Stop and Smell The Christmas

I missed Christmas this year.

It’s December 31st, after this weekend the holidays are officially over, the daily grind of January starts and life resumes its normal rhythms. Last night, the husband and I unplugged the glowing lights, took down our tree, and packed away Christmas. Our living room looks a little bare this morning, a little lonely. I’m sitting in Starbucks (finally!), with my cheery red Christmas cup, knowing it’s about to be gone too, and I’ll be left drinking coffee out of a plain white cup.

I didn’t physically miss Christmas. The husband and O and Rider dog and I packed up and drove up to my parents’ house as usual.  We kept a few traditions, and let a few others go, started new ones. There was the last minute run to the mall, the late night desperate wrapping, our traditional Christmas Eve lunch with my dad and sister. Cookies were baked, presents were unwrapped, too much was eaten.

But still. I feel like I missed it. I know it’s normal to feel like Christmas was too hectic, too fast, like we focus on the wrong things (things) and miss out on the important things (family, quietness, generosity). And that is certainly true. But it was more than that this year, for me. You see, I love Christmas. Love love love it. I love the lead up and the happening and the aftermath. I love the mall on Christmas Eve. I love the warmth and the twinkling lights and the cocktails and the festivity and the busyness and the sparkly wrapping paper. Even the things that bother most people about Christmas, I kinda like. And every year, it feels a bit surreal around Christmastime. Every year, I let it swirl past me, enjoying it, but waiting for that one moment, where everything stands still and Christmas shows itself to me. And then it feels like Christmas. I never know where it will come from, but when it happens, I know it, and I exhale.

This year, I was excited to write this blog post about Christmas. I was aware that I was “waiting” for Christmas, aware that I hadn’t had my moment yet, but I just knew that I would. I hummed in anticipation, watched carefully for my moment. It was going to be a great blog post, about that moment. Maybe it would be at lunch with my dad and sister, when the world would slow and the lights would become brighter, and I would see us as from afar, our little family within a family, and would glow with contentment. Maybe it would be a moment with O, sitting under the tree, watching him become mesmerized by the lights, the way it did for me when I was little. Maybe it would be at the mall, when I would meet someone less fortunate than me and provide some big grand gesture of generousity, that would make Christmas more meaningful this year. At one point, I couldn’t get O to settle down for his nap, so I actually climbed into his pack-n-play with him, cuddled him against me, and started singing Christmas carols to him. I could just feel it, THIS would be the moment, O would settle into me and the world would stop, just me and my little man, humming Silent Night. Nope. O kept screaming like a banshee.

You know where this is going. There was no moment this year. Of course, there is the possibility that there never is any moment, that I am romanticizing it, and that it’s only in retrospect, in the looking back, that you see your moment. Maybe. But I don’t think so. I think it was me. Life is always hectic, even more so now that I’m trying to balance working and motherhood and writing and marriage. But still, I’ve been even more hectic than usual, more hectic than I can remember being at this time of year. Part of it is work, I’ve been so busy at work, working every day for the past two months, sometimes nights and weekends. Not only am I physically busy, with barely a minute at work to check my email, but I am emotionally frantic, dealing with personalities and situations that are less than ideal. I worked right up until we left, the night before foregoing a lovely dinner party at the neighbors, in order to finish work and pack. I worked during the entire drive up to my parents’ house, on the phone or blackberry. So when I got to my parents’ house, that is when I started Christmas. And it was too late.

It was a perfect setting for me to find my Christmas. Walking into my parents’ house should have been my moment. It was so beautifully decorated, every touch perfect. The house glowed and smelled of baking. My mother bakes these famous sugar cookies and cherry pies. But I couldn’t savor it, because I had to return some emails and review some documents. And finally after that, I did turn work off, but by then I had to catch up and shop and wrap presents. The first moment I think that I relaxed and just let Christmas find me, it was Christmas Day night. Everything was done. The husband and I got home early from the family Christmas party and put O to bed. He lit a fire and we snuggled on the couch, beneath the sparkly tree and watched Christmas movies. Finally. We watched Elf and How The Grinch Stole Christmas and A Christmas Story. We had leftovers and cherry pie and coffee. And while I enjoyed every minute of it, and thought, finally, I was also a little sad. Because I had let myself miss Christmas, because I was working too much and was too stressed and too busy to just enjoy.

Every night when I pull into my driveway after work, I see the pots full of flowers on my front porch. I planted them and I have neglected them. They are sad and dying and don’t get enough water. I don’t have time to water them every day, much less to stop and smell them. And no, they are pansies, so they don’t actually smell, but you get the point. It makes me sad, every day. There should be enough time in everyone’s day to water your plants. Or take an hour to cuddle with your husband on the couch. Or daydream, or watch your baby discover something new. Time to take a walk or read the paper. Time to slow down, enjoy the world, smell the flowers.

So I missed Christmas. I have dead flowers. I haven’t been writing. It’s almost a New Year. Times, they are a-changing, and in my case, they need to be changing.

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