When I picture the last few weeks in my head, it’s a flipbook of all things red and green and white, of lights, treats, Santa, and smiles, of music at schools and church, of family, and of friends, of getting kids here at this time, there at that time. And I realize, “OHMYWORDCHRISTMASISHEREANDI’MTOTALLYNOTREADYFORITBECAUSEISTILL-
And then I tell myself, “Chill OUT Wendy!” And I breathe for a minute and try my darnedest to get a handle on things.
I remember Christmases as a kid. I loved going window shopping. It was like winning a visual lottery. So many wonderful things to look at. SO many things to put in my letter to Santa.
My four siblings and I would all sleep in the same bed on Christmas Eve, all different directions, feet in faces, elbows in ribs and backs. It was glorious. Some of us would sneak into the living room late that night, where the tree was all aglow, and carefully pry the tape from the wrapping paper, holding our breath as if the slightest exhale would cause irreparable damage and we’d be found out. Even after my LDS mission, Julie and I crept downstairs to peek at each other’s gifts, commenting on whether the other would like it or would have to feign delight.
Oh, what a scrapbook of memories I have of Christmases Past. I see mental photographs of personalized felt stockings with a tangerine in the tip of the toe. A huge silver bowl filled with various nuts, with a nutcracker and a companion bottle of Sprite stuck in the center of it all. I see the neatly arranged gifts from Santa with each recipient’s name carefully penned on a card. I see the piles of colorful, crumpled paper and ribbons strewn about. I see my family caroling, making salt dough ornaments, graham cracker houses.
And I can’t believe how blessed I have been.
As a couple, Rick and I have always been way too excited about Christmas. In the beginning of our marriage, we could never wait until the actual day to open presents. We’d spend way beyond our means, open everything early, feel bad about how much we’d spent, and then return everything so that we could have food in the fridge. It happened nearly every year for the first few. Even now, we have a hard time sticking to our set budget, and we end up spending money on things we don’t need, or even really want.
For a couple years it was so bad that everyone actually got bored opening gifts and we had so many gift cards that we lost track of them and ended up accidentally throwing some away, never to be recovered.
But this is our year. This year we talked it out, set a firm budget, and are actually BELOW it, if you can believe it. We have made a more concerted effort to fill the season with memories, instead of stuff. Our family sang together with the ward choir. We've planned and taken part in some different service projects. Tonight we had extended family over for dinner and spent an hour singing old family favorites and Christmas songs, sometimes a Capella, sometimes accompanied by Rick’s dad on the guitar, or his mom on the piano. The kids played their recital songs and some even soloed their school choir favorites. Rick prepared two special musical numbers—one a solo for me, the other a piano piece for his parents. It was a fun and beautiful and heart-warming night, one that we will remember for Christmases to come.
Yes, the last few weeks HAVE been a blur. And sometimes I've gotten a little stressed out, I admit it. But nights like tonight are a glimpse of something I once knew, and occasionally am vouchsafed a reminder of: that the things that we most love and remember don’t come from a store. And they are the stuff that life is made of.