Friday, December 18, 2009

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.


  1. isn't true that we love to romanticize the past. as we know, there have been all kinds of problems through out the history of mankind.
    i truly enjoy christmas for the giving. i too enjoy trying to find that perfect gift for everyone and then see their reaction when opening their gift - that's the best part

  2. What a wonderfful post!
    Last week i kept asking my mom what gift she wanted. We do that in my family! She kept saying i am the mom you 're the kid. I do n't want any gifts! I give the gifts!
    For her i am still a kid!
    And i am just happy i can finally give!
    Have a beautiful Yule and great holidays!

  3. Wow Autumnforest-even your "real life" blog posts are like reading a good book!!!
    I totally agree with Marbella and greekwitch's comments-and your saying this reminded me to say that I am so sorry for the family members that you have lost-that must hurt in the extreme sometimes-in our family the last "close" relative to die was my paternal grandmother in 1994-and she had lived a wonderful life as a very caring and unbigoted southern belle!! obviously i wish she was still with us-but what "we" meaning my immediate family have gone through with losing people (especially before their "time" so to speak-is non existent) and it breaks my heart that I have known so many in my life dating from high school who have lost loved ones to booze and drugs-being the first "killer" of choice among young people-and then cancer-I truly do not know what I would do without my mom-and I thank the Creator (be she/he pagan, jewish, christian,moslem-and so on--) that she is a very healthy 69 years old.
    The other part (and it is kind of the same thing with me) of this wonderful article that got to me -is the fact that -as people who either "know" me from private emails or read me in comments -know I have been going through this huge nostalgia for my high school days.

    The other day (and this is why this article really hit me big time) I got to thinking -OK -the years when you learned to deal with social isolation by becoming a boozed up class clown?
    sleeping with men two or three times my age -without barely knowing their names?
    Lying about anything and everything just so nobody -god forbid-would ever know the true "hurt" me -and I thought to myself "Uh -yeh Dev-the early 80s were just a great time for you eh?!"
    Sorry to use up so much comment space-I feel bad when I do this as it is so nice to be able to read many comments at a time-this article really hit me in such a "synch" kind of way like so many of yours do-fantastic writing as always too!!!
    wish you and yours a beautiful holiday season -and thanks for this article!!!

  4. Hey Dev, my little brother, thank your for your kind words. My losses are not so much losses as evolution, at least to me. People I love go from being practical teachers and companions to being part of the way I do things and feeling them all the time. Having them in a spiritual sense is equally as good (except for hugs). You're lucky your mom is soooo young! I just realized the other day, if my parents were alive, they'd be 90 and 85! Yeah, they had me really old. I even have a cousin who is 78! Yikes! I'm youngest on both sides of the family. I'm glad the piece hit something with you. I was hearing someone get nostalgic about their childhood and I thought--childhood is liked deceased loves ones, when it's over--you remember only the good things and it/they become bigger than life. I hope it comforts some folks who find the holidays tough. I am happy at the tinkling of the Salvation Army bucket and kids oohing as their parents slow down the car past some great Xmas lights. Mostly, I'm just thrilled to do spontaneous gift giving. Every year, I pick someone during the year who inspired me with their spirit and attitude and give that person a gift. This year, I picked someone in the blog world. It's such a great season! Really brings out out best.

  5. This will be my first Christmas as an orphan.

    Not that it really matters in the scheme of things. My family hasn't really had any holidays for almost twenty years. My fault, not theirs.

  6. @eloh;
    I can totally relate. My first Xmas realizing I no longer had parents, I was 35 at the time, but it was really hard to absorb. As I lose the rest of my family members, it makes me realize the witnesses of my life are leaving and I will have no one to say "remember when?" Luckily, I have a friend from when I was 2 years old and we grew up together and have stayed friends from a long distance, so it helps. You always have your blogging sister, Autumn. We'll recreate an adult Xmas that suits us now. :-)