Christmas Sucked!! I Want A Do-Over, Except I’m Too Tired.

Yeah, bah humbug to me, but  that’s the way I feel. This year my heart just wasn’t in it. Oh, I was at first, but then it went downhill right after the girls, Nat and myself decided not to exchange gifts. The girls were willing to buy for the two of us, but we felt that would have been a bit one-sided. We were asked by the two of them to concentrate our extra dollars on the grandkids. The two girls couldn’t come up with anything they wanted and it was therefore decided that all four of us would not buy for each other. I truly felt the idea was a good one at the time. We’d save a little bit of running around and maybe a few extra dollars, as would the girls. One was struggling financially because of her personal situation and the other has always insisted that we concentrate on her children rather than herself and her hubby. Of course, we ignored those requests over the years, until now. This year, however, we all made a joint adult decision, which much to my selfishness I regretted deep in my heart but my adult head knew it was the mature thing to do.

I may be close to having my 62nd birthday, but in my heart of hearts I still get excited Christmas morning. Without fail, I’ve been up with the birds every December 25th for as long as I can remember – even when myself, a sister and my brother spent a Christmas away from home while living in Edmonton. Our parents had shipped all of our presents to us and those packages sat under our little tree that was decorated with strung popcorn, a few ornaments and some tinsel. The three of us had a great time despite our loneliness and a phone call from home was the icing on the cake. With each passing year I thought I would grow out of this immaturity and accept Christmas like the grown-up I was suppose to. This year it came back to bite me and in spades. As selfish as it sounds, I still like to unwrap a gift or two – even if I know what’s inside. It somehow affirms that someone thought about you at one point, even if they did just decide what item on your list to get!!

I’m also a person who loves to wrap gifts. Not to brag but I’ve become pretty good at it and have wrapped presents for a couple of my sisters who don’t have the time nor the inkling to do so. I was overjoyed and loved every minute of it – despite the fact that it can be very tiring. The end results were worth every ache and pain that slowly crept into these old bones. This year I was only able to wrap around 8 gifts and half of those were done in gift bigs – of which I abhor!!! Yes, I know they’re useful, easy and a great time-saver – but I’m a purist and want to hear the tear of paper as it’s ripped from the sides of the box contained therein. I love to see big bows, colourful ribbons and little doo-dads atop a parcel, along with pretty little labels that say from us to you, with love. But yes, I truly understand why some people use the bags and not everyone can be a lover of wrapping parcels.

Waking up Christmas morning this year felt like any other day to me. There wasn’t going to be any “Christmas morning” for either of us. Instead, we were up early to go to each of the girls’ homes to watch our grandchildren open their gifts from us and all the while I felt as it I was going to their birthdays. All four grandkids were thankful for what they received and the requisite hugs were given, but by that point I was ready to go home, rip down the tree, put the decorations back into storage and just get on with the rest of the year. Somehow I made it through the day and once home, Nat and I had a nice quiet afternoon and sat in front of the fire with our grilled cheese sandwiches and french fries for supper. As Nat and I didn’t exchange gifts either, we agreed to buy an Apple TV for ourselves. That was about the only thing on my ‘Wish List’ I thought the two of us could use and after explaining all of its wondrous virtues, he agreed. I ordered it online from the Apple store and when it arrived a week before Christmas we left the FedEx box under the tree. It wasn’t until we had finished our meal that I decided to open up that little box and take a look at the instruction book. What the hell, I knew it was easy to set up but it gave me something to do while watching nothing on television.

With the arrival of Boxing Day and my side of the family coming for dinner, Nat and I were kept busy getting ready for the festivities. This was going to be the day, I told myself, that my spirits would perk up and I’d feel much better. Not seeing my sisters often enough since moving to Ridgeway, I knew the evening would be filled with laughter, stories and enough activities to keep my mind off how I was feeling. The table had been set a few days before as a time-saver, Nat put the turkey in the oven that morning, I pre-made the stuffing and popped it into the slow-cooker ready to be turned on. We were ready and good to go until our guests arrived.

With time to relax before our guests arrived we felt things were going pretty good, but something went horribly wrong after that. As Nat carved the turkey we discovered it was over-done. Apparently the battery in the meat thermometer decided to run low during the cooking process. We kept wondering why the bird was taking so long and once discovered what had happened, it was too late. The breast meat fell apart in Nat’s hands as he was trying to carve. We thought at this point the gravy would moisten things up, but as luck would have it, Nat had a hard time trying to thicken it up. I’m thinking we made too much and it was going to take a long time, but by now it was too late – our guests were arriving. – and the gravy was going to flow like coloured water!! I’m now thinking my family was lucky they contributed dishes to the meal – at least they’d have something to enjoy! One guarantee in the whole process was dessert – with Claudia’s cake, Gail’s pies, Thamazine’s tray of delectables and my cookies there was at least goodies to look forward to afterwards. I know it was my fault, but I honestly can’t remember eating my meal.

