Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas is a State of Mind

Christmas is a state of mind not a particular day. Anyone who believes that Jesus is the reason for the season or that he was even born in December is living under a rock or in the Bible Belt which is pretty much the same thing. The Winter Solstice is the reason for the season, hijacked like so many other things by the Church. That’s cool, but we shouldn’t lose sight of what actually makes the season special and it’s not the number 25.

I think we convinced my mother this year. In the past she has accused us of spoiling her “high holy day” by engaging in activities that didn’t fit her Christmas ideal. That right there is a big problem with the season. Everyone has high expectations of recreating the magic they felt at Christmas when they were children. The problem is that a lot of us are not children anymore and when the expectations are too high we end up disappointed. Ninety percent of the success of the celebration of the Yuletide is the mindset.

We live 150 miles from my mother. My children are grown with families of their own. They have a lot of people they want to spend time with at Christmas. In-laws and outlaws (my ex-husband) and assorted aunts, uncles and cousins. Everyone vies for a celebration on the 24th or 25th creating a marathon of driving and eating, eating and driving.

Sometimes things like weather prevent us from being with my mother at Christmas. Last year it was the snow. I was supposed to go and get her and bring her to Gig Harbor, but Mother Nature had a different idea. Last year Christmas Day went down in my book as worst day ever. It started out with opening Santa gifts at home which wasn’t too bad, but then having to rush around and dress so we could go to brunch at my Tacoma son’s. That was delicious, but just when I would like to have settled in for a long Winter’s nap or even a nice chat with my ex’s current wife we were off on a terrifying drive to Bothell for my in-laws’ Christmas celebration. I love these people, but I was already tired and scared by the time we got stuck in the snow and had three brothers-in-law with four-wheel come rescue us and ferry us to the party. What a mess! I have, hands down, the best bunch of in-laws on the face of the Earth, but just wanted my own snug home by the time we arrived. This year that celebration will be on the 26the to my great relief and my husband's insistance.

This year it is the fact that my daughter-in-law Ana, a member of our large household, is leaving for Brazil on the 26th to see her own mother and there is always chaos attendant as she prepares to go. Having her sleep on the floor just so my mother can be here didn’t seem the thing to do so I struck on a better plan. We all went to her. Granted it was five days early, but I think I convinced her that what really mattered about Christmas was having everyone together at once and creating the atmosphere of Christmas.

We have a house at the beach six blocks from the apartment building where my mother lives. At Thanksgiving my husband had put up our artificial tree, much to the delight of our grandson who was there. Two weeks ago when I’d gone down to take my mother shopping I got out my glue gun and a collection of big pine cones and glued them to twine which I strung around our kitchen which also serves as our dining room. I put a huge roast from Costco into the fridge and crossed my fingers that the snow wouldn’t spoil our plans.

As soon as my husband and I were home from work we loaded up my Neon with food, gifts, the dog and my daughter Amy and headed for the coast. In the morning, with Christmas music playing, I made Chex Mix which began the smells of holidays for us. I use Cheerios in mine because that’s the original recipe from the 1950s and the way my grandmother made it. Amy wanted chocolate pie and since I can deny her very little we went to Sid’s, the local grocery store, and bought pudding mix and a pie shell. She helped me stir the pudding (instant is grainy) on the stove. Then disaster struck when a bottle of seasoning salt fell out of the cupboard and destroyed the pie shell. With no time to go replace it we layered the pudding with the crumbled shell in a pretty bowl. Amy loved it anyway and I’ve promised to try again for Christmas Eve which will just be her, my husband and my youngest.

We got the roast in the oven just before my youngest arrived, followed soon by my oldest son and his family with a babe just taking her first steps in life. Middle son and his family arrived last as he’d been packing suitcases for the coming trip to Brazil. Dave peeled the potatoes and mashed them while Uncle Nadir (the rock star of the family as far as his nieces and nephew are concerned) kept the little ones entertained. The wine was uncorked and the Christmas tunes kept coming with the babies asking when were we going to open the big pile of gifts under the tree.

After every gift had been unwrapped and jammies were on we watched Amy’s video of Merry Christmas Charlie Brown, which is one of my favorites, before I gathered up my mother’s gifts, bags and walker and set out for her apartment. Then I remembered that I had promised her a return trip to Chinook to look at the lights on a particular house there. She has always loved going for rides in the car, especially to look at Christmas lights. We were not disappointed. For a tiny burg, the citizens of Chinook now take their Christmas lights seriously and we even saw carolers going from house to house. All that was missing was the snow and for that I am thankful.

I think that Christmas came on the 19th there at our house in Ilwaco. It is the only time I will be with all of my children this holiday season. It looked, sounded, tasted and smelled like Christmas and even though it was not on my mother’s “high holy day” will go down in my books as the best Christmas ever. The children were all in a good mood (which might be accounted for by the wine) and not a cross word was spoken and what better gift is there for a mother? Regardless of what the rest of the season holds I’ve had a wonderful Yule. The only down side is I left my camera down there and can’t share a single picture.


Jo said...

Everything worked out wonderfully. I'm so happy for you. I love the thought of the pine cones decorating the kitchen/dining room at the beach. They would fit right in at the beach. How lovely to have all your chicks in one place, getting along! You've already had one Christmas...are you ready for the next? See you Thursday.

Stephanie Frieze said...

Yikes, Jo! I thought you were coming Friday!

Jo said...

Sorry, I meant Friday. The only date this week that I remembered correctly was Wednesday...the day my daughter arrived!

Stephanie Frieze said...

Completely understandable, Jo!