In a year of much reflection, I realize how often I’ve taken for granted simple conversation and togetherness with family, especially around the holidays. When did I forget that the real meaning of giving is to let my loved ones know how much I care about them? Why did I get so caught up in having “enough” and finding “the perfect gift” for each person? How did I lose sight of Christmas over the years? I don’t know the answers, but I am determined to do better and get back to the basics.
Around this time of year, I would normally be in panic mode. Do I have enough presents? Did one kid get more than the other? Will everyone like what they got? Is the house clean enough? Do I need to scrub the baseboards one more time? Will it all be enough? Full. Blown. Panic. Mode. I would be dashing all over town and paying quadruple the price for rush shipping. There would be equal parts stress and exhaustion in trying to pull off the “perfect” Christmas. Then I took a step back and it hit me – none of it mattered.
If none of that stuff matters at all, then why was I doing it?
Sure I remember the Baywatch Barbie collection, the Space Jam sweatshirts, the Tamagotchi, the Lifesaver book in my stocking, the Limited Too everything, all the Sanrio Surprise goodies, and that Hanson Christmas CD. I spent days playing the new Donkey Kong on my Nintendo 64 and more games of Mall Madness than I can count. Of course, I remember all of those things!
However, my fondest memories are less about the gifts and more about all the feelings and time spent making those memories. I can’t tell you what the tree looked like or how many presents were underneath, but I can assure you my mom stressed over it. There was no Black Friday or Cyber Monday or Amazon Prime. There was no two-day shipping and online wish lists. There was no YouTube or Netflix or DVR.
It was the excitement of pulling out boxes of decorations from the attic and plugging up that ceramic tree. You know the one! I put all the lights in place and lit it up year after year. There was the pride in my mom’s eyes when she unpacked and hung my homemade ornaments on the tree. It was dog-eared pages in JC Penney catalogs and walking every aisle of KB Toys and getting your Santa picture at the mall.
It was waking mom up well before the crack of dawn on Christmas morning. I can close my eyes and still see her sitting in the living room floor sipping her coffee with her glasses and pajamas still on as I ripped open each present one by one. I can still hear the sound of popping the tin off a bucket of popcorn and plopping on the couch for the much anticipated TGIF holiday episodes. There were all those hours of riding around town to look at Christmas lights.
Then it hit me, another lightbulb moment – it was about our presence, not the presents.
All of it was in real time. We were there and soaking up every minute. There was no on-demand, at your convenience entertainment. You either sat down and watched the holiday specials or you missed it. You either all piled up and spent hours looking at lights or you missed out on all the jokes and memories in that little car. If you didn’t go walk all the aisles or flip through the catalogs, you had no idea what was out there.
I don’t want to miss out. I want our special memories to live on with my children long after I’m gone. They will remember the laughter at our Dollar Store attempted crafts, the daily off-key Mariah Carey concerts, and the funniest gingerbread houses. I hope they never forget all the words to Dolly Parton’s “Hard Candy Christmas” and the surprise in their advent calendars each morning. Mostly, I think they will look back one day and know that we weren’t just watching every Christmas movie ever made, but we were creating memories that will last a lifetime. They will see that we weren’t just making homemade Christmas cards and cookies, but we were actually reminding ourselves that it’s the littlest things that matter most.
Now I see where I got lost in the distraction. With all of the technology and smart phones at our fingertips, it is so easy to get caught up and miss out on what is right in front of us. The greatest gift I can give my children is a throwback Christmas filled with all the nostalgia of a 90s childhood. This year, let’s crank up the Mariah Carey, bust out the board games and put down our phones. I hope y’all find joy in all the little things, because that’s really what it’s all about!