Thursday, December 1, 2016

                                   

                           Holiday Hell

      The holidays are not always easy for some people. Apparently, in large families, there is always at least one black sheep that threatens to destroy the Hallmark Hostess’s dream of the perfect celebration. One family dreads the psycho aunt who goes through all the cabinets and drawers of the host’s home every year. Another decries the curmudgeon Uncle Harry who whines if dinner isn’t served at exactly 5:30 p.m. Hostesses who have spent hours planning, days shopping and sleepless nights outlining a seating arrangement to avoid political mayhem complain about all the effort being second only to whoever wins the football game. Today, anyone between the ages of 18 months and 67 years has his or her head in a device, so conversation is at a premium. Ah, the joy of thankful. 

     Then there are those who aren’t blessed with large families. Their challenge is to fast forward past the Hallmark commercials and focus on how to entertain themselves alone while the rest of the world is ostensibly having warm and fuzzy bonding time with families like the above. To cook? to go out? to leave town? 

     I recall holidays when our family was large, loud and loony. I recall years later when there were only six of us: my parents, my sister and me, and my two grandmas. It was kind of sad, and certainly quiet, but little did I know how quiet it could have been. I remember feeling sorry that there wasn’t more jolly when, actually, I should have been cherishing every moment with my two grandmothers who had so much to tell. 

     When my own children were little, there was such magic watching them sneak down the stairs to see what Santa had brought. Tearing through the wrapping paper, barely looking at the gifts inside, they squealed and giggled, and life was rich and full. Now they are doing that with their own children. Some years, I get to watch; others, I just get to see photos, but fortunately, instant ones and videos too.

     When my father got older, I remember him telling me that he and his significant other didn’t celebrate Christmas anymore. “It’s just another day,” he said. They didn’t put up a tree, send Christmas cards or even go out for dinner. I found this strange and sad.

     Now I am “older,” and I understand why they didn’t choose to decorate the house and make a big fuss anymore. We will travel to see our children. We will pack the car, take a deep breath and face two and a half days of driving through sleet and snow to spend less than 24 hours with each of two of the four daughters. Is it worth putting up a tree at home, decorating the front door, buying each other gifts we can’t really justify and sending cards to people who really don’t care? 

     Yes, it is. It is worth doing because once you stop celebrating, your spirit stalls. Christmas is more than the commercial hype that we all criticize but enjoy. Christmas, regardless of your religious preference, is about joy and giving. It’s about celebrating the positive, the fun, the good. Our tree has shrunk in direct proportion to our budget, but we still have one. Where there were gifts, now there are poinsettias. Where there were knicknacks and card baskets, there are photos of past holidays and CD cases of the music we listen to every year. 

     Yes, there is still a half a cup of hell in the holidays, but there’s a cup and a half of joy. From which will you drink?