For most of my life, Christmas was never a really big day to me. I treated it as a day off with family. A day to be nice to each other. A day to try to remain pleasant. A time of year to be charitable. It was a day for kids as far as I was concerned. My Christmases have evolved over the years.
My earliest memories were happy. My family didn’t have a lot but my father always showered us with gifts, especially my mother. He would shop up until the stores closed, it was never enough. The earlier he started shopping the more gifts he would buy. We couldn’t afford it, he paid for it all year, but he did it anyway. He had nothing as a child and he wanted better for his family. Dad would repeatedly ask my mother if she was pleased with her gifts. She always was, fortunately, because his happiness depended on it. He loved us, he loved the holiday. I have such fond memories of Christmas back then.
When I became a parent, we did the best we could to give our children an amazing experience. My wife did all of the shopping and wrapping. God bless her, I couldn’t do it. I was in charge of assembly, working late into the night after struggling to get 4 excited kids to sleep. We would be woken at 4:30 or 5 to the sound of them rustling under the tree, barely able to contain themselves. Exhausted but resigned to our fate, we would succumb and get up. Despite our best efforts to make the opening of presents organized and last for a few minutes, it was over before we knew it. My wife would help the kids move their presents to their rooms and clean up and I would start dinner and prepare for the arrival of the rest of the family. While doing this I would pour the first of many cocktails in preparation for the impending drama. I could count on my wife losing it over something that day, the big question was what.
When the kids were young, I did enjoy Christmas. As a father, the memories of my little ones tearing open gifts, barely waiting their turn for the next one, smiles from ear to ear are etched in my mind forever as the best part of being a parent. I felt their joy. As a husband, Christmas became one more day to dread. My wife ruined it for me. I will never know how someone capable of all of that preparation, organization, and detail with gifts couldn’t handle my mother and father coming over. After a few years of consistent shit storms, her being uptight, anxious and rude to my parents, I began to dislike the holiday. It was more than I could handle.
Now, the children are grown. We no longer have a house to put up a tree and we are far apart. We will get together for dinner and a modest exchange of gifts. I will be virtually empty-handed this year, I simply have nothing to give. They will understand, they are not toddlers anymore. I’m still dreading the day, I can only think of how it used to be.
Sadly, it took the events of the last year to teach me the true spirit of the holiday season. By reaching rock bottom I am forced to look up. By having nothing, I have a new appreciation for good thoughts and intentions. The weight of commercialism is lifted from me. I find myself light on funds but generous of spirit. I have love in my heart and a true desire to help anyone if within my means. I want peace on earth and I have goodwill towards my fellow man. It’s all I have. But at the end of the day, I think that’s the overall message of the season, isn’t it?