Saturday, December 26, 2015

Christmas Memories and Traditions

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas holiday! We are still at Marc's parents' in Texas; we'll be getting on the road tomorrow to head back to New Orleans sans kids--they'll be hanging out here until Friday, when we meet them halfway to bring them home.

So the kids are (hopefully) napping and I'm enjoying a little quiet time on the back porch, reflecting on our Christmas holiday, and I thought I might share some Christmas memories with you.

Growing up, my Christmases were always big. My parents were always struggling financially, but they always seemed to feel this pressure to give me tons of toys for Christmas. Of course, I didn't know this when I was little... but now that I'm older (and wiser), I often wonder what bills didn't get paid and how many items went to the pawn shop just so I could open a ton of presents.

I remember one year when I was about 8 or 9, I think my dad must have gotten some kind of last-minute Christmas bonus because on Christmas Eve, they took me to Toys 'R Us and told me just to pick out whatever I wanted. Being so young, I don't think I really held back, either--dolls, games, art stuff, an Easy Bake Oven (that was ultimately returned because it didn't have all the parts)... all kinds of stuff landed in the cart. When we got home, my parents didn't feel like wrapping everything, especially since I already knew what it was... however, I loved ripping open the paper (still do!), so I wrapped everything and stuck it all under the tree. It's kind of a funny memory, but at the same time it's a little sad because I realize how selfish I was and how materialistic that Christmas was.

I think those Christmases are part of the reason that Marc and I do presents differently with our kids. They are very fortunate and have grandparents and great-grandparents and aunts and uncles who love them very much and take good care of them at Christmas; such good care, in fact, that we haven't felt the need to buy gifts for them ourselves. Instead, we adopt 1-4 kids from our local Catholic Charities and purchase gifts for them. It's a way for us to be generous and hopefully teach our children that Christmas is much more about giving than receiving. We've done this for the last 3 Christmases and hope to continue the tradition for many years.

I always loved baking with my mom. I don't know how old I was when I first started helping, but by the time I was 10 (maybe sooner), I was pretty much doing all the baking myself. We made sugar cookies, chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter cookies; chocolate fudge and peanut butter fudge; apple, cherry, pumpkin, pecan, mincemeat pies; and every year we added new recipes. That's one tradition I hope to share with my children (baking in general, not necessarily the quantity!). They are getting older and much more helpful in the kitchen, so hopefully they already love it! They both helped with sugar cookie cutouts this year--though I suppose the term "helped" is relative; I'm sure if you asked Marc, the voices he heard coming from the kitchen were anything but helpful! ;) They're excellent at cutting out the dough, and even better at getting sprinkles all over not only the cookies, but the floor as well :D

Facebook's Memories function reminded me of that first Christmas after my mom died 7 years ago; Marc was in Korea (I would be heading that way in February), I'd had a huge fight with my sister... I told my dad I wasn't going to the family Christmas at her house. He convinced me to go, and everyone pretended like it was all great and hunky-dory. All I wanted to do was go home and forget that day even happened. Later that night, my friend and I decided to go to the movies; however, when we got there, the line was out into the parking lot. We decided to go to a bar instead, and that was seriously one of the best nights I'd had in a looooong time. We each started with just a beer, then we shared a pitcher, then we had a few shots... yeah, we ended up pretty wasted, in a "this day sucked royally but we're ending it with great friends and great music" kind of way.

Since that year, I haven't really felt the "Christmas spirit". Sure, I went through the motions, putting up a tree and stuff, but I haven't been excited about Christmas. However, this year I actually got into the Christmas spirit; I actually looked forward to decorating and putting up our tree! Whether it has to do with coming out of the depressed fog I'd been in for so long or just having little kids who understand what's going on and are excited about Christmas, or maybe a little of both, I don't think it really matters. We had a wonderful Christmas and I can honestly say I'm looking forward to all the Christmases to come.

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