I love Christmas. It's usually one of my favorite times of the year. I mean, I love the excuse to curl up by a fire, sip hot cocoa (or a hot toddy), and fill every other waking moment with the people I love. Not to mention everybody looks great under the glow of twinkle lights. Right?? Well this year I'm having a hard go trying to find a solid dose of holly jolly. Worse, there's absolutely no reason to be bah-humbugging. Everyone in my family is healthy and content; we're back in our house; and I am learning there really is nothing better than viewing the holidays through the eyes of a toddler ... there's a whole new dimension of magic at play there. And yet, I am overwhelmed.
It's not unhappiness. It's more of a melancholy that I can neither shake nor quite put my thumb on. Perhaps too large a part of me is absorbed by how quickly this girl of mine is growing? This year has been a cocktail of trying to muddle through as much as humanly possible every given day while simultaneously wanting to yell, "Stop! Stop! Please let this all slow down so that I have the chance to be present and grateful for this moment." Life is so short, and yet many days this time of year I find myself wishing the hours away until Jon comes home from the office, Cecile goes to bed, and I can sit. Just sit.
I'm trying to turn it around. But it's hard. Hard, too, having the first grandchild on both sides of our family. Not only are we the only ones trying to keep some semblance of a toddler's schedule (read: a solid nap = happy child = a pleasant experience for all), but also there are such high expectations to meet. Everything is a have-to, can't-miss tradition, and Santa's watching so you better not pout.
Yes, it's a joy to feel so wanted. Someday, I'm sure, I'll be lonely and longing for these busy times, in disbelief that saying "no, we can't" is such a hard thing to say. After all, I've always been someone to over- rather than under-extend oneself. I love making and keeping plans--especially with the people that matter most in my life--and I am surrounded by women who continue to outdo themselves for the sake of their friends and family. They are inspiring. But in the same breath I have to ask: When does our little pod get some time to be, well, our own little pod? For that question, I don't yet have an answer.
One thing Cecile has asked for every day this month is Christmas music played over the speakers in her playroom. A favorite of hers is "the dum dum song" ... or as you and I know it, The Little Drummer Boy. The song brings back my own childhood memories of my brothers and I marching around our house, pum-rum-pum-pumming. Kevin and I would play it over and over and over again, drawing a kitchen chair up to reach the rewind button (ah, yes: cassette tapes) on the receiver. And I'm sure now that my parents were likely nearby, trying to get everything done and just right before the holiday. And I'm also sure it wasn't all just right or perfect, but us kids were all too busy having fun pum-pumming to notice. I'm so grateful for my parents' efforts; and more, I am grateful--albeit stressed out--to now be on the other side of it, trying to make it the very best for my own family. Even though I am learning there is no such thing as "perfect."
So there you are. That's where I'm at. As I type, Cecile is upstairs fighting her nap, and I know the presents that just arrived via UPS (thank you, Internet shopping) won't get wrapped and placed beneath our tree until after she's asleep for the night. If then. But somehow I know everything will get done ... or done enough. And like I said, we have our health--the greatest gift of all. "Through the years we all will be together if the fates allow" is a Christmas lyric that always puts a knot in my throat for reasons too obvious to spell out.
We did a marathon Christmas/Hanukah brunch with Jon's family on Sunday. It was wonderfully casual. We lit candles and exchanged presents, and Cecile, as you can imagine, was in heaven. The menorah candles are lit at home, too, though we decided not to exchange Hanukah gifts. We are an untraditional family for sure, though we're certainly not the first to be trying to figure this all out on our own. My very favorite interfaith encounter so far: Cecile asks to sing happy birthday after I blow out the menorah. Toddlers ... so very funny. I think Cecile is so lucky to have parents with families to share two very beautiful cultures, both rich with tradition. But that's another blog post altogether.
So then, tomorrow: Christmas Eve will be spent with my mother's side of the family. We have Mass followed by a black-tie dinner of pierogi. Christmas morning Jon, Cecile, and I are going to try to carve out some time spent in our pajamas to enjoy whatever Santa manages to fit down our chimney before driving north again for brunch with my immediate family at my parents' house. Then Christmas dinner is spent in Kensington with my father's half of the family, whose cooking is truly unparalleled. Then following a day off, my immediate family will gather again with my grandparents for a performance at the Kennedy Center. Whew! As I said, all wonderful events, but I'm convinced it was caffeine--not frankincense or myrrh--the wise men brought.
For those of you that got our Christmas card this year, this post is full of our outtakes. And it's not even half of them. Sure, they're still stinking cute (in my 100 percent biased opinion) ... even if--now, look closely--Cecile's diaper is so wet it's drooping off of her, the poor thing. Now how's that for an honest perspective on trying to reach perfection??
As for my holiday spirit, don't worry. I'll find it. I'm already starting to feel a bit better after tapping out this post. (Thank you, my sea of anonymous psychiatrists!) So I wish you all the very best the season can offer. Whether you spend your time lighting candles to remember the Maccabees or, in my opinion, the most beautiful birth story of all, I hope you are surrounded by the people that love you the very most. Happy holidays :) :)
^^The winning snap for our holiday card, in case you couldn't guess ;) ;)^^