Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Magic of Christmas

I have a nighttime routine. I wash my face, brush my teeth, and change into my night clothes (which, if I’m really being honest, are just a more stained and be-holed version of the t-shirt and sweat pants I wear all day). I grab my Kindle, hoping to read a few pages of whatever book is on there before I’m overtaken by sleep. I look at my husband, who’s also ready to hit the sack, and say three little words…

“Move the elf.”

Only sometimes it’s four words…and one of them isn’t a nice one. And, yes, it starts with an “f.”

Not to be a Scrooge, but I’m struggling with the holidays and all of their whimsy. I’m overwhelmed and unprepared enough on a regular day, but this whole Christmas business really takes it to a higher level. One that – admittedly – I am failing to reach.

The laundry is in piles, and the dust is settling throughout the house. The rugs need to be cleaned, the floors swept, and the dishes done. Add ridiculous "Elf on a Shelf"-related shenanigans – along with thoughtfully handmade gifts, homemade cookies, and festive art projects – on top of that? I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

That the elf is even out of its box is an accomplishment for me. That the tree is up – and decorated – is a major achievement. That the presents are bought – if not all wrapped and sent – is amazing. That the Christmas cards are in the mail and the Santa pictures are taken is nothing short of miraculous.

But, there are only eight days left until the big "C," and still SO MUCH TO DO. Cue the panic attack.

Truthfully, that I’m celebrating this season at all is a feat. You see, when my first son Andy died in 2009 without experiencing his first Christmas, a little bit of magic went out of the holidays for me. I skipped that Christmas and have wrestled with it every year since.

All I want for Christmas – all I’ve ever wanted – is to spend it with all three of my kids. And, it’s the one thing I can never have.

In our living room, five stockings – for Daddy, Mommy, Andy, Lucy, and Will – line the top of our entertainment center. Andy’s special ornaments, commemorating his life and his memory, hang in places of honor on the Christmas tree. I sit and look at them, aching with longing for all we’ve missed and fighting back tears.

Then I glance over at Lucy, who is sitting just a bit too close to the presents already under the tree, and I smile. Her eyes are shining with excitement for what’s there for her and what's soon to be. Her dreams for Christmas – and presents that are “pretty, awesome, and glittery” – are just days away from finally coming true. And, there’s Will in his bouncer, too young to understand that it’s his first Christmas but still caught up in his sister’s enthusiasm. I know that, even if the magic for me is gone, it’s just beginning for them.

So, we will keep moving that silly elf. We will decorate the house, bake cookies (probably from a box), and color pictures for Santa. We will go to the life-sized Nativity (“Hi, Baby Jeesy!”) and drive around the neighborhood to look at the lights. We will applaud Lucy at her school’s annual Christmas show (and pray that this year she’ll actually stay on the stage). We will dress Will in little red ties and festive holiday bibs.

I will do my best to only cry happy tears. I will try to keep my focus in the present and on the spirit of the season, easily found in Lucy and Will's laughter. I'll also attempt not to obsess over the state of the carpet or to stress over what other moms are posting on Facebook and Pinterest, but no promises there.
And, as a gift to myself, I will be kinder to the person I see in the mirror and cut her a little slack. (I’ll keep hoping that my husband gives me the gift of a maid service too, which would totally make that easier.)

This Christmas may not be perfect – and that damn elf may never stray far from his shelf – but it will be what we need it to be. We will create more traditions and more memories as a family, spanning heaven and earth. And, maybe, that's magical enough.

Merry Christmas from the Butler Family.

1 comment:

  1. I am only just now catching up here, and now, a little after the new year, I can tell you that you are not alone in feeling overwhelmed. Everyone's Christmas is better than mine this year. I did get the presents bought, but managed to lose a couple. No cards went out. EVERYONE in the family came to my house for Christmas dinner, necessitating a major cleanup with rug cleaning due to overly excitable dog, moving furniture out of the house so we could bring in folding tables and chairs to accommodate everyone and cooking on top of that. Our pre-lit artificial tree went up on the 23rd and only got 5 ornaments on it. Wrapping happened on Christmas eve after the church service. The day after Christmas, I collapsed and didn't move for three days.

    I don't know where all this expectation started. It gets complicated with parents and inlaws who can't handle cooking dinner and have nowhere else to go for the holidays because I'm the only kid in town - and none of them travel anymore.

    Like you, I've kind of lost that Christmas spirit but I have no idea why. My son is old enough that we don't have to do the Santa thing or go crazy with decorations. Maybe that's it. I don't know. I hope that you and I are both more celebratory in our hearts next year.