We aren’t decorating for Christmas this year. With the house for sale, the impending move, ornaments deep in storage somewhere, and just a general feeling of discontent, different priorities, and overwhelming to-do lists – well the decorations can hide in a box in their unknown location this year. The girls have been told to expect little to open this year – the house, their new rooms, and the new space will be present enough. Sure, I plan to dig out the stockings for some Christmas morning surprises. But there won’t be packages stacked in front of a tree or toys to play with after breakfast. We will pretend that we are traveling. But without the traveling. Christmas day this year will be a day perhaps of skiing and Chinese food and time together. Present enough.
We’ve started talking more about “experiences” rather than “things” – and how we’d rather save for vacations, ski days, parties, concerts, volunteering days, and giving to others than making lists of things that will just end of packed up again one day so we can move, or de-clutter, or dig out of the daily madness of the collections we all manage to build. How do we teach them to focus on people and feelings and experiences over owning more.
It’s an easy conversation though really – our kids hadn’t even made a list yet this year. And when Astrid talked to Santa this weekend she told him that she wanted food for everyone, but maybe a few new jars of Play-Doh because hers dried up. Esther asked for more friends. And Eloise just smiled and told him she was “all good” and was just standing up there to make her baby sister happy.
I want to say that more. I want to teach that more. How to make sure everyone is “all good” this year in whatever that means – economically, in their relationships, mental states.
December is hard. Memories of lost loved ones come back hard in too many reminders. Family so far away missed just a smidge more. Financial hard-aches grow. People are rushed and busy.
I’ve asked the girls that instead of gifts maybe we can do some simple parties or crafts with some friends this year. Have some girls over for tea or a movie or to make blankets for the animal shelter or to shop for Toys For Tots.
Experiences making memories for a lifetime. We don’t need a tree and ornaments to make that happen or to help us produce Christmas joy.
We were invited to a friend’s house for Thanksgiving. We were sitting and eating and laughing in the mix of 20+ people – grandparents, friends, neighbors, in-laws, cousins, and strangers. No one needed a “card” to belong. No one worried that they were spending the day with “this” family vs. “that” family. No one was excluded. Everyone – not related – or related just enjoyed a day of Thanksgiving and holiday.
I talked to my kids after that day and told them that no matter what – NEVER exclude anyone in their lives. NEVER think well we can’t invite them because we are invited them instead. NEVER let anyone sit home alone on a holiday. NEVER play favorites. And NEVER be selfish enough to think that a holiday is an invite only occasion.
I learn daily from the lessons I try to model and teach my own kids. And our friend’s Thanksgiving was no exception of a lesson teaching me that I can do so much better too.
And when one day we leave this life, it won’t be the things we own or the tree we put up that will mean something – it will be the people we loved and loved us back, the hands we touched, and experiences we shared, and the life that was lived well. It will be the conversation with Santa, and not that the damn Elf on the Shelf was moved every morning.
December can be hard. I say we stop making it hard and just think about how we can make it easier and more joyful for everyone. Lovers and strangers alike.