Post-Holiday, Then and Now
(story by Mir, from WouldaCouldaShoulda)
When I was a kid, Christmas was a Very Big Deal Indeed. This is actually pretty funny when you consider that we were Jewish (and not very religious), but my parents were willing to buy into the hoopla for us kids. We had a lot of plants in the house, and even some sort of potted pine in the corner of the living room. That became the de facto "Christmas tree," and on Christmas morning there was always a couple of gifts from Santa waiting for us beneath the pine.
We, of course, always went to the mall sometime before the holiday to sit on Santa's lap and tell him what to bring us. It was all very logical that way.
The build-up to the big day always seemed very suspenseful. First there were those last days of school before vacation—they always seemed to drag on and on—and then it was impossible to fall asleep on Christmas Eve. But finally the big morning would come and there it was: Our Santa present.
I remember several of those gifts. We usually asked for something electronic, and of course back then any sort of hand-held electronic game was a one-trick pony and laughable by today's Nintendo DS standards. One year my brother got a Coleco Football game and I got a Barbie Fashion Head. I'd been dying for the Barbie, naturally, but I was terribly jealous of my brother's game. The next year I tested out several options at the local toy store before asking for something called Safari Hunt where you had to move your little electronic "cage" around the screen and hit the button to close it when you captured an animal. Not very PC, I suppose.
The point here, however (I swear I have a point), is that the buildup was always greater than what came after. We opened the presents, we were excited, we played with them, and then… the inevitable letdown. It was over and everything was the same.
In young adulthood and even many years of what was supposed to be my mature (ha!) adult years, Christmas had a similar is-that-all-there-is feeling, for various reasons. A holiday that's supposed to be all about blessings has a way of casting everything you're sure you lack into sharp relief in years when you're not very happy. There were years I was lonely; years I wanted children I was sure I'd never have; years I mourned my broken marriage; years that the future seemed impossibly bleak. And each time, it felt like the whole world was happy, and I was the only one left wanting more.
As I sat in a house not my own and listened to my children playing with their cousins, this year, the day after Christmas, I felt nothing but content. The carnage of Christmas still lay all over the house—stray bits of wrapping and presents not yet gathered up—but I realized that being the grown-up in this scenario is actually a pretty good deal. I care very little about the "stuff" and appreciate the company of and time with family.
This is the first year I don't have even one child who still believes in Santa. I worried that would take the magic out of the holiday, and that somehow it would be a letdown either for them or for me. Instead, it's been just the opposite; I feel like it's taken me half a lifetime to find the magic in just having this time to spend together. And maybe I'm being overly optimistic, but I'm not seeing the post-Christmas crash in my kids, either. I think they're having fun, and most of it doesn't even involve their various loot.
Whatever you celebrated—or didn't—this year, I hope you were lucky enough to feel blessed and loved. And if for some reason you didn't, well… keep the faith. I never thought I'd be here, and that makes it sweeter.