I originally wrote this blog for Studio Mothers. Today I'm cross-posting it here.
I haven’t written a blog post here in recent memory. In fact, I haven’t written much of anything recently. A (personal) blog here and there. Two sentences the last time I worked on my novel. And a Christmas letter that I decided not to send when my printer ran out of ink at the last minute.
No matter how you celebrate the holiday season (or even if you don’t), the months of November and December can suck the life right out of you. There’s this feverish expectation in the air that you can make the holiday merrier and brighter for everyone around you. That there’s a perfect gift out there for you to find, that will perfectly convey a bevy of emotions, and reduce the recipient to tears. That if you just spend enough, decorate enough, eat enough, make-everyone’s-dreams-come-true enough, you will fill the gnawing void inside yourself.
And here it is, nearly Christmas, and I’ve hardly bought a thing. I watch all the advertisements on tv and get all the fliers in the mail, hearing all about the latest and greatest new thing, and every store’s once-in-a-lifetime sale and think something along the lines of “pfffffft.” This surprises me a little, because, when I grew up, Christmas-morning-gift-opening was an endurance sport. But I also remember the emptiness I always felt after all the gifts were opened. Not because I wanted more gifts, but because it meant that the season of family time was at an end.
I have very dim memories of the gifts I received as a child. But I remember vividly the family Christmas parties. Sitting in the kitchen with my mom, and aunts, and grandmother as they cooked. Putting up the tree. Watching holiday movies. The family game nights. Traveling and spending time with my cousins each year. Sitting around the table telling stories.
During the holidays my already-close family spent even more time together. That was the part of Christmas that I loved best.
With that in mind, I have spent the last couple of months trying to turn this into a magical time of year for the boys. It’s our first Christmas in New York, as well as the first year that both boys are old enough to participate in all of the things that, as a mother, I’ve always wanted to do with them. We went to see the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train. My train-obsessed boys loved the freight train decorated with thousands of lights. We’ve baked and decorated dozens of cookies, and spent our afternoons making different crafts. I’ve taught them holiday songs. We’ve driven around looking at decorations, and have had fun with our Elf on the Shelf, who frequently oversleeps and forgets to visit Santa, but can always be relied upon to hide in unusual locations around the house. Now that there’s snow on the ground, our family walks through the frequent snow showers have become a new favorite pastime.
I’ve thrown all of my energy into spending time with the boys this season, because to my way of thinking, that’s the only “latest and greatest” gift they need from me. The perfect present is being perfectly present.