December 23, 2010

The Elusive Christmas Magic


I haven't liked Christmas in a long, long time. I want to like it. I like Christmas carols, Christmas movies, Christmas cookies, and presents (both giving and receiving). I like spending time with my family. Eggnog is pretty good.

So what's my problem? I'm told that I haven't liked Christmas since I was around 10. The last time I remember being truly excited was when I got a Cabbage Patch Preemie doll after my parents had told me all the stores were sold out. All the holidays between that one and today sort of blur together. My daughter has been alive for two Christmases and I'm horrified to say that these haven't been any more exciting for me.

I worked retail between the ages of 18-23. Each holiday season started out so exciting. We had a tradition in our store of doing inventory while watching The Muppet Christmas Carol every year (still one of my favorites). We'd wear festive earrings, decorate our name tags and plaster on a great big smile right after Thanksgiving.

Then the customers would arrive. They were frantic. They were tired. Their feet hurt. And they didn't recognize retail workers as fellow human beings. The holiday month was war. We worked double the staff so that we could watch for shoplifters. We handled with grace the customers who were looking for a gift for a "six-year-old boy" but didn't have any idea what the child's interests were and didn't like anything we suggested. We tried not to have hurt feelings when we were snapped at and jostled. We ignored the people who actually cursed at us when we closed our doors a few hours early on Christmas Eve (along with the rest of the mall).

In my experience the holiday season brings out the absolute worst in people. My theory is that we all feel like we're doing it wrong. At Christmas time the house must be perfectly decorated (including smelling right with potpourri or candles), gifts must be found for every distant relative and co-worker, Christmas Eve must be cozy and a delicious meal must be on the table for Christmas dinner.

My problem didn't start with the retail years. When I wake up on Christmas morning nothing ever feels right. The house isn't clean enough or there are no muffins to eat or somebody around me isn't following the script (it's always a family member's fault). This year my attitude problem even spilled over to Thanksgiving when my two-year-old daughter wasn't interested in the parade. I had a little hissy fit and finally pulled myself together.

Every year I weep and gnash my teeth and declare that Next Year Will Be Perfect. Next Year I Will Not Be Such a Bitch. But a funny thing has happened this year: my daughter gets it. She sat on Santa's lap. She helped us decorate the tree (the first tree I've bothered with since my husband and I have been together). She walks around the house singing Jingle Bells and every time it snows her eyes light up and she says "It's Christmas Eve mommy!" We've decorated sugar cookies and watched the Grinch and made a snowman.

I think this year actually is different. And I think I know why: there can be no Christmas magic without a child. Maybe that should have been obvious, but I've spent 25 years wanting this feeling to come back. It hasn't felt "right" to me since I was a child myself, and it's now feeling exactly right because I get to see it through the eyes of my incredible daughter.

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve, and I can't wait!

NEXT Check Out: The Nativity of Saint Nicholas

1 comment:

  1. A woman in my office expressed the same disappointment about her children not liking the Thanksgiving parade (or the Rose Bowl parade). She theorized that life was simpler when she was growing up in the '60s and thus that parades were more exciting then. Also that there were fewer channels on TV, then, so families tended to watch things together. I think that she had been "infected" by her parents' enjoyment of sharing the parade with her...and was disappointed that her enthusiasm didn't similarly "infect" her two kids. But you never know, her kids may later adopt her parade-watching tradition if they have kids—or may create their own traditions—or glom onto their partners' traditions. Somehow, though, I think we mourn a bit when a tradition that we've been part of hits a speedbump. I think we like being part of something that has been handed down and shared with other generations...and that we'd like to share that forward as part of a me/we connection. Perhaps in some way it is connected to a not-necessarily-conscious sense of mortality.


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