This is what I remember from Christmases as a child: the cookies, the carols, the stockings my mom sewed for my brother and me, an angel candleholder that spun around and chimed, the tree with real candles on it when we lived in Germany, the Play-Doh Fuzzy Pumper Barber Shop, Superwoman Underoos, the cardboard Mr. Hooper’s store we got one year, with a cash register and striped awning.
Here’s what I don’t remember: money worries, decorating stress, staying up too late wrapping and assembling toys. Boy, things sure do change when you grow up and become an adult. I found out years later that my parents stayed up until the wee hours trying to put together that darn store, aided only by directions apparently written in Chinese.
From the moment I had my first child, the holidays became more significant, somehow. A lazy, last-minute tree with just lights, no ornaments wouldn’t cut it. Nor would sleeping in till noon on Christmas day and going to the movies on Christmas night. No cheating with store-bought goodies and practical gifts like battery rechargers and new socks. No, sir. We had a brand-new person with memories to be made. Christmas was suddenly charged with expectations.
I’ve gone a little nuts in the past, I admit it. Run myself ragged with the Christmas cards and the seasonal activities. It’s hard not to when you’ve got 2 excitable little souls around who are thrilled by any inflatable snowman and twinkly lights they encounter. Who painstakingly pen their Christmas lists and letters to Santa starting the day after Thanksgiving.
This year — whether by intention or laziness, I’m not sure — I’ve scaled back a little. Lowered my expectations. Let some things go. Christmas cards, for instance: I’m skipping them this year. (And avoiding this craziness.) Interestingly, so are several other people I know. I’m also skipping the gingerbread house. My MIL made one with the boys a couple weeks ago. Who needs to reopen the gates of candy hell again?
This weekend we got our tree. Did we make a day of it, driving out to the country to cut down our own tree and pose for festive family photos in matching reindeer sweaters? We did not. We drove to a Rite Aid parking lot in a seedy part of town and bought a tree from a dude with dilated pupils who only took cash. It’s Christmas in Baltimore, kids! Come pose for a picture by the trashcan fire! Don’t step on that homeless guy!
And you know what? It was fine. We got home and C. haphazardly threw the lights on the tree. It looked great. The kids broke a third of the ornaments and clustered the remaining ones on the same 3 branches. I didn’t care. They got inspired and ran off to create some of their own construction-paper-and-marker ornaments. Martha Stewart would have a panic attack if she peeped these glitter-choked monstrosities, but so what? The kids were having fun. The mood was festive. And memories were being made. I just hope they don’t remember the crackhead in the Rite Aid parking lot.