It’s quiet, save for the toddler’s light snoring behind me and the Jazz flowing from the speakers, the melodies that lull them to sleep. We’re conferring about directions in hushed tones and holding our breath each time we stop for fear of disturbing their dreams. It’s been a whirlwind trip and they need their rest. And I’m enjoying the quiet.
For the first time since baby boy joined us, we traveled for Christmas this year. I used to think of holiday traditions in absolutes. We either travel or we don’t. We pick a way and stick to it. I like absolutes for the way they can make decisions easier. I like certainty and predictability. But life doesn’t play by absolutes. So for a while we celebrated at home, just us, and this year we traveled and I’m learning now that we have no idea what we’ll do next year until next year arrives. And that’s not just ok. It’s perfectly as it should be.
This year we needed family. We needed the excitement and chaos of wrapping paper flying in a dozen different directions. We needed fancy dresses and Christmas sweaters and and a big meal with lots of laughter and love. We didn’t need it all because it had been a tough year. We just needed it. As I sit here now, still feeling warm from memories of yesterday, I can’t imagine staying home for a small holiday ever again. But who knows what we will need a year from now. That’s the beauty of not living in absolutes. We can decide when we know better what we’ll need.
In the meantime, I’m calling it. This was our best Christmas and holiday season yet. For all of the angst I felt at Thanksgiving, the visions that were so perfect in my mind and so grainy in real life, this season made up for it. It felt magical but not in a big dance of the sugar plum fairies kind of way. In the smaller way of real life. Because there were, of course, Thanksgiving-like moments. Activities planned to perfection in my head and already made into memories in my heart that looked nothing like my visions when played out in front of me. There were tantrums while walking around the light displays and drives to see holiday lights that ended in tears. There was a complete meltdown in the toy store followed by a very un-ceremonial drop of a toy in the box for tots. Christmas day, as any other day, was not without its bit of yelling, it’s drips of tears, its words that wished they could have disappeared the moment they were uttered. But in between it all were these moments that shine much brighter than the darkness could extinguish. The moment when all of us stood quietly pushing gum drops into frosting spread across a giant gingerbread cookies. The moment when we all sat on the living room, eating dinner on the floor by the fire and the tree. The moment when we all sat there on Christmas morning, little eyes in a permanent state of all lit up at each new surprise. The moment when I sat down Christmas evening, surrounded by some of the people I love the most, and all we could talk about is how glad we all were to be there.
The world doesn’t operate in absolutes but I like to think we set a new standard for Christmas this year. And it has nothing to do with the traveling or not, the things we did, the gifts that were exchanged. It has, I believe, to do with our approach. We wanted our holiday to be a certain way and so we orchestrated everything – our plans, our ideas, our wishes, even our moods, to make it so. And it worked.
I hope your holiday worked too. Wishing you a lovely last week of the year.