When I was a kid, I was so overcome with despair at the end of the holidays I would descend into a month-long grieving period, spending all of my free time in my bedroom listening to my dad’s Bing Crosby Christmas album on my turntable. And I played that baby over and over. I would feel physical heartbreak, not that the gift receiving was over (although, I was a kid, so, c’mon), but that the magical season was ended. Every single detail of the Christmas season brought me joy. The lights, the smells, the music, the merriment, the school programs, the church pageants, and especially my family’s tradition of attending the Christmas Eve service at church, singing Silent Night by candelight, returning home, eating homemade soup with my brothers, my parents and grandparents, and then opening some gifts before rushing to bed and trying to make ourselves go to sleep.
My brothers and I always had a deal- whoever woke up first would wake the others so we could sneak in and peek at our gifts. Years later, when I was in my early twenties, at Graduate school and hundreds of miles away from my family, I remember being reduced to sobs in my studio apartment at the Time Life Christmas Treasury infomercial, with home movies of kids playing together in the snow and opening presents.
Now that I have kids of my own, I actually see the end of “the season” quite differently. When you’re the “mom” in the scenario, you don’t just get to attend your school Christmas party, you actually get to help plan it, schedule to miss work for it, and purchase goodies for it. Still magical, but also busier. When you’re the “mom,” you don’t just get to enjoy the decorations, you get to try to clean around them, to keep the dog from eating them, and figure out where to store them. Still wonderful, but more time consuming. And when you’re the “mom,” you don’t just get presents – you budget for presents, you make lists, you buy tape, wrapping paper, more tape, those tag thingys, tissue paper, etc and so forth.
The season still has so much magic, and I admit, our beautiful, overly decorated tree is still up and sitting in front of me now, yet I am happy to have the travel, the gift giving, the many parties behind me. I can see our floor, our counters are not covered with candy and cookies, and my kids will soon resume a somewhat normal schedule.
That doesn’t mean the magic has to end January 1st. I don’t think so, anyway. At the center of all of these beautiful memories are my people. My parents, my brothers, my children, my grandparents, my church family, my teachers, my friends, my husband all make up the core of my happy Christmases past, present, and, I’m sure, future. And come January 1, if we are very blessed (and we are), the people remain. And so, to, the magic.
Ever since my kiddos came along, I have felt a surge of energy for organization and planning in the week between Christmas and New Year’s. I think it is my way of trying to re-gain control. Not just post-holiday control, but any and all control that might of slipped over the past 12 months, since we sang Auld Lang Syne and rang in 2012.
I’ve given up resolutions, yet I do believe in taking stock when the new year begins. Luckily, I’m living a beautiful miracle over here. In truth, my only goal (not resolution) is to be present and enjoy every minute of it. To try not to obsess and worry. To endeavor only to bring joy to other people. To practice self-control. To watch for the magic. And, yes, to listen to Bing Crosby sing “Faith of our Fathers” and “Adeste Fidelis” as much as possible.
I began the new year reading The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo, and so I leave you with his words. Here’s to a magical new year.
“This precious human birth is unrepeatable. So what will you do today, knowing that you are one of the rarest forms of life to ever walk the face of the Earth? “