(photo Lorie Sheffer’s family: That’s Lorie at the North Pole (NY) in July 1960-something. A Llama ate her matching hat. True story.)
This week I had 4 phone conversations with 4 different friends. Same subject: “I’ll Be SO Glad When Christmas is OVER!”
You MUST have a tree. You MUST bake cookies. You MUST decorate. You MUST host the family gathering and you MUST make sure EVERYONE has a wonderful, magical, joyous time. Each thoughtfully chosen gift MUST be wrapped beautifully. (Remember the year people knocked one another down over those MUST HAVE Cabbage Patch Dolls? How about Teddy Ruxpin?) You MUST send out cards, and they better not have an offensive greeting like, “Happy Holidays” nor may they be TOO religious. Too bad we can’t suit everyone with a card depicting the Baby Jesus making a snowman.
A few years ago my son, who was home on college break, went with me on my last minute grocery store run. The store was jam packed and I could not for the life of me seem to find the French’s French Fried Onions that MUST be the topping for the obligatory green bean casserole. I had just spent three days making an entire buffet meal from scratch, and yet I was hyperventilating over those disgusting onions.
“I didn’t just drive 500 miles so you could RUIN my entire holiday! You damned well better find those onion rings, so you just keep LOOKING!” Other shoppers stopped dead in their tracks, mouths open in disbelief. And then I started to laugh. I laughed so hard I could barely see. He just shook his head and said, “Seriously, Mom? THIS is the kind of stuff you stress over? Does anybody even like that green bean stuff?”
And that was it. That was the moment the light went off in my head. That was the defining moment when I realized we don’t HAVE to do anything. We don’t have to fulfill anyone’s expectations of what the holiday “should” be. There is no right or wrong. I have a friend who decorated 8 trees throughout her home because that is what makes her happy. Another friend plans to leave town for a few days and avoid all things Christmas because that is how she is choosing to get through the season. As for me, we don’t have a tree. We don’t feel like dealing with it this year, but we may want one next year. My husband loves outdoor decorations, and so he has the lights up and enjoys flipping the switch every evening at dusk. I like to bake cookies but I scratched sending cards. I’m not allowing people who I won’t even be spending time with to dictate to me what “the reason for the season” is. To me, the reason is to spend time with the people I love. We have lost loved ones and we have come close to losing others. If that offends anyone, oh well. I refuse to allow preconceived ideas of what I “should” do take away even one second of joy. In doing so, I enjoy Christmas again.