This year I didn’t want to Christmas. I didn’t want stockings and trees hung with tinsel, twinkle lights, fragile glass ornaments. I didn’t want to pull out the dusty boxes from the shed, look for spiders and sneeze. I didn’t want to feel jolly, merry or bright.
I didn’t want to be distracted by the Spirit, the blessing, the idea of Christmas. Not right now. Not this year.
For a while, I’ve been the girl wearing a Ba Hum Bug sweater and drinking in the kitchen while everyone is gathered in the den singing Tra La La! It’s a fist fight with the Holidays — it’s gotten worse every year, like a degenerative illness.
Sometimes I blame consumerism. The mad grab for gifts. The long list of people I wish I could buy for. The feeling of TOO MUCH and NOT ENOUGH. The stress of saying no, or not no and wishing you had. The way your adrenaline spikes with the rip-tear of the paper and then crashes when its all over and there’s just no more. The way you feel when you realize gifts don’t always mean what you want them to. The let down. The fact that you don’t need anything at all, yet so many will never have enough. The way that makes gifts look ugly even wrapped in sparkling crimson and green.
Sometimes I’m selfish. I blame the disruption of my routine. Maybe if Christmas could just politely come and go and not disrupt everything around it, screw up bed times, mess with weekends, alter workdays. Maybe then it wouldn’t bother me so much. If there were no parties and no extra work. If Christmas could be like Columbus Day, then maybe I’d tolerate it better.
Sometimes I blame family. Mine. My husband’s. Other people’s. The First Family. The Royal Family. Mary, Joseph, Jesus in a manger. All those people doing Christmas their way and me still trying to figure out what my way is. All the schedules that have to line up. All the emotions that fill rooms already too small and warm. I blame the missing family, the ones we wish were around but aren’t, can’t be, and so there’s a strange cold place where they used to sit, laugh, cry. All the adjusting we do. All the expectations that will never be met.
I blame the election. Everyone on Facebook and Twitter. The news cycle. I blame everyone’s Christmas Tree pictures on Instagram. It’s Starbucks and Target’s fault. It’s Taylor Swift’s fault for creating Christmas goals I will never be long legged enough to achieve. I blame Christmas movies with John William’s soundtracks when my life just sounds like video games and Michael Jackson on an endless loop.
But it’s not really any of those things, and I know that.
It’s me. It’s because I’m afraid of it spoiling. Getting tainted. Painted in colors and shades that make it look ugly. Somewhere along the way everything became a target for anger. Somehow everything can fall apart if we let it. How can we feel Christmasy with the world the way that it is? What is even the point?
I decided I wouldn’t put up a tree. We are traveling for some of December. We aren’t doing a lot of gifts. We aren’t even doing Santa with my son this year. He quietly told me last week, You know mom, I don’t need that anymore.
Ba Hum Bug. Pour me some Scotch.
On the way home from my mom’s house today, my son asked me if we were putting the stockings up. Stockings, that’s our thing. We go to Target a couple days before Christmas Eve and my husband and I separate, buying ludicrous, silly, tasty, thoughtful things to stuff our stockings full with. We’ve done it since we first got married. We added our son to the tradition when he came along.
Stockings. A memory worth clinging to. Blip. That’s the sound of my heart growing Grinch-style.
When my son and I opened the dusty, wasp infested shed this afternoon and started rummaging around in the cobwebs for the box with our stockings, he scooted right up to me, big blue eyes shiny even in the dim light. I want to put up the tree. Just a whisper.
Blip. My heart grew again.
And even though I had convinced myself it didn’t matter to me, that I didn’t need the tree this year, I said okay. I pulled out the box and we hauled it inside. We sneezed and laughed, blaring Christmas music over his Pokeball mini-speaker. A section of the lights wouldn’t light. I couldn’t get the topper to top. It was all a little messy and uneven — like life, like everything else that I love— but then he started pulling out ornaments, telling me where they came from, what they meant to him. Reminding me where we got this one, when we made that one. He said I love this one, and this one and this one.
Blipblipblip. My heart was too big.
It mattered to him. The Tree. The moment and memories. They were something to him. And the scary truth I didn’t want to face: they were something to me, too. Something that could be cracked and chipped, loose luster, but somehow not beauty. Something of value that I wanted to love and appreciate especially because it might not be perfect.
Christmas isn’t perfect, but neither are we. Neither is the world.
That’s a reason to fight for it.