I dread this part of the year. Christmas, you say? Thanksgiving? Nope. I dig the holidays. My favorite part of the year starts when the leaves to begin to turn colors and ends right after New Years. I love the holidays. What I don’t love is divvying them up.
Sigh... Here we go again.
It’s rough, you know? Everybody wants to go back and sit around that same Christmas tree they had when we were all kids, to shake that little silver sleigh bell and hear it ring again.
But you grow up and get a Christmas tree of your own. So do your siblings. For a while you can all make the trek back home... and then everybody starts getting married. Now it gets complicated. For a few years you spend Thanksgiving with one family and Christmas with another. If you live close enough, maybe you table hop and pretend that you still want the big second serving of Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing. Christmas morning here, Christmas dinner there, and hours in between caught in traffic with people who are just as eager to be there as you. Maybe you manage to cram both families into your tiny apartment one year. It sort of works.
You keep trying though, because the sound in your mom’s voice when she tells you that she understands, that it’s really okay if you can’t be there for Christmas just about cleaves your heart in two. Because the Christmas tree at your in-law’s house doesn’t smell the same as the one back home. And your own little Charlie Brown tree? Well, it’s pretty much abandoned for most of the holiday itself, serving no real function but to entertain and water the cat.
Then your siblings go and get married too and the scheduling problems compound. You want to overlap with this brother and that sister but they’re doing Christmas Eve with one family and Christmas morning with another. And families aren’t simple anymore. People have two dads and three moms with step-sisters and half-brothers all in 6 different houses. Scheduling a world summit would be easier.
And once you have kids of your own? It doesn’t get any easier. You want to put your foot down now. You want Santa to bring your little one his presents down your chimney. You want to start building those Christmas memories so you can guilt your own kid to come home for the holidays later on down the line. And still... You want the opportunity to be a kid around your parents’ tree all the more maybe, for someone to fetch you apple cider and smile at how you’ve grown. And as a parent, you get it. You get how hard it must be for your parents when you can’t make the pilgrimage home. Talking to your folks on the phone, you can hear the light in their eyes as they tell you about the coolest toy they got for your little darling and how they can’t wait to watch him open it, meanwhile you’ve got the phone clamped between your shoulder and your ear, struggling with ribbons and wrapping paper and decorations.
Home for the holidays. Here we go. Which home now?
Here’s the real problem. Christmas has turned into one day. It didn’t used to be, you know. That chick who got the partridge in the pear tree kept getting stuff for another eleven days. People used to put up the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve and keep celebrating Christmas until Epiphany, when the wise men showed up with the world’s most impractical baby gifts. We’ve begun treating December 25th as some 24-hour version of the holy grail. The one, the only, the desperately sought after. Imagine how much simpler it would be if you could call up your sis and say, “Hey, which day of Christmas will you be Mom’s?” and have twelve days to negotiate with. Imagine if everybody stayed put for a quiet 25th in the house you actually live in with the tree you picked out, and then the traveling and exchanging of gifts with friends and family near and far all started in the days that followed.
I think it’s a fantastic system. The only real hitch is that our system of work ethics is so messed up in this country that everybody’s expected back to work on December 26th. Forget Boxing Day; get back to the grindstone. (Except this year, so many people I know are furloughed or out of work that I wonder if we could pull it off.)
I have no real solution. It’s just hard. I’m negotiating. My friends are negotiating. You hear frustrated people waiting in line for their gingerbread latté negotiating with whoever is on the other end of the cell phone connection. Tis’ the season.
You want to make everyone happy. But our families are these little golden rings that all interlink and pull in different directions. As much as you want to, you can’t be everywhere in the world on one day.
Unless you’ve got a dozen reindeer in the shed and a bad cookie habit, that is. I wonder if Santa makes it back in time for eggnog with Mrs. Claus before the clock strikes midnight and the sleigh turns back into a pumpkin. You think?