Wednesday, December 23, 2009

So what do I do about Christmas?

Note: This post is entirely my venting and working out some issues. If you have a low tolerance for TMI, feel free to not read it.

Chanukah (todays spelling) is over less than a week. I sat with the Fire and the Dark on the Solstice just 2 nights ago. My older daughter took her final final for the semester today. My younger daughter is just getting over some really obnoxious, but not flu, virus. DH seems to have now come down with said obnoxious not-flu and stayed home from work, to drink tea and rest. So what did I do today?

I wrapped and labeled presents (and fretted over the ones that have not yet arrived). I wrote out the menu for the Christmas dinner for Friday, with the steps needed for each dish, so I would know what order and how far from eating time each step should be started. I cleaned. I did some of the cooking. I braved the supermarket and the liqueur store. I figured out the baking schedule. What we will eat the morning of, and what we will eat the night before (the night before will most likely be pizza).

Why? The holiday means nothing to me. I am hereditarily and culturally Jewish. So, how did this come to pass?

Because I wanted to see my husband smile.

When you are young and not really settled, the holidays belong to the parents. Because my family is Jewish and DH's is various flavors of Christian, dividing the holidays between the families was never a problem (well, Thanksgiving was an issue, but we worked it out). Christmas and Easter with his mother, Passover and Chanukah with my father. We just needed to show up (hmm, it was always more complicated than that, this is the approved sepia toned memory...). Then DH, new at a job, had to work both the day of Christmas Eve and Christmas day, leaving no opportunity for us to make the 2 hour drive to his mothers house. He was upset. His mother, trying to console him and make him feel better (I will believe that, I will believe that), didn't exactly choose the best phrases and managed to make DH feel even worse.

I decided that I would make Christmas for him. I ordered a tree. Yes, you read that correctly. Knowing absolutely nothing about any of this, I called the local florist and ordered a Christmas tree to be delivered. With a stand. Up three flights of turning staircases in an old Victorian house. I should have tipped that kid enough to pay for his college education. I ran out to the local drugstore and bought whatever ornaments they had on clearance (by this point, it was late afternoon on Christmas eve). And I threaded and hung the ornaments with sewing thread. I put my present for him under the tree, and I waited for him to come home from work.

When he finally did come home and saw the tree, he was struck speechless (those of you who know DH can understand how surprised he was, for those of you who don't know him, take my word on it, being struck speechless probably happens to him once a century or so). It really made him happy. So the whole project made me happy, too. And while DH was at work on Christmas day, my father and I created an English Victorian feast, by using the book "A Christmas Carol" as our template. When DH got home, we ate and drank and celebrated (he and I, my father and his current girlfriend) for hours. It was truly an amazing meal and an amazing evening.

I didn't realize that a one time event would become tradition.

I am no longer responsible for getting the tree (Thank the Gods!). But somehow, over the years the responsibility for gifts has become mine. The gifts for his mother and brother and brother's family. The gifts from his mother to him, our daughters, and to me. Gifts to our daughters from us. From me, to him. I did manage to draw the line at buying myself a gift from DH. The cooking, the baking, the planning is mine to do.

I am very tempted not to. (except that it is too late to not do it, this year.)

What stops me? Two things; once, when the girls were little around ages 2 and 5, I decided that having a garden was just more than I could handle that year. So for the first time since we bought the house, I didn't buy garden seeds or seedlings and I didn't garden. I didn't notice any free time. I did feel a hole in my life for more than a season, though. I didn't miss doing the work (for those of you without children, having a 2 year old and a 5 year old is more work than 1 person should handle anyway), I missed having the garden. I missed it enough that I welcomed the work the next year, and every year since. Will I miss the "event" of our household holiday, even as I don't miss the work that it entails? (even if, as with gardens all the work in the world can't guarantee success and happiness?)

The second thing that stops me is the memory of my husband, speechless with surprise and pleasure.

The presents are ordered, mostly here (still waiting for one item that I didn't realize needed to come from India) wrapped and labeled. The food and drink purchased and somewhat prepped. Dining room returned to its designated use from sewing/craft room. I am exhausted and cranky.

I can't expect surprise, but pleasure and happiness would be appreciated (and so would appreciation).


The Scribbler said...

You're a saint.

My relationship to Christmas has evolved throughout my lifetime. I recall one year, when I was 18, my family had been scattered over the globe, I had been filling my mind full of Aleister Crowley (and suffered from the delusion that I was a Thelemite) and I decided that I just wasn't going to celebrate this humbug holiday. I spent Christmas eve alone and kind of miserable.

The next day I was convinced by a friend to show up at an orphans' Christmas party. I had one of those corny revelations about "the meaning of Christmas" having to do with the brotherhood of man. Just because it was corny doesn't mean it's not true. Ever since, I have celebrated Christmas with abandon, searching for every bit of meaning I can find in it.

One of the keys to me is that it is and isn't a Christian holiday at the same time. It's really bigger than anything anyone wants to pigeonhole it into. It's a globe-spanning massive release of cosmic forces that creates a unique background atmosphere in which miracles can happen.

That having been said: Shit! am I one tired puppy from running around making all the preparations. But all the pieces are in place, and I plan to enjoy the hell out of myself. It really is a wonderful holiday when you have five children.

Merry Christmas!

Lavanah said...

Merry Christmas, Scribbler! I hope you and your family have a lovely holiday. Now this tired non-Saint is off to make some pastry dough so it can rest while she goes to see a client.

Chag Sameach!

Kallan said...

Wow.. what a lovely, touching story to share. Thank you. I know you were just venting, but you handle these situations with such grace and class. I so wish I could be more like you.

Merry Xmas, dear friend. I hope this one turns out to be a happy surprise for you also. HUGS

k. sequoia said...

I enjoyed your issue of TMI,a lovely ode to your family. Amazing what we will do to help create joy for our loved ones, yes? I hope he gave you a big goofy, speechless look and then a big juicy hug this year. Sounds like you deserved it!

And I am inappropriately giddy-thankful to know there is another mama out there somewhere who knows my "pain," even if yours sound to be older now. (I currently have a 2 and 5 yo old. I'm EXHAUSTED, and more so during holy days. I made dinner for just us and my visiting mother, and I could not believe how wiped out I was.)

Here's to good health and great love in the coming days!
Kim Sequoia

Bridgett said...

That is seriously one of the sweetest things ever.

I'm just sorry it's evolved into something not so enjoyable for you anymore.

Hope it all went well!