I have not been feeling very “holiday cheer-ish” lately. I can’t quite put my finger on why… maybe it’s irritation at having to put all the Christmas decor (and really anything) out of reach of an active toddler, being completely over the commercialization and overly advertised sales of the season, or because the carols seem to start earlier every year – I just feel like a Grinch.
But I have two kids, and the comparisons to other parent’s social media holiday magical bragging, I felt the need to buck up and fake the spirit for their sake. This evening, I figured getting dressed up for some pictures in front of the fully decorated trees at Union Station would do just the trick. Because the one thing I always love the most about this time of year is the arrival of real mail – and I love sending just as much as I love receiving. I figured this would be the opportunity to take pictures for our annual holiday cards.
With two sharply dressed kids, a wide open space to run, a tired camera only wanting to focus every third picture, paying for two hours of parking and only needing about ten minutes because the greatest part of Union Station was closed for an event (seriously…) It was not the ideal photo op afternoon I was hoping would reignite the much needed enthusiasm. I looked through the pictures trying to find something salvageable because I could tell there was no way to get the little guy to sit and smile, I could tell most of what I had taken was a waste and I could feel the Grinch creeping back in. But they were happy, my kids were smiling and having fun. We proceeded to Crown Center for more running wild while looking super fresh. And on the way home I passed our usual neighborhood turn and went to a Christmas lights display – the kind where you tune your radio so the lights go with the song playing on the station. My daughter danced along and my son sat silently content.
After putting the kids to bed tonight I put the pictures on my computer to order some cards… After all it is only 15 days until Christmas and if I didn’t order soon I might as well be sending Valentines cards. I found one picture that really made my Grinch heart grow, despite the slight fuzziness, I can see their excitement and lively personalities. It doesn’t matter how I am feeling about the perfectly imperfect top half decorated Christmas tree or how the season of giving turns into the season of needing. I am so blessed to be able to create a season of loving and happy memories for these two amazing individuals and their excited energy is contagious.
Nearly every morning of the year Mom would be the one waking me up, with the exception of Christmas. It seems kids just don’t get much sleep with the anticipation of stockings and presents. In the wee hours of the morning we had to stay in bed giddy with excitement for as long as we could stand it before going to wake up our parents. I don’t recall who of the three siblings would have the courage to jump out of bed first, though, as soon as one set of footprints hit the floor the others would follow quickly.
We’d preview the fireplace where the stockings were hung to run downstairs to wake Mom and Dad. Both sluggishly bundled in terry clothe robes as we’d hurry them back to the living room. Christmas morning always started with the stockings and the aroma of cinnamon rolls baking in the oven.
Christmas morning of 1987 was no different. The three of us gathered around the intricately carved coffee table eager to pour out the contents of our stockings. The suspense building as we waited for them to be removed from the fireplace and set into our three, five and seven year old hands. At last it seemed Christmas had begun when we were in possession of these lovingly hand-made felt stockings and my full attention was on the trinkets and treats inside. I hadn’t been paying attention to my parents seated behind me until I had touched every item and spied all of what my brother and sister had gotten.
When I did notice my parents it was when my mom was holding a simple plastic Easter egg. Looking back it makes sense because my dad never learned how to wrap a present, I suppose he reached for the first container he could find to place this gift. My mom burst into tears when she cracked the egg open. What kind of rotten egg is this? I wondered as I jumped up to console her and ask what was wrong.
“Happy tears,” she reassured, “These are happy tears.”
Although I was too young to read and I never really learned what specifically was written inside the silly Easter egg, that Christmas Dad gave Mom a vacation to England and Scotland. The holiday egg was the moment I learned tears are not just for when we are sad, they are for when we are really happy too.
Parker disappeared from the family gathering in the living room. “Parker,” I hollered only to catch her out of the corner of my eye pulling herself up on the bar stool in the kitchen to reach the contents on the counter. She had been eyeing the tray of cookies and now with everyone distracted, her two year old independence was about to be rewarded.
I made it to her just in time to pull the tray out of her reach, though, since she gave it such a good effort I let her pick one out. She immediately choose a peanut butter blossom – the kind with a Hersey kiss in the middle. Parker goes for the chocolate first and eats the cookie second. After her treat we resumed activity with everyone else in the living room: playing with cousins, checking out new toys and clearing the debris of wrapping paper and boxes.
Later I was called back into the kitchen by my brother and my mom. Parker also joined and again pulled herself up on the bar stool to position herself next to her big cousins. They pointed out how 3 cookies were missing bites out of the top of the chocolate kiss and all knew who was likely responsible, my little cookie monster.
Parker reached for a sugar cookie and got one off the tray before Nana could intervene. “You need to ask mommy first Parker,” She told her in a loving Nana way. Parker looked right at me with her big brown eyes maybe thinking of asking permission.
Instead she said “Thank you Mommy.” And took a big bite of her cookie.
One thing I love the most about this time of year is all of the mail! The tradition of catching up with old friends by a Christmas card, a family photo or yearly update with a good old fashioned stamp on it makes me smile, plus fresh frame-worthy pictures to update frames is a bonus. Snail mail anytime of the year is welcome, though, I know I send and receive the most in the month of December.
The holiday letter is kind of a funny thing to me. When a simple card or picture will not do, individuals and families might opt to generate a quick synopsis of the last 12 months to update friends and family who might not otherwise hear all of the news flashes throughout the year. I’m not sure when my mom thought this would be necessary to write one for our family, though, I remember the year I did not approve. In 1996 I was 14 years old and read over her draft of the family holiday letter. I’m sure she highlighted many major events, boasted about how wonderful her kids were and used proper sentence structure and punctuation, yet it seemed to make us even more boring than we actually were. By pointing out the yawn factor, she challenged me to come up with something better. The product ended up being a sarcastic summary of life in our household and I was required to continue writing holiday letters until long after all of us kids were grown.
A few years back my mom’s friend Sue mailed me a stack of my holiday letters she had been saving. Her note said she had been doing some deep cleaning and heard I hadn’t been keeping copies. I guess rather than holding onto the letters themselves I will purge them onto the internet to be able to look back on and maybe inspire someone else to create entertaining holiday notes. Starting with letter #2.
Amazing how my mom folded each letter identically over the years, huh? Now I am anxiously awaiting the mailman’s arrival!