I used to be the Clark Griswold of Christmas. I decorated every room in the house. I put ribbons, bows and labels on gifts. One year each member of the family had their own individual wrapping paper. I was the hostess with the mostess, a caterer could not put on a better meal. I knew exactly what I was getting everyone and planned out the holiday season to the moment. Each gift was chosen with thought and care. There was a time when I would shop throughout the year and remember where I put the gifts.
Over the years I thought I was outgrowing the Christmas magic. I thought I was just getting old. I blamed the freaking Elf for taking the joy out of Christmas and making it a torturous job. I remember thinking children were supposed enhance the magic of the season, not kill it. I then thought it wasn’t the girl’s fault, I was just O-L-D.
It occurred to me this year, not to blame her, that the Christmas season changed the year Bridget was born.
A Thanksgiving baby, I had done most of the gift shopping before she was born. This would later prove proactive, as she was hospitalized into the NICU four days after birth. She would be either in the emergency room or Children’s Hospital frequently throughout that December. Bridget and I missed Christmas that year. Her sister and father went to the festivities, but she was too ill to be exposed to any possible sneeze. The first year predicted a theme that would continue throughout the years. Bridget was not always hospitalized, but she made sure that I would worry the holiday was in jeopardy.
There have been years when the only decoration in our home was the tree and stockings. Yet the house, our home, has always been filled with love and with laughter and a lot of people who (thankfully) share our lives.
Every year, including this one, I have struggled with knowing that Christmas overwhelms Bridget. She does her best, but the idea of opening presents can stymie her. Buying her gifts put me in a state of paralysis. What she “needs” throughout the year, we purchase because she tends to need it NOW. There is nothing she “wants”, the child doesn’t play. When Grandparents, aunts/uncles and family members ask what they can get her for Christmas (or her birthday) I struggle then offer one of the few things I have thought of (this year it was a bathing suit).
I realized as I wrote this (and deliberately published after the holiday) that the Christmas has changed for me, but in a good way. I did decorate this year. I purchased gifts (for everyone but Bridget) but put thought into each one. For the first time in a long time it was quality over quantity. I rejoiced over killing the Elf and not having to worry about Santa. I planned a fantastic weekend for our extended family, and accepted their help in executing the festivities. I relaxed and planned to enjoy an extended long weekend (thanks to a gracious boss and co-worker).
Christmas this year will be perfectly imperfect. We will have gifts, not perfectly wrapped or with gift tags. We do, however, have a Sharpie marker.
My children are home and healthy (there was a concern there). My husband is off-duty. My favorite nephew is home on leave and my other favorite nephew will be here too, not for a few hours but a few days. My house will be overflowing with family and friends. I know in my heart of heart they are coming not for the Yankee Swap but because together we are a village.
I love my villagers and their willingness to celebrate the imperfect with me.
I guess I am still pulling a Clark, but I’m okay with that.