I always go all-out at Christmas. It’s a habit, perhaps a poor one, but a habit nonetheless. The last many years that habit has been one where I give and never really think about receiving. It’s not a bad thing, more end-of-Christmas-Carol Scrooge than “Humbug” Scrooge.
This year, though – and I promise, I made no allusions toward complaint or statement about getting no presents – my kids and others humbled me beyond belief.
I made a thousand treats throughout the last couple days. I had a full cake I made; there’s homemade sugar cookies; there’s caramel fudge bars; there’s giant chocolate chip cookies. Then my dinner came with my late wife’s sister and her family. Ham, potatoes, corn and she brought rolls and wine and beer. You know, the essentials!
But as much as I prefer the season being about my giving . . . not getting gifts, I must share what was some of this year for me. The gifts I received.
I got a gift from a friend and colleague that had the sweetest of cards and tons of treats and made me feel uniformly special and guilty that my gift for them was nowhere near as great. Another colleague gave me an entire case of coffee to replace the small box of Peet’s Kuerig cups someone stole from our office at work. While that may seem more a fun gift than “gift” it’s not. We live off caffeine.
My son took great pride in having the first present under the tree this year. I was so happy because he was smiling, proud, and overly excited. No talk about new video games, no thoughts about what he really wanted . . . he simply grinned looked at me and said “it’s for you Dad!” In that present, one of my favorites, was a 2015 calendar he had made for me. It was 12 Biomes of the World, all drawn by him. I will hang it at my desk and use it proudly. He’s had it hidden somewhere in our home for months just waiting to give it to me for Christmas.
My other favorite was from my oldest. She knows me well. Exceptionally well.
Douglas Adams’ Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency was the series he wrote after The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I’d never read it and looking at the yellowed cover I knew what immediately came out of her mouth.
“It’s a first-edition. I read the first chapter and it was hilarious.”
As did I . . . then the second . . . then the third, which begins: “High on a rocky promontory an Electric Monk sat on a bored horse.” It’s surreal, darkly humorous, insane and I found myself all day yesterday laughing out loud as I read, causing me to read it aloud to same said daughter who joined in on the laughter. “Electric monks believed in things for you thus saving you what was becoming a completely onerous task, believing in all kinds of things the world expected you to believe.”
Presents from the man in the red suit delighted all. Presents to Andrea’s sister, her family and all seemed to hit the spot as well. Then all day yesterday . . . the boys played all day with the RC helicopters their aunt had given them (including hitting their Dad in the face with one when they weren’t paying attention. Good thing I wear reading glasses)
The general consensus was this was a most excellent Christmas. That wasn’t because it was filled with presents, we didn’t have any larger a gifts than last year, I don’t believe.
This just felt Merry. I know that’s cheesy, it’s the word for the season, but past years were good, just not as joyful as this one.
Yes…I was completely exhausted. Over the course of 3 days I made a salted caramel peanut butter fudge pie; I made a chocolate brown sugar butter cake; I made sugar cookies; caramel fudge bars and chocolate chip cookies. Then the dinner.
My daughter asked why I wasn’t stopping. “Good God, you’re going to kill yourself…and worse, you’re going to make us all fat!”
I did it for one simple reason. This is what my Mom, my Grandma, her mother . . . this is Christmas for my family. You make the house smell of homemade cinnamon rolls (did I mention I made those for Christmas morning?) and baking bread and cookies and . . . it’s magical.
With so many years of struggles to find calm and peace and wonder in the day . . . it was pretty cool to look up at the end of December 25th and realize we hadn’t felt sad or melancholy, there were so many laughs and music (my nephew got a guitar so I taught him some chords) and love.
And we didn’t even need an electric monk to believe it could happen for us.