Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Dude, where's my Christmas?

(I meant to post this last night but had no connectivity at Dad's place.)

Merry Christmas to you!
Ken is napping on the adjacent couch while Dad and Austin have gone to my cousin Larry’s Christmas Day dinner. I find myself battling a monster head cold and pondering the meaning of Christmas. I can’t help but notice how this could be any other night of the year except for all the boxes and bags strewn about the living room floor and that Burgerville is closed today.

Since I was raised observing Christmas from a secular point of view, the birth of Jesus and the religious aspect fell away, leaving more symbolic associations with the holiday. The small details became super important: a fresh tree for the smell, certain Christmas decorations displayed in a specific place every year, eating pizzelles and satsumas throughout December and going to Christmas Eve dinner at my Grandmother’s house to eat weird Italian food—all garnished by either pickles, olives or mandarin oranges. [My mother has taken over the dinner since my grandmother’s passing and while the garnishes are gone, there is always an “experimental” vegetable or hors d’ oeuvre somewhere on the table.]

Its funny how as a kid, I thought the pageantry and magic of this season would somehow erase all the disappointments in the year preceding it. The sheer build up to this day whipped me into a frenzy, because—at least until 8th grade—what I lacked in number of friends, the number of presents under the tree consoled me. (All of that changed once I had a high school boyfriend of course. Then only his present mattered.)

So what comes to mind when you think of the holidays and the word “expectation”? (Groan.) Everyone has a story about something that didn’t go as planned or someone who failed to live up to what they “should” have done. Rarely if ever, do expectations measure up to reality and that’s why I hate them. I’ve noticed holidays (and weddings) are times where hidden emotions and issues, explode onto center stage. For instance, 7 or 8 Christmases ago, my mother wanted my brother and me to show up at her house around 11 am and I guess we didn’t get there until 2 pm. She was so upset which made me angry because neither my brother nor I realized the time was firm but really we were struggling to meet the “expectations” of our father and blended family who we promised to visit with as well. Mom’s strong reaction surprised me but my own resentment about having to run all over the place on Christmas Day surprised me more. Why couldn’t we just have one family and be in one location all day long? (See, not a Christmas issue.) After that, I have always made it very clear about schedules during the holidays.

And now, since marrying Ken there is the inclusion of all new traditions, ideals and... expectations.

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