choosing just the right gift for each of them, and it makes me feel loved when they do the same for me - especially when they're so far away, and I don't get to be there to physically celebrate Christmas with them. I would give anything to bake cookies with the little girls (and boys!), sing Christmas carols, or experience special traditions with them. I can see that 2014 should be about bolstering my self esteem as a mother. (It will take all year...)
Anyway, once I realized the root of my depression, it kind of snapped me out of it. I decided to see what I could do for those who ARE here, rather than pining away for those who are not. Last night we took my aunt to see the most amazing display of Christmas lights in our area. They are all synchronized to Christmas music on a radio station and there isn't one inch of the house that wasn't covered with lights. She'd never seen anything like it.
L and I are hosting Christmas Eve for my parents and siblings. I want it to be a good night for everyone. I felt myself getting sucked into the details and spinning out of control, and that is definitely NOT what Christmas Eve should be about. So I simplified. I delegated. And suddenly its manageable. And still nice. And the house is still pretty with lights and glitter and candles.
One sad thing: this was the year I had to finally give up the Naughty Naked Angel. What is that? It's a little ornament that has always been Scott's. It always reminded me of him when he was small. Naughty. And many times naked. Anyway, this is the year he wanted his ornaments sent to him to help fill his and Ashley's tree. Fair enough. But it was like parting with a piece of my soul. Into the box it went, *SIGH* and Naughty Naked is now gracing their tree. As he should be. I'll get over it.
Katie has long since claimed her childhood ornaments. I missed them at first too, but they have found a good home on her tree each year. I still have many of Rex's - he's never asked for them, and so I hang onto them, letting them transport me back to when he was a towheaded little boy who could hum Silent Night perfectly on pitch before he could even talk.
So for all of you who have family in faraway corners, you are not alone. Sometimes we just have to make do, don't we? Maybe one year we will travel and be with this one or that one, taking turns. But for now it seems right to be here spending time with my brothers and my parents, and making good use of the time we have together. One of the gifts I'm most excited about is my dad's. I got him a blueberry bush. I had to search high and low for one that wasn't all wintered out with brown and withered leaves. But I finally found one, and it's a beauty. He's always taken pride in his little garden. He has lemon trees and another kind of berry bush. He's had kumquats in a past house, but no one ever wanted to eat them. He's not a man with a lot of hobbies. Translation: NO hobbies. But he needs something, so I thought he might have fun nurturing this little bush. I was told it would have lots of berries in the summer, and blueberries are stuffed with antioxidants which are good for keeping cancer at bay. It's kind of a random gift, but it's one of my favorites. And he's quirky enough to love it.
So while it hasn't been a traditional Christmas for us, it will turn out just fine. I think I've found new ways to make it special, and have figured out a few things out about myself. Self reflection isn't always pretty, but it can be valuable. And there's always Face Time on Christmas morning. Technology is a wonderful thing - we can almost be there, even when we're 3000 miles away. How lucky we are to live in these times! This weekend will be a huge cloud of flour and sugar, as I make and bake all sorts of sweets for our own Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and also have enough to share with friends. Because I love to give gifts. That seems to be the theme this year. Give, give, and give again. Because our Savior was born, and taught us all about unconditional love and never ending charity. Sometimes the message gets muddled in all the commercial noise and manic confusion, but if we sit quietly in the glow of the tree lights, or gaze up into the heavens on a clear cold night, we can still hear the angels sing, if only in our hearts.
Merry Christmas to one and all!