This post is for the holiday season when many of us mourn the “idyllic” Christmas, become frustrated the season isn’t like we imagined it should be, and those who just pine for Santa again. In other words, anyone fighting change…
I was in line at Target store getting items checked out. The old man working the counter rolled his eyes when a little girl nearby screamed out. (The girl’s hair was caught in the cart when her mother pushed it forward—understandable scream). He sighed wearily and said, “I miss the old days when children didn’t run crazy and showed respect.”
Usually, I’m a very compassionate person, understanding everything is within a person’s context or the kind of day he’s having, but I couldn’t stop my mouth from blurting out to the sour old man. “Oh, you mean the good old days when we didn’t have antibiotics to cure TB and simple infections? Or the good old days where a lady like her (nod to the woman with child) had no options to get out of an abusive marriage? Or maybe the good old days where that man (pointing to the African American worker at the customer service desk) couldn’t work here, couldn’t even ride in the front of the bus? Those good old days?”
Duly chastised, the man’s face fell and he sighed again. “I never thought of it that way. Oh my.” I gave him a wink and left him to think about my words.
Sometimes, we get so focused on the negative (thank you news outlets) that we forget about the progress we’ve made. I can’t tell you how many times I turn off the news because all they do is report that someone strangled their kittens or stomped on an elderly person. A hundred years ago, the same things happened, we just didn’t get told about them every day, every hour, every minute. People could go an entire lifetime and never even see a portrait of the president, had no idea where India was, and didn’t know there was a war starting at the Mason-Dixon line. So, if people pout about the old days, they might want to keep a few things in perspective:
Remember that world where when we were kids we could wander and play outside all day long without stranger danger? (Feeling nostalgic?) Well, that was also the world where we rode in cars at 70 mph down the roadway without seat belts, played in houses made with asbestos and lead paint, had parents who smoked indoors, and completely trusted molesters because we were taught respect for elders and their orders without question.
Nostalgia has a way of distorting memories. I believe my childhood Christmases were absolute perfection. I forget, however, that we got cabin fever when it was cold and there was no snow. It only managed to snow on Christmas one year. My brother liked to throw the Monopoly pieces around the room whenever he lost at the game. The men when they had a football game on TV won out over everyone else for what to watch. I ended up having to do much of the cooking for events. Since I was so much younger than the others, no one wanted to tell me Christmas stories or watch the cartoon shows. I wasn’t trusted with the ornaments that were breakable. My parents were some of the world’s worst gift-givers and they didn’t buy toys. One Christmas, Santa brought me a large pillow??? Another year, a hair dryer (I already had a brand new one—oops!) I so related to the kid in "Home Alone!"
When I think back to youthful Christmases, what I really miss (besides all the family members who have gone) is the basic element—hope. The hope that it will snow. The hope of getting the dream gift (the child equivalent of hitting the lottery). The hope the Anderson family gave out their cookie gifts early. It’s also one time when the family is most forced to be together. Not only are there family events, but the weather simply begs everyone to stay inside. The trappings of “Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer,” Christmas music, lights, egg nog, and trees were only the teasers for the big day countdown. They were like the Pavlov’s bells that made your mouth water. You get these cues and you begin to get excited. As an adult, however, you don’t get so excited because you realize you are now the gift-giver, shopper, pocketbook emptier. Christmas becomes a chore.
Oh, if only we were kids again.
I’m not in a cold snowy place anymore. My tree is artificial and not smelling of pine. I look out at a desert landscape. The daytime temperatures are in the 70s. Nearly all my family of origin is gone. Yet, Christmas is joyous to me. I am no longer the child waiting helplessly for the ideal gift. I am the giver. I am Santa. I make the cookies and gift them to people who are kind all year long. I pay attention to the tiny things about my loved ones to find the most custom and unique gift that says “I get you.” I refuse to pass a Salvation Army bucket without dropping money in it, even if I have to dig for change at the bottom of my purse. I curl up with a fire in the fireplace and hot cocoa and write out my cards. For all the exhaustion and expense, I do so love being the giver instead of the receiver.
Childhood Christmases are adorable and precious, but adult ones are a time to show your true nature, your role in your family, your appreciation for those you love.
You may never be so genuine all year long as you are on that one precious time of the year…
Embrace the change, become the giver.