Christmas can bring out the best in humans. And also the worst. There’s the smile from your neighbour that never speaks to you. Then there’s the race into that parking spot at the mall that you so patiently waited for.
Two years ago, I wrote my Bah Humbug blog, because I knew there was only one way to prevent my turning into the Grinch. Or Scrooge. Or the thieves on Home Alone. All who had Christmas wrong until someone redirected their attention. Not sure the bumbling two on Home Alone ever got it right, but I’m sure they had some thinking time behind bars.
And that’s the thing I felt robbed of the most during the “most wonderful time of the year,” time to think. And reflect. So I did what all Americans do when life gets crowded—I got out my virtual broom and did some spring-cleaning, in winter. I made a list of all the things, activities, and events that sardined me into a Christmas stocking so stuffed that I couldn’t breathe, and one by one, I crossed it off the list. And checked it twice. And at the end of the season, I was left with five, maybe six, must-haves to nourish the Christmas spirit in me.
This year, I downsized more. Because I love a good party. But I hate showing up so flustered from the prep time that my head’s spinning and I’m wearing my dress inside out. It happens. The rush-rush of the holidays can have you so wound up, that someone might mistake you for a dreidel and that song is up there with “Grandma Got Run over by a Reindeer.” I can only listen to it so many times, before it gets stuck in my head, and I lose precious minutes of sleep. One commodity most Americans are already running low on.
So this year, in the interest of saving time, I bought a reasonably priced tree from the nursery at the bottom of my street. And my ten-year old daughter and I carried it up to the house. No gas was spent. No rope was needed to tie it to the top of the car. And no animals were harmed in the process.
I went up to the attic and dug out the tree stand and one box [yes, all you LightFight competitors, we only have one box of Christmas decorations…that was part of my downsizing last year.] But I left the tree bare and decided to assemble the outdoor lights to brighten our house. And truth be told, if I were single and shopping were illegal during the last three months of the year, I’d be content with two things during Christmas: the lights and the music.
Anyway, as the curve balls of life would have it, my “surprise” to hubby didn’t go off so well. Because the tree was “nice” but about a foot shorter than he would have liked. The lights looked “nice” but the plug ran into the front door, making it impossible to close the door. Umm…drafts…yeah.
“I was waiting for you to help me finish up with me,” I argued, feeling criticized instead of appreciated.
“Well, you started it. Why don’t you finish it yourself.”?
If you thought we were rocking and rolling around the Christmas tree at this point, you thought wrong. Like someone pulled the cord out my Christmas spirit, nothing besides fumes were lighting up inside me.
I ventured downstairs, found the outdoor extension cords, and trekked out into the cold without a coat to run the lights to the garage. I needed to cool off, and as we sat down to eat dinner, before Hubs finishes saying grace, tears roll down my cheeks.
“Why are you crying?” he asks, while he spoons out ravioli and salad onto the plates.
“I was trying to surprise you.”
“Well, looks like you guys don’t really need me to help you decorate the tree, so I’m gonna go out and pick up a few things after dinner.” Hubs looks down at his plate, and now I feel stupid on top of feeling bad.
“That’s not what I was trying to do. I just thought I’d be helpful. Get us started.” I’m fishing, but all the fish followed the birds and went south for the winter.
“Well, you guys are creative. You don’t need me to help you decorate the tree.” The words cut deep, because all I heard was, You don’t need me.
And then the littlest princess, Sarah, speaks up like she’s making a presidential announcement. “Daddy. Of course you’re creative. You built the tree house, didn’t you?” And that sets all of us laughing.
And just when I thought we didn’t have any traditions this time of year, Sarah pulls Hubs out of the bedroom. She’s holding the star. He knows his part. Picking her up, together they reach the top of the tree and place the star right where it belongs. Click. Yep, that was me with the camera.
I see now how I went into the process thinking I was being helpful, but in the end, I robbed Hubs from being a part of the process. And I robbed us from being “us.” Because we had discussed getting the tree together on the weekend. And I dismissed that earlier decision in the interest of time. But time saved isn’t as important as time spent together.
And that’s where I find myself today.
Digging deeper into my value and understanding of time. And times with my loved ones. Missing my parents who live down south. Longing for my grandma who I have no time left with. Often sleeping restlessly, anxious for the next day to arrive so I can try again.
Watching Sarah do a little dance before her first sip of hot chocolate this morning, I’m reminded once again to take time to enjoy the little things.
From the words of one of my favorite Christmas carols,
Said the king to the people everywhere
Listen to what I say (Listen to what I say)
Pray for peace people everywhere
The child, the child
Sleeping in the night
He will bring us goodness and light
Time to come together and remember the little things. Rather than get caught up in how tall the tree is. How many strings of lights your neighbor put up compared to you. Or how fast you can get all your shopping done. Taking time for others. Spending time together. The little things. Like the little babe in the manger. That’s what Christmas is about.
More About the Author:
Rajdeep Paulus is the author of Swimming Through Clouds, is mommy to four princesses, wife of Sunshine, a coffee-addict and a chocoholic.
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