Saturday, December 25, 2010

Looking for the little things: The important part of Christmas

Confession: I love Thanksgiving a lot more than I do Christmas. Thanksgiving is about food and friends and family, and the only thing you need to wrap up are leftovers, if you're lucky. Once you're an adult, I grumble to myself, all Grinch-like, Christmas is about presents and obligations and rushing around and wrapping up reams of stuff that no one really needs in yards and yards of pretty and sometimes expensive paper that you buy intending to throw away almost immediately.

I really, really wasn't into Christmas this year. My youngest kids wanted to know when we were getting our tree and could we decorate the house and do we have lights to put up outside and etc., etc., etc., and I smiled and gave vague answers and really, wanted nothing to do with Christmas whatsoever.

And then, a couple of weeks ago, that changed.

I was in a bad mood. I try to stay within my budget by squirreling away gifts as I find them on sale throughout the year. I make gift-baskets filled with homemade treats for my extended family and I start making jams and pickles when my blackberry canes go crazy and the garden explodes with fresh tomatoes in late summer. I promise myself that I'll clean one room each day throughout December, which means that the house will be spotless by the time my stepkids arrive.

But, invariably, I don't get it all done. The one-room-a-day cleaning schedule? It laughs at me from under the detritus on my dining room table. The hidden presents? I always seem to forget someone.  And all of those homemade jams and pickles need to be packaged into baskets, and the last-minute postage makes me kick myself for not getting my act together earlier.

I was doing just that when I rushed out of the house to pick my little kids up from school recently. I was thinking about all of the things I really needed to get done when my 6-year-old daughter asked if we could "go on a little bit of an adventure." And she is sweet and kind and so easy to please, I said "Yes," immediately, thinking I really needed to bank some positive energy for this child. And so we drove through the dark streets, looking at Christmas lights.

She and my 4-year-old son gasped and shouted at each other to "Look! Over there! More lights! AND A WREATH!" The displays weren't intricate or overwhelming -- a few strings of lights on a tree here, a glowing reindeer or two there -- but the kids were in awe. And, by the time we got home a few minutes later, I was excited about the holidays, instead of overwhelmed.

My kids totally saved Christmas for me. They helped me remember the gifts I already have, and reminded me that all the rest -- the hussle and planning and fussing and stressing -- doesn't matter as much as the little things. That's where you find the joy.

Wishing you and yours joy and peace this season.

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