Christmas is Over-Was it Special Enough?
Christmas 2018 is in the books and as it ends I am woefully reminded how much I pale in comparison to the women who taught me so much and made my Christmases so magical.
Please don't think I'm being negative about the holidays. There's a life lesson I gained from this Christmas I'll share with you in a minute.
Christmas 2018 was lovely and I am so grateful. My daughters, friends, family and fur friends are healthy and loved. My first granddaughter made the holiday sparkle. She is a joy and it is my pleasure to spend time with her. It is for her, and the family who came to my home for whom I wanted to create some Christmas magic...the kind of magic my grandmothers created for me.
One grandma taught me how to baked and decorate cut-out sugar cookies. The magic wasn't the lesson as much as it was the time she spent with me during the rolling, cutting, baking and icing. She taught me domestic creativity. We'd knit, crochet, and needlepoint together. She showed me how she fashioned common seashells into works of art. She also taught me about sea life, the many varieties of seashells and brought me fresh citrus each year she traveled to the Florida shores.
My mom's mother unintentionally taught me design. She made me a 'clean room' award out of a shirt box, glitter and an angel detached from an ornament. It was so beautiful I cried. She did the same thing at Christmas. Her home looked and smelled Christmas. Simple and small, but everywhere you looked there was a touch of holiday. A tiny sprig of holly berries adorned a lampshade. candles in containers were lit everywhere. Even the bathroom was beautifully lit and I still don't know how it smelled so good in there.
She took weeks making a simple feast on Christmas Eve. We had chili, oyster stew, strawberry Jello with bananas and hand whipped cream. There were the tiniest pre-made ham sandwiches; she'd butter each tiny bakery bun and place a pinch of shaved ham on each. We ate banana bread, four different kinds of cookies and in later years we had Corn Flake marshmallow green wreaths with red hots that looked like holly.
Each present was wrapped with different ribbons and adorned with broken pieces of ornaments; tiny pieces of art. The fire was ablaze and there was this beautiful white tree with gold garland. She tended to every detail.
I attempted to simulate the magic. I rolled, cut, baked and iced cookies with my niece while my granddaughter toddled about. I made the chili and oyster stew. I lit a few candles. Christmas at my house did not feel magical. It felt more like chaos with an overdecorated tree.
My family grabbed food in shifts. No one used the Christmas plates and snowmen bowls. I didn't slice and arrange the banana bread on pretty serving trays and I only had one variety of cookie which stayed in a 25 yr. old Tupperware container. There's still powdered sugar and food coloring on my kitchen counter.
The pretty glasses I'd planned to use never came out of the dishwasher. How did my grandmothers get everything done? I failed miserably trying to simulate their gifts.
Gifts- that was another dud for me. I bought and sent things in wrong sizes and colors. Some gifts have yet to be mailed. I didn't even wrap presents. I was throwing presents in gift bags at 10 pm Christmas Eve and topping them with pink tissue paper. I reused gift tags and crossed out names. I forgot where I stashed presents I bought weeks ago.
I managed to wear a red plaid shirt to be festive, but the baby squirted applesauce on me. I never changed it. We were too tired to watch Elf and White Christmas; usually a Christmas Eve tradition.
Oh, that Christmas morning casserole I planned for the Crock Pot overnight...the ingredients are still in a grocery bag in my car.
I let myself feel like a failure. I looked up to the heavens and verbally told my grams how sorry I was I let them and my family down. I cried a little.
But when Christmas morning came, I woke to my oldest daughter's call; she lives out of town. The sound of her voice warmed my heart. As I rolled out of bed I pet the pup who was still curled up in her slumber next to me. I never found my Christmas pj's this year, so I welcomed the day in grey sweats and mismatched socks.
Then I heard my youngest daughter; the mother of my granddaughter, quietly waking her family by whispering to them, 'it's Christmas!' I could still hear the innocence in her voice and the excitement she had, to see her own daughter celebrate Christmas for the first time.
Suddenly it all came together in my mind. Maybe this is how the Grinch felt on Christmas morning. Christmas Day comes without Santa plates, 4 different kinds of cookies, perfectly wrapped gifts and matching family pajamas. I heard family laughter, I saw smiles, and watched a little girl with messy hair and sleepy eyes say, 'ooooooh' and 'ahh' not because there were presents, but because she was with people who love each other.
There may be a Christmas one day that could match the candle-lit wonder of the holidays my grandmothers made. Or maybe that was their magic to make. In the meantime, I'll take the chaos of slapdash gift wrapping, the idea of holiday food, placed on themed holly trimmed platters and one variety of cookie. The smiles and the laughter is really everything.