Thursday, December 16, 2010

Holiday Blues? Pining Your Childhood? Get Over It!


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.

18 comments:

  1. Yay, you!!

    I love the fact you remember the fact that the not all the 'good old days' weren't all so good and remind others of that fact.

    But more? I love the fact you remember others... and give.

    Happy, happy holidays!!!

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  2. Brenda;
    Thanks, sweetie. You have a great holiday. I live for finding just the right gift for someone that says "no one gets you like I do." I am thrilled to see their excitement and the touching moment when they realize I did totally get them. It never occurs to me that I will get gifts on the holiday. It wouldn't matter what people gave me because the gift I really wanted was their expression. It's priceless. I was the fifth kid of a really crazy family and my parents often forgot my birthday and they didn't want to give their kids toys because they had a whole estate to play in and needed to be creative, so gift giving was often times the dreaded underwear or something else that was lame. I remember thinking, it would be so cool if someone understood me enough to give me a gift that was obviously for me and no one else, not a universal gift. I think that is what made me this way, being able to do that for people. From something miserable, there is always something good and from something good there is always something miserable--hence this post.

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  3. Every kid needs a toy or special gift during the holidays! It would be great if it were always something special, something that makes their eyes light up!

    I'm hoping one day very soon you're eyes will sparkle and shine! :)

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  4. I fully recognize that past Christmases in my household weren't all good. But I miss the days when there was a tiny bit of excitement associated with the holiday. With my family, there's been a few more groans and "is it over yet" attitudes than in the past. Everything becomes like a chore. It's kind of sad.

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  5. Andrea;
    Absolutely. As an adult, I look at it differently, having raised my kid already. I think of the holidays as a time to slow down, go to parties, socialize, see people I haven't seen in a while and curl up with some hot cocoa and a fire and just reflect on the year and the coming new year and new possibilities. It's amazing how the season just seems to help transition you from what you appreciate to what you aspire to. My excitement at Xmas is always having people open gifts and making foods. I'm vacationing this Xmas, so I didn't do my usual routine, but I expect next year to set up a smorgasbord and have friends over to share my Scandinavian Xmas and my Winter Solstice appreciation and just have a really relaxing cozy time in a warm place with warm drinks and good company. It doesn't get better than that.

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  6. I agree with ya 100%. I always like to try and slow down at Christmas, too, to try and appreciate the season. Two many people are insane at this time, and attempt to achieve far too much. I hope you have a Merry Christmas, Autumn. You deserve one! ;)

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  7. HN;
    Thanks, buddy! I am definitely going to have a great one. I will no doubt be posting about it around Xmas day. I hope you have a cozy one and stay warm. It gets freeeeezing in your neck of the woods.

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  8. I don't really share Christmas excitement. It's just a Hallmark holiday.

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  9. I got started on a long comment rant....deleted it and started over. It is too easy to go to that negative space...the media has trained me well.

    Christmas is what you make it. Today as yesterday.

    Happy Holidays and have a wonderful weekend.

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  10. Echo;
    Which is really why I celebrate the winter solstice with a yule log, soft music, and a nice stiff drink.

    MM;
    You wise monkey! I hope you have a wonderful time but I highly suspect my next several days will trump everyone else's :-)

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  11. This post made me kind of sad...

    Well said as always :)

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  12. Dolly;
    It's supposed to shake up the grumpy adults who complain about kids today and Xmases past. Definitely not as idyllic as we like to imagine. It really is what you make of it. Hell, I live my life like Xmas every day as far as people I love. They can tell no difference 365 days of the year. That's what we should all incorporate.

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  13. Ok, I've had a DORK moment and posted on your most recent blog the reply to this one! Let me go copy and paste! LOL

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  14. Ok, my post completely disappeared!

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  15. Ok, well I can't remember what I posted, but basically I said that I love the giving part of Christmas and any other time of year. This past year has sucked with no job, divorce and soul searching, but I love giving frivolous gifts that you normally wouldn't buy yourself. I think that's what it's all about. Yeah, you didn't NEED it, but you WANTED it and it's cool! LOL

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  16. :) That was a great post. I had never really thought be happy about the holidays in that way. I am, I just never had the words for it.

    You really are a special person. Thanks as always for sharing and have a great holiday.

    Cheers!

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  17. Frog Queen;
    Thanks! May you have a beautiful solstice and loving holiday season.

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