Monday, December 26, 2011

The Most Un-Christmas-Like Christmas of All

What is Christmas supposed to feel like??

There has always been the feeling that Christmas was ‘something special’ within my family.

As a child on the farm, my memories are sketchy … but I definitely recall the sense of wonder, lots of people, our big mid-day Christmas Dinner and the best part of all – the turkey on a bun, with a pickle later in the day.

I think that even as a small child, I appreciated the turkey-on-the-bun part of the day the most. The biggest part of Mom’s workload was finally complete and I must have felt her stress levels decline as she could relax a little, with what was left of the day.

When we moved out of the province and away from my Married Sisters, Christmas truly took on a magical feeling. Christmas meant the gathering of our family under one roof, lots of visiting, a growing number of people (as My Sisters had and raised their children - nine, between the two of them). Oh … it was a very fine time to be a kid in amongst the chaos. Christmas represented nothing but happy family memories.

As I started having my own children, the focus of Christmas started to shift.

My Oldest has fond memories of our Christmases Past. All of his cousins gathered together and many fun-filled memories were made.

As a parent, it was different. I focused on the disparity between My Son’s gifts and those that his cousins received. I could not compete in any way. Eventually, I started to wean my little family out of the Christmas Mornings and we were a part of the celebrations in every other way. It was still good.

It was also during the years of raising my children and on-again, off-again relationships that I started to become angry with the expectations of the season. Christmas has a way of magnifying whatever is going on in your life. Good becomes great; bad becomes unbearable; loneliness becomes sadness. Anniversaries of Christmases Past become a very sad and lonely time when you are in a state of transition or loss.

Time and age assisted in the coming-to-terms with the emotional baggage that Christmas has the ability to carry.

My small family’s traditions became smaller, quieter … and a little less of ‘everything I remembered’ Christmas to be.

My Middle Son’s Christmas memories were far less spectacular than My Oldest’s memories. My Youngest? I will be curious to hear his take on Christmases Past in about a decade or so.

His expectation level has never been too high. Until this year, I had never heard him compare what he received at Christmas, to others.

This year, there were three gifts for him under the tree. He was pleased with what he received. There was no outward indication of let down or disappointment. But the look I saw in his eyes this year was a little bit different than the rest.

We packed up and headed out to Mom’s home for the holidays. We spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Morning with my brother’s family. My Youngest has many fond memories of spending Christmas with his much-older girl cousins. Even now that they are 16 and 19 years old, they still treat him with the same ease and kindness that they always have. The disparity of ages will grow even farther apart as they enter their adult years …

There wasn’t a lot of people, presents or the confusion and chaos of Christmases Past. I believe that my mom savoured that fact. I appreciated the lack of expectations that landed on my shoulders. But my children … what will they remember about this most Un-Christmas-Like Christmas of All?

Will they focus on what they had? Or what they lacked?

I believe it will all depend upon their ages and stages of life.

My Oldest will remember this most untraditional Christmas of all … as the year he spent Christmas in Thailand.

My Middle Son will remember this as the Christmas where he shed the traditional monetary gift-giving … and spent it at home with his very own 'family'.

I will remember it as the Christmas of Empty Arms/Full Heart. The year that I tried to shift the giving … but still felt the need to give something.

My Youngest? He keeps his thoughts quietly to himself. It isn’t sadness, loneliness or loss of a life he once knew that I see in his eyes. I see a look of resignation and acceptance. It is what it is. It isn’t what others have. It is ours. Whether that is a good or bad thing? He will find out more, as the years go by …

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