Christmas is almost here. I'm done shopping. All I have to do is wrap up some gifts. I'm still waiting on one item I ordered to get here and I'll be finished with the whole deal. I've really been rethinking my thoughts on the whole holiday and I'm a little surprised at where I've ended up. While I am a Christian, I do not believe Christ was born in December, and therefore I've never celebrated Christmas as a religious observance. As a kid I was taken in by the whole Santa thing but generally disappointed by the way things turned out. You see growing up Christmas gift giving was about getting stuff you needed more than getting fun stuff. Gift giving was similar. Mom and Dad got gifts from the kids that were slightly dumb and not greatly desired.
Growing up gifts were 80% stuff you needed, like cloths and maybe 20% toys or other fun stuff. Despite my never asking for socks or underwear, Santa always brought some. Christmas of 1977 was the sole exception in my childhood. For those of you who don't know or care, the first Star Wars movie came out in 1977. Me and my friends all believed that Star Wars was the coolest thing ever. That year Santa came through with an X-wing Fighter and action figures. While he also no doubt showered me with socks and the required whitey tighties, the overwhelming coolness of Stars Wars made up for it. With the exception of 1977, my over all outlook on Christmas has traditionally been someplace between slightly annoyed and mystified that people would bother with it at all.
Then I married Mrs Ipsa. She grew up Lutheran. Her family celebrated Christmas as religious and a family holiday. I do mean celebrated. Christmas was an all out great big deal for her family. My mother in law starts asking for Christmas wish lists in July. No kidding! The forth of July kicks off her Christmas shopping. Year one of marriage I discovered that Christmas would be a BIG DEAL.
As I remember it, my idea of a great first married Christmas, involved some festive seasonal red fashion ware from that great Christmas retailer, Victoria's Secret and some not too subtle hints about a certain elf and visits to the south pole. The men reading this will no doubt agree that, with some slight modifications to accommodate personal tastes, my general concept is a sure way to enjoy the holiday season. Women reading this should take note as well. If your man gets grumpy at the holidays, maybe you're putting too much time into "the season" and not enough time into the "happy" portion of "happy holidays". Less sex and more of your mother, sister and other family members is a guaranteed recipe for "Grinch".
Reality didn't go along with fantasy. Our first Christmas was exhausting and not for any of the good reasons. Christmas Eve services, staying the night at her folks house (no we can't do it here), up at 4:00am, her sisters bratty kids TONS OF GIFTS and a 2 hr car ride to my parents, the lack of joy that I traditionally have about Christmas at their house, Santa made sure I got some more socks, dinner, a long ride back to our house after a 18hr day of holiday fun, no elf action.
I made a couple decisions after that first Christmas. Number one, NEVER would we do Christmas at every-bodies house on the same day again. It was just way too much. Number two, Christmas still sucked every bit as much as I thought it did, but she loved it. I would go along with a minimum amount of griping, since apparently sharing my insights into the activities just made her upset.
So for the last 13 years I've been going along and getting along. My mother in law has been doing her thing and the wife has been doing hers. I've been doing my best to keep my mouth shut, and hang lights as required.
Res Jr. turned 4 this year, which means that he remembered from last year what was coming this year. Talk about excited. For a week before Thanksgiving he keep asking Mrs Ipsa about putting up the tree. She promised him they would do it the day after Thanksgiving. Mom broke down and had it up Thursday afternoon. Friday morning I was woken up by sounds best described as "weeping and gnashing of teeth". My son believed that with the erecting and decorating of the Christmas tree, Santa would come and the living room would be filled with presents. It wasn't, and the great comforter known as mom wasn't able to get things under control before the great protector known as dad arrived on the scene looking to kill whomever was murdering his son.
The youthful excitement of my son and wide eyed wonder of my daughter has been tugging on my heart these last few weeks. I've been rethinking Christmas in my heart as well as my head. No Jesus wasn't born on 12/25 but something is being born in my heart. This year my wife asked me for suggestions for grandmas wish list for the kids. I started giving her a list of things, all very practical things mind you, like the socks and underwear I hated as a kid. She stopped me and told me that her mom would say buying that stuff was a parents responsibility and not real Christmas presents. I huffed off. What she said has stuck with me.
The wife and kids have been gone since the middle of week before last visiting the grand parents. They get home on Monday. Last Friday they had Christmas with my folks. A no toy Christmas and one game for the boy. He was less than thrilled. Just like me growing up. This morning they had Christmas with her folks. Yes the kids got some cloths, but they were shirts with pictures of things the kids liked on them, and every box of practical gifts had a couple toys of some sort stuck in to go with it. It was fun, they got cool stuff. It sounds like they had a blast. The best Christmas ever!!! I missed it.
Socks and shirts are things a parent is supposed to buy for their kids. They never made me smile as a kid. Christmas time comes once every year but childhood only comes once a lifetime. I intend for my kids to love Christmas every bit as much as their mother does. The only way for that to happen is to make it as great for them as I can. As this attitude has been taking root my enjoyment of the season has been growing. I've even been wishing total strangers a merry Christmas. Some of them simile and wish it right back to me, which is great.
Friday I waited on a rather stern looking older man. I finished up his paperwork and wished him a Merry Christmas. He gave me a rather peeved look and said, "I'm a Jew". I could tell from the look on his face he was less than pleased with me. Not knowing what to say and a little lost for words, I just said, "That's OK so was Jesus". He broke into the biggest smile and laughed at me. "Merry Christmas to you".