Friday, December 6, 2013

The Most 2013 Christmas Ever

Christmas photo session joy
It starts on November 1 around here. As soon as the Halloween candy is sorted and we've had the annual pronouncements by the children that should they discover one of the parents has eaten a Milky Way grudges will be held for eternity, the planning of the looming holiday season begins. The gift lists are written and hung on the fridge. I make the annual call to my sister, Keeper of the most convoluted schedule ever created of who hosts Thanksgiving and Christmas each year which despite my best intentions I can never understand, and I get my yearly assignment. Discussion of which room we will put the tree in escalates to debate. Can we find a new cookie recipe that will top all others? Should we try to recreate the wreath snowman I found on Pinterest on the door, or should we just get a wreath like we always do? How many lights are too many? Can we go to a show this year in Boston? Will we get to "A Journey to Bethlehem" this year? When do we get to drive around in jammies looking at lights? And on and on and on, as we try to not only do everything we did last year, but add more and more fun to this year.

I seriously need a nap just thinking about it.

I love Christmas. I blame my mother, who although she was a fairly frugal woman throughout the year, filled the living room with a sea of presents that almost reached the kitchen doorway each year, despite my father's yearly suggestion of downsizing. I love that our house always smelled like pine and cookies, and that our family was the only one I knew who sat down nightly in the darkened living room to look at the colored lights blinking on the tree and discuss our days. Not that we were allowed near the tree for fear of said lights burning a hole in our skin, but we could look. Ah, the energy efficient 70s. I'm one of the people out there who actually loves Christmas cards and reads every letter thoroughly and squeals over every photo of cute kids and lovely families and reads the sentiments in traditional cards. I love a good candlelight Christmas service at church. I actually sort of love that I will never figure out the Christmas hosting schedule.

But I know now that being the mom at Christmas isn't quite that easy, and as we put more and more pressure on ourselves every year to top the last, we feel like we've failed our families when something goes wrong. 2013 has turned into one of those years where things just aren't falling into place for me for whatever reason, and there are moments when I panic to think that my children will remember that this was the year of the Epic Cookie Fails (two so far! using recipes I have made for YEARS!) and that the number of gifts under the tree wasn't equal. The year that our Christmas card photo isn't all that cute. The year I chose not to write the annual Christmas letter in favor of a brief update on the back of the not-so-great photo card, and the printer cut off some of the writing. The year we almost had a knockdown dragout in the middle of the Christmas tree farm because four of us were for family room and one was staunchly, emotionally attached to living room. The year the annual cousins in the tree sled photo was alternately sabotaged by bright sun and children who all shut their eyes at the same time for no good reason. The year that I'm not feeling particularly creative about my gift giving or holiday meal prep, even though I should be by now. We won't even go into the horror show of the quilt I'm trying to whip up for my husband.

Kidding. Of course we are going there.

It's been Miss Conduct to the rescue of my emotional well being. Those who know me know I am constantly quoting Miss Conduct, the Dear Abby-with-an-attitude advice columnist from the Boston Globe Magazine every Sunday. I love her. She keeps it real. You have a problem? Better be sure it really is a problem, because if you are just complaining about something stupid, she will put you in your place with snark and sarcasm I could only dream of accomplishing. But should it be a real problem, she empowers you to make changes for the good, and I love that too. So a few weeks before Thanksgiving, her column was about the upcoming holidays. And this one paragraph changed all my thinking for the better:

 "Celebrate this year's holiday. Don't make yourself crazy by trying to re-create some nostalgic fantasy or by deciding that every Christmas must be the "best Christmas ever." Try to make it the most 2013 Christmas ever. Holidays should be about acknowledging the passage of time, not trying to stop it. Sometimes this means a radical break with traditions--I took my mother to New York for Christmas the year after my father's death. Sometimes it is as simple as everyone taking a moment before Thanksgiving dinner to say what they are grateful for this year."  

How can you not love that? Epic Cookie Fails be damned. This is going to be the Most 2013 Christmas yet.

I'm not stressing that it is December 6 and the outside lights are still in a pile in the living room. I'm saving on my energy bill. Or that the mud room door is still empty of either a Pinterest-worthy snowman or a regular wreath. No one uses it anyway.

I'm not losing sleep over the not-so-great card. Because when the box of them arrived from Zazzle yesterday, Eva and Paige dropped everything they were doing to sit down together to put them all in the envelopes and address label them. Unasked. Uncomplaining. Without fighting. 

Big cheesy smiles, big Cheez-it box, it's all part of the Most 2013 Christmas ever
I'm not going to remember where we put the tree this year as much as I am going to remember that we settled the argument at the tree farm with an All Hands In, "1-2-3-Helfter Christmas!"

I'm going to remember the cousins in the sled photo, because it exists. But I am not going to let it stop the tradition or exclude it from the montage.

It makes me happy no matter what.

I'm pretty sure the Christmas dinner I am in charge of this year is going to be amazing. I don't need to have it planned out quite yet. And if it sucks, I'm thankful for a freezer full of meat as a backup and a  family who will be here together regardless.

And the quilt? Well, it won't be awesome. But Mr. QH, whom a friend described as "the only person I know over the age of three who still gets excited about tractors," will appreciate it, even if the downside is I have to look at it in my home every day.

Merry Everything, Happy Always!


Anne Wiens said...

Well, if that isn't the cutest Christmas card of the girls, it has to be in the top 2. And if the downside of making Mr QH a quilt you know he's going to love is that you have to live with it, you are one lucky lady. Merry Christmas! :0)

Kelli Fannin Quilts said...

This post just makes me happy. Lots of smiles and nostalgic sighs (look at how tiny your twins were on that sled.. and how BIG miss G is getting!) and even laughing out loud about the "only person over 3/tractor" comment. No matter how it all turns out it. is. perfect. It is a perfect snapshop of this moment in Helfter family time. :D

Karen said...

I too loved this post!It does put things in perspective.Love your spirit, thanks for sharing.Karen

Kevin the Quilter said...

Great post Beth! I remember several of the things you mentioned about Christmas' past. I, too, am in a "not feeling the Christmas spirit" dilemma this year. However, your post has proven to me to just make the best of Christmas 2013! Merry Christmas to you and your's!

Lisa E said...

Wonderful post! Thank you for sharing your trials and tribulations and eventual "enlightenment"!

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