Wanting to make your child’s holiday special can be an exhausting task. After years of trying to make the holidays magical for my kids, I finally learned where the magic really was.
Let the Christmas Begin!
Every year after Thanksgiving, I haul up boxes of Christmas decorations from the basement, nag my husband to drag the Christmas tree out, and wrestle with a mass of tangled lights. All in an effort to make my family’s Christmas as perfect as possible. I assemble the branches, which are slowly becoming “Charlie Brown-ish” in looks, put on the lights and plastic popcorn garland, as my girls anxiously wait to put their special decorations on.
Each girl has their own “area” on the tree that no one would dare invade. I even have my own spot for my nearly 50-year old felt camel ornament that my dad bought me when I very young. It goes front and center. I have to admit I get a little emotional when I unwrap it from its tissue and hang it on the tree. I still remember the day my dad brought it home. He held both hands behind his back and my sister and I would pick which hand we wanted. Money was tight, so getting little surprises on any ol’ Tuesday was pretty special! I have loved my camel dearly ever since.
After all the ornaments were hung, my husband would lift one of the girls to put the star on and voilà! Our tree was finished! Our tree is not a perfectly themed and color coordinated tree. It is full of ornaments the girls made for me and my husband in school, gifts, collections, and of course, ornaments handed down to me by our parents. Many times I would see all the beautifully decorated trees in the stores or magazines and wish for one like that…some day.
Weeks of Preparation
With the tree up, the focus would now be on experiencing the weeks before Christmas with an array of activities together. Driving around to look at lights, making gifts for relatives and of course, baking Christmas cookies! Every year, we would bake our sugar cookies, peanut butter blossoms, Grandpa’s prune cookies, and gingerbread men. My girls would set up their icing and sprinkle station, then decorate with abandon!
Some of the gingerbread men looked like they needed to go to the ER. The red hots would “bleed” like gunshot wounds on the poor little cookie guys! Of course, there were the special cookies that had to wait until they could make them with their respective grandmas…rosettes and Swedish Toast! The smell cookies would fill the kitchen and the girls would constantly ask “are they ready to eat?” Each year, I would try to throw in a new cookie I had seen Martha Stewart do, wanting something a little different and more sophisticated. The girls wouldn’t have it.
Oh well, maybe next year.
With everything seemingly done, all there was to do was to wait for Christmas Eve. Now for the trickiest part….the arrival of Santa Claus! My girls would carefully choose the most delectable cookies, pour a glass of milk, write a message on the Santa chalkboard, set their annual Santa trap, and nestle into their sofa beds for the night…right in front of the fireplace!! Are you kidding me!?!
I usually would watch Scrooge until midnight and tiptoe upstairs when I was certain they were asleep. As I peered over the top of the sofa I could see their eyes closed and little chests moving up and down breathing. Whew! Finally! Suddenly they would whisper, “Mommy why are you up here? Santa won’t come unless you leave!” Rats.
Many years I would have to stay awake for hours until they finally fell asleep. The girls would awake and find Santa did eventually come. The cookies and milk were devoured, a message from Santa on the chalkboard, and reindeer hoof prints on the front sidewalk. Clear cut evidence, if I do say so myself!
Some years I wondered if it would really matter if I didn’t do all the little extra things…would they even notice?
Why all the fuss?
This year as I pulled out all of the decorations and waited for my girls to come home from college, I stopped and stared at everything. I thought of all the years I put myself through stress and sleepless nights trying to do everything under the sun to make the perfect Christmas. It was when my girls came home and asked where their special ornaments were that I realized the magic of Christmas wasn’t the idea of having the “perfect” Christmas. It seemed my kids were the ones who wanted tradition, when sometimes I wanted to change things up. So as I hung my camel this year I smiled to myself knowing that these little things we did for the holidays, would be continued.
Yes, they did indeed notice.
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