I did a lot of reflecting about the “Christmas Spirit” last weekend. It’s not something I ever really had to think about before – I was always brimming over with it. The original Christmas Elf, that’s me. No matter how much others (aka the X) bitched and groused and made general Scrooges of themselves, I refused to be daunted. Halls would be decked, carols would be sung and there would be drinking of wassail and much general merry-making.
Even last year with the horrific events of September and October dragging at me, I was determined to enjoy the holidays. I had a momentary blip on Christmas Eve when the kidlet arrived home to announce in front of my entire family that he’d spent the evening with his dad and his dad’s mistress. The kidlet didn’t use those words, but it was obvious what was going on and since that was the first I knew for sure (although I’d suspected) that there was another woman (oh, who am I kidding…women), well, what a nice Christmas present for me. But, I buried it and soldiered on, more determined than ever to not let the holidays be ruined and I did a pretty good job of it. Support from my family and some extra-nice presents didn’t hurt.
But this year, with the divorce being finalized in the last couple of weeks, I suddenly found myself totally lacking in any Christmas Spirit whatsoever. I didn’t care about shopping. I didn’t have any reason to bake anything. I made a half-hearted attempt to put some Christmas lights on the house but only because in my neighborhood you HAVE to participate in the whole lights thing or the neighborhood mafia makes sure you quietly disappear…or so I’ve heard. I kept wondering what was wrong with me and thinking “well, things will change when I get closer to the holidays.”
Then, I tried putting on some Christmas music to put myself in the mood and found myself crying and that’s when I knew. The universe had finally won. The Christmas Spirit had finally been trampled, kicked, beaten and pounded out of me. It was just gone and I couldn’t figure out how to get it back.
I cried more about that realization than I have about anything in a long time. Something about the knowledge that I’d finally lost that last childlike spark of innocence was incredibly disheartening. I tried to put on a front. I went Christmas shopping. I bought cookie decorating paraphernalia and a gingerbread house kit for the kidlet. I even volunteered to host Christmas Day at my house because hey, no stress. I no longer cared.
Then, something started to happen. I went over to my parents’ house to wrap my presents and help them wrap theirs. On the way, I stopped at Target to pick up some extra boxes and other wapping supplies. While I was there I realized I should check out some Christmas decorations for the inside of the house to make things a little more festive since I was hosting the day. I found a small fake tree that came complete with lights (no assembly – yay!) on sale for $20 and got that. Then I realized I needed extra stocking hangers for all the guests coming and I found a really cute little table runner to put on my buffet table. I knew I was going to put my evergreen garland across the mantle, but bought a string of lights and some gold bows to spiff it up a bit. Then I remembered all the holiday candles that I never use because I don’t have bases for them so I picked up some different candle-holders and bases and a bag of cinnamon apple potpourri. Despite it being the last weekend before Christmas, I breezed through the checkout line and by the time I hit my car, I was feeling decidedly pepped up.
Then, I hit the bird store to pick up some extra treats for the parrot and some things for Santa to leave in his stocking. Yes, the parrot has his own Christmas stocking. Want to make something of it? YOU try explaining to a 3 year old why everyone except the bird got something from Santa! Of course, while I was there, I had to stop and play with all the baby birds including one incredibly sweet baby cockatiel who’d had an accident and lost most of its upper beak. Despite that, it begged for me to pick it up and let me scratch its head and then it rode around on my shoulder while I did my shopping. It was awfully hard for me to leave that bird behind – it reminded me so much of my sweet Jimmy-girl who passed away a year ago this Thanksgiving. Still, I felt really good by the time I left the store. I guess there’s just something about unconditional love – it’s obviously an essential ingredient in “Christmas Spirit.”
And while I started out irritated at having to spend a day doing nothing but wrapping, I found myself starting to really enjoy playing with the pretty paper and ribbon. I thought about all the previous Christmases where I’d helped my mom with the wrapping starting when I was about 12 or so and she first taught me how to wrap a package. Mom sat down at the table with me and wrapped a few things and we talked…which we hardly ever do unless it’s about babysitting or groceries or things I need my dad to help me with around the house. It was nice.
I spent the next morning putting up my new little tree and decorating the mantel with all the fun things I’d bought and for once, I was really pleased with how things turned out. Usually when I plan a project like this, one string of lights burns out or I can’t find what I want at the store or something gets dropped and broken, but none of that happened and everything looked even better than I had planned.
I even had enough time left over that I decided to replace the hand-painted Christmas shirts that I made for the kidlet and me to wear the last couple of years. Both of us had completely outgrown them – his were too small and mine was WAY too big. A quick trip to Michael’s for some shirts and then home to dig out my fabric paints and my patterns and I got three shirts done. Plus, I mostly finished the charm bracelet I’m making for the kidlet’s teacher’s present.
I looked up from painting the last shirt and suddenly realized that my Christmas Spirit was back in full force. I couldn’t wait for the kidlet to get home and see how I’d transformed the house and help me finish decorating the tree. I ordered some classic Christmas movies for us to watch this weekend and picked up some cocoa and marshmallows to have tonight after we finish the tree. The Christmas music is all queued up in the CD player and I’ve even got candles and the fireplace going.
I started crying again, but this time they were tears of joy because I realized that my Christmas Spirit was never lost at all. I just had to remember how to get to the special place where I keep it. Y'know, Target really DOES have EVERYTHING! And sometimes it's even on sale...
Not sure how much posting I’ll do over the holidays…I’m on full-time Mom (not to mention Elf) duty until about January 10th, but a very Merry, Merry Christmas to all and I’ll see you in 2007!
P.S. Here's the picture of the teacher's bracelet all finished. It was supposed to have more charms on it, but that shipment never arrived from the vendor so I had to improvise: