Christmas 2014 and the Ghost of Others

Diego wants Xmas eve dinner!
Dear Readers,

Happy Holidays! We ate the food, we opened the gifts, we had the traditional Christmas meltdown, complete with drama and a few tears. (Is it really Christmas without it?) We saw the Christmas Show at Radio City and we got gussied up. The list of what I didn't accomplish still beats out the list of what got done, (if you didn't get a Christmas card - don't hate me, there are still a bunch unsent along with my unfinished Christmas gifts). But in the end, Christmas shouldn't be a to do list followed by checked items. It should be about enjoying time with family. 

Except if your name is Mom. It seems that I am falling into the same trap that the women in my family have been falling into for generations, in which holidays become a frenzy of guilt and fear that dinner will be ruined. Pure to form, I also declared my turkey doomed to death when the potatoes weren't ready to start when they "should have been."

Why can't I just go with the flow? If we are 7 people around our Christmas dinner table, and no one is going anywhere or coming from anywhere, why can't I just take a deep breath, take a sip of wine and let it all just happen? Why can't I bask in my own individual imperfection, but instead strive for some idealized version of Christmases past? They were only perfect in my head. Disappointments of imperfect gifts, family squabbles, gossip, rehashing bitter memories - or occasional other "improprieties" like when my brother passed out into his dinner plate (as a small child some adult told me, "Dino came home late and was very tired." As an adult I'm guessing it he had a little too much fun the night before). 

My mother-in-law predicts we will laugh at the craziness of dragging a 300-pound treadmill from the garage, up the front steps and down our tight stairway into the basement, just as I hoped to serve Christmas dinner. My father-in-law, already dressed for Christmas, had to change back into his jeans and dinner was suddenly delayed indefinitely. Lots of harsh feelings, pulled muscles and bitten tongues later, we were sitting at the table eating turkey - all thankful for different reasons. (My guess is that I wasn't the only one who was plain old-fashioned hungry).

When I talked to C about it the next day, she smiled as she said, "The amazing part is daddy was right!" Somehow we got this monstrosity downstairs. Today he finished putting it together - and C logged the first few miles on a treadmill built for an Olympian! He and my father-in-law spent the late afternoon assembling my rowing machine. Bye bye, gym!

So don't believe the perfect pictures of happy faces you see on Facebook. Of course, many people have unwrapped the perfect present, sat before the perfect table of perfectly matched dishes, glasses, serving plates and perfectly-timed sides, laughing at inside jokes and filled with uncomplicated feelings. But most of us embrace an imperfect holiday... where we swear, cry, complain and spend too much time forgetting how fortunate we are.

For many of us - myself included - there is a silent part of every holiday. Where, among the chaos, we spend a few minutes reliving Christmases past with people who died many years ago. I also spent a lot of time this year being angry - as much as I hate to admit it - because jealousy, spite and anger took over. Talk about the Christmas spirit! Maybe I'm more prone to negative feelings because it's my nature. Maybe it's because on the alternate years when we "host Christmas" it isn't just a meal or two, but we host guests who stay with us for at least 2 weeks. They don't require much beyond a well-stocked kitchen, clean beds and ample towels- but it's a combination of the holiday and the extras. The good, the bad, they ugly, all well shaken into a mixed drink we call the holidays.

But then, somehow, when you least expect it... Christmas peace comes to all.

I wish you all a few minutes, an hour or a week of this lovely respite. Merry - belated - Christmas to all, and to all a Good Night!

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