I forgot to include this photo of my Christmas decorating post. I just threw some big silvery glass balls and some clippings from the tree under the glass. Well, I didn’t throw them; if I had done that, the pretty glass balls would be no more.
I see that the runner needs a little ironing. That won’t be happening. And to be honest, stacks of paperwork and mail currently share this table space with the pretty arrangement under glass. It’s not perfect.
Since both Don and I have families that live far from us, we will have a quiet Christmas. We don’t spend a lot of money on gifts – and remember, I already have mine. (I need to stop playing Mah Jongg on my iPhone!) We no longer exchange gifts with our families, there are too many grandkids and nieces and nephews and brothers and sisters and half-brothers and half-sisters. We all agreed to stop doing that a long time ago.
Though I would love to see my family at Christmas, I think that the quiet celebration we have has really helped me to calmly and gratefully experience the season. There is no longer any frantic shopping at malls, any tension-inducing last minute preparations. I remember being so crazed by all the things I had to get done for the holidays that I couldn’t really enjoy the moment.
When I was a child, I longed for the sort of perfect Christmas I saw on television or in the movies. This will date me, but I remember watching the Andy Williams Christmas specials every year. The extended Williams family seemed so happy, so well dressed, so full of Christmas cheer – they brought beautifully wrapped presents with them, they sang together and, all the while, pretty snowflakes fell outside the windows.
Of course, the house was a set, the snow was fake. I’m sure the Williams family had the same kind of complicated relationships that we all do. When I was a child, we didn’t have a lot of money, but my parents managed to save enough to have many gifts under the tree every Christmas. They worked hard to make the day very special. But there were tensions, the inevitable tirade from my father, aunts and uncles who drank too much, tears, sometimes a bit too much forced good cheer.
Christmas can be very complicated. The pressure to have a perfect storybook Christmas can take its toll on the best of us. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized that no Christmas can be that perfect. Only on a soundstage.
With that realization came relief. I don’t need to be exhausted, to feel pressure to spend lots of money on the right gifts, to create the perfect Christmas.
I just need to be.
Wednesday, in the early evening, I was sitting in the den. The tree lights were on. The outside lights were on. Don was quietly playing his guitar in the living room which was lit only by the lights on the white tree and on top of the cupboard. It was beautiful. Peaceful. Magical.
Not perfect. But more than enough for us.
Take a moment for quiet reflection. Turn off all the lights but the tree lights and squint your eyes like you did when you were a child. Play Christmas music. I think that if you can experience that wonder, that peace – even for a second – you’ve received the perfect Christmas present.