A little at a time
“I sometimes think we expect too much of Christmas Day. We try to crowd into it the long arrears of kindliness and humanity of the whole year. As for me, I like to take my Christmas a little at a time, all through the year.” — Ray Stannard Baker (David Grayson)
Even more than last year, this has been and will be a very different Christmas season for us. I realized this year will be the first time in all my 61 years that I will be spending the holiday with only one other family member.
Before I married, I spent every single Christmas with a large and loud family for whom the holiday was a major event. After marriage, and until we had children, Jeff and I spent every Christmas visiting both his family and mine, often traveling the five hours between their homes on Christmas Day itself, so that we could spend Christmas morning with one set of parents, and Christmas evening with the other. Then after we had kids, we were our own family of three and then four, still traveling often to see our extended family. Last year, Matt and I spent Christmas Day at Drew’s home, and I spent the days leading up to it with my sister and my “other Mama and Daddy” about whom I wrote a post on this blog.
This year, it will be just Matt and me. We will be joining close friends at various points in the season, as we have already done, but there will be no family with us at any point in the season. We considered traveling to my sister’s home, and to see Jeff’s mother, but Matt requested that he and I spend Christmas at York this year rather than traveling. I understood his need to be at home where the memories are warm and there are none of the stresses associated with travel to distant points. I also knew that we are living a different reality now, one to which we must grow accustomed.
So far, it has not been as dismal an experience as it may sound. To be sure, there is sorrow that so many things are forever changed, and both Matt and I are definitely “sadder but wiser.” Yet there have been unexpected joys and loyal friends to stand beside us, many of whom will be reading these words– you know who you are!
And it has been, thus far, the most stress-free holiday of my adult life. Not a bad trade-off. Christmas, after all, is the underlying reason for the merriment, not the other way around. In fact, Christmas stands alone quite nicely. As the Grinch found, “He didn’t stop Christmas from coming – it came! Somehow or other, it came just the same.”
At this stage of my life, coming off of the incalculable stress of the past six years, it seems an appropriate time to step back from the cooking, decorating, gift-wrapping and party-hosting that have been woven into Christmas for as long as I can remember. Much of that festivity has been pictured and celebrated on this blog, and you can find those posts simply by entering the word “Christmas” in the search box. If you’re unfamiliar with my deep love of the season, or just want to re-visit those years, you’ll find no shortage of holiday posts to explore.
I look back on my years of celebrating Christmas with equal parts happiness for all the memories we made, and wonder that I was somehow able to accomplish as much of it as I did. I couldn’t have done it, of course, without Jeff there to help me. Even though he tended to leave all the planning in my hands, he funded all of it, and was there with his reliable eye for detail and his much better sense of time, making sure I didn’t forget this or run too late for that.
I don’t expect much from Christmas now, and that’s OK. It begins with expecting less from myself, especially at this time of year, and that’s not only OK; it’s vital. The heartfelt card sent out later than I meant to get it into the mail; the leisurely cup of tea by a friend’s Christmas tree; the wrapping of half the number of gifts with as much or more sentiment as went into the 100+ I used to wrap each year (yes, over a hundred every year, most of them small)– all these alterations are creating for Matt and me, in the words of a dear old song, “a Christmas far more glorious than grand.”
Whether your holiday season this year is an extravaganza, or a quiet, contemplative respite from everyday life, or somewhere in between, I offer you my deepest gratitude for being with us all year long, taking Christmas a little at a time. I toast you all with a cup of good cheer (which for me means tea) and wish you bountiful year-end blessings. I didn’t decorate a Christmas tree this year, but do join me in a virtual Alpine village where Jacquie Lawson will do the honors.
Joy to the world!