Christmas this year has definitely felt far more like I’m on my own than in years past. It’s also true in more ways than one.
Last year I had money I could burn. I’d cashed out some stock options and financial investments left over from my previous job and that allowed me to pay for a bigger Christmas than the kids were even expecting. In fact, after the presents were all wrapped and under the tree my oldest, Abbi, looked up and said – without prodding – “Dad, that’s too much, why did you buy all those presents?”
This year’s different, though. I’m staring at the twelve days of Christmas and realizing that I have only three presents in my possession. That’s more than a bit disconcerting.
Two years ago I was in the same financial balancing act to get gifts and everything for the kids. The difference there was that I had a second brain to help me process the wants and needs from reality. My wife, Andrea, was great at making things happen when it seemed bleak. That was, unless it involved her . . . then she just fell apart. This is, after all, the woman who went back to school to become a pharmacist, took out tens of thousands in college loans, and then complained that she only wanted to work part-time.
But I digress . . . this isn’t a piece to complain about my wife, she was wonderful in thousands of ways.
So this year we managed to get our tree, put it up, even had Abbi decide that we should move the tree to a totally different place and fill the room with the Yule Log. She was right, by the way, even though I was skeptical myself.
But as we started to put the Christmas tree together and get the decorations – tubs and tubs of decorations – I realized that things were just not as organized and that I was not, by any stretch of the imagination, a decorator. Still, things were different before, and they’re certainly different now. Andrea liked flash and flare and . . . getting things totally and completely her own way. For the first many years, even after we had two kids, she had a plan for our Christmas tree and even if the kids made ornaments at daycare or school they never made the tree if they didn’t match the theme. We had a bow on the top rather than a star or angel. Fancy, expensive-looking ornaments were okay but sentimentality had no place.
This bothered me and led to lots of arguments when I had stockings made by my Grandma that I wanted to hang up. They didn’t match, you see. I was, after all, the husband, though, and there was no winning the arguments. I did consider it one of my better influences that in the last few years we managed to turn that obsessive-compulsive need to decorate like an interior decorator to a Mom . . . who wanted to put the memories of Christmas from the past onto thee tree.
Last year we managed to get decorated and it really was a bit of a healing process to get Christmas going. This year I was actually happier and looking forward to decorating. Still, it’s interesting to see where your kids’ lives have moved through their eyes. My sons and daughters are amazing little human beings, they really are, and they have an amazing capacity for understanding, love, and strength. But where many of the old ornaments from Andrea’s childhood – ornaments that Andrea was sure her father had given us because they didn’t have room for them, not because they were being sentimental – the kids got misty-eyed. It’s absolutely normal to have that happen. I didn’t want that to color our Christmas with a dark ink, though. This is still, even being the second year alone, my favorite time of year.
So we decorated, though it’s not even as nice or thorough as last year. The leopard-spotted bows that Andrea loved and meticulously tied to the garland on the banister every year seem a bit . . . well, let’s be honest . . . not me. I am not sure what to put there, even with just 12 days remaining, but something will go there. We still have the fancy stockings . . . I just put my Grandma’s up in the dining room, tied to the staircase, in view of the tree.
Christmas, you see, is all about sentimentality and looking back . . . but it still needs to be your holiday as much as it is your past’s. That . . . and I know what to get for presents.
At the end of the day, there were no tears, no sobs, and no depressed mulling over what we lost. The main factor is we’re together. Sounds like a cheesy Hallmark card, but there it is.