Somehow we made it through and despite how I felt about the meal, the company was wonderful. As mentioned, there were lots of laughs, a good game and some good conversation. In my heart of hearts I know it’s not about the meal, it’s about family (who were all crammed into our little dining room like sardines in a can, with overflow in the kitchen), and I for one have great family and lots of love around me. My body, however, wasn’t listening to anything my heart told it. The bones were tired, the brain was dead and the arthritis in my hip decided it was time to rear its ugly little head. I was tired, a bit depressed about how I was feeling and just wanted the whole affair to end. Maybe a good night’s sleep would help. It didn’t!!

With a couple of nice highlights – a few gifts from some wonderful family members (the chocolate bark from the Irwins, the beautiful ornament and goodies from Gail and Bonnie, the gorgeous little cake from Claudia and the bottle of wine from Liz) this whole affair is over and I’m looking forward to 2011. Always trying to look on the positive side of life I’m going to try my damndest in 2011 to keep my mouth shut, my heart in a warm place and my brain out of the clouds!! Happy New Year, everyone.

The Ghosts of Christmas Past

As a teenager and even a young adult, I struggled to buy Christmas gifts for my parents. Being a bit spoiled and engaged in my own interests, I never paid too much attention with what interested Mom or Dad. Oh sure, there were the odd years I hit on something good – especially later in life after maturing and learning enough of life’s lessons to know better. What do you get two people when you only have around $10.00 in 1965 and no idea what your Mom or Dad would like? Somehow I managed and I’m sure there were dozens, if not hundreds, of gifts that were put aside or tucked away in a closet to gather dust. But I know my parents loved me despite their cluttered closets. This gift-giving situation was even worse with my grandparents – the bath salts, the Avon gift sets, the little pottery dish, etc. – we’ve all been there!

I’ve now come full circle and I’m the one that the kids struggle to buy for. Nat, too, can no longer come up with any viable ideas that would be worthwhile for either of his daughters to give him. We’ve been asked for gift ideas and haven’t a clue what to put on either list. At least in today’s market there is always the proverbial gift card. God, where where those when I was growing up!!!!!

My family – meaning my sisters – have also reached the stage where exchanging gifts will now cease. Every year it gets harder and harder to decide what to buy each other and in a pinch the gift card rears its’ ugly head as a last minute item. Not to downgrade the gift card, but sometimes I feel it’s a cop out and takes no effort to buy. There’s no effort or thought that goes into buying a card and deep down in everyone’s heart we always want to open a gift on Christmas morning and be overwhelmed by what’s inside that box. It means so much more when you get a gift from someone who truly knew exactly what you wanted. It means that person was paying attention to your every word at one time or another and remembered what you had said. Or it means that person was with you at one time as you passed that particular item in a store and you remarked “boy, I could use something like that”.  Let’s be truthful, we’ve all hopefully had one gift like that and we still remember how great it felt.

I’m a tad disappointed that we’ll not exchange gifts this year and understand that we really should have stopped a few years back. Only a “tad” because I fully understand why the gift giving should stop. We’ve all got families to see to, money isn’t exactly flowing like wine and each of us has come to a point in our lives where we really want for nothing. Any gift we receive is just icing. Let’s again be honest and remind ourselves of the gifts we may have received in the past that we’ve either secretly sold in a garage sale, exchanged without the receipt, re-gifted, or repeated our Mother’s habit of putting it in the back closet to collect dust in order to spare feelings.

My mother’s words are now coming back to haunt me.  “As long as we’re all together”, she would say later in life as I would stand beside her and think to myself, “yeah, but let’s keep the presents coming, eh!!”.  She was right, of course. This past Thanksgiving proved it, as I sat around my sister’s living room laughing and giggling after a good meal. Our parents would have been doubly proud as the reminiscing has also increased with each family gathering, reminding me of days of yore when our Aunts, Uncles and parents did the same thing while gathered at Grandma’s house for Christmas dinner.

My mother always told me that someday I would realize she was right about a lot of things. So far she’s been batting a thousand, as I think to myself on almost a daily basis “my God, I’m just like my mother” – little things I do, little things I say, and even certain facial expressions. Each of my five sisters have also inherited such traits and there’s always a friendly reminder whenever such trait surfaces – “you looked just like Mom there”. Not to forget about dear brother who has grown to look more and more like our father and at times we swear he’s a twin. His mannerisms, his laughter, his sometimes carefree attitude, his love of driving down some unforesaken and forgotten country road, and his looks. Each of his sisters can’t help but smile when he walks in a room!

Yes Mom you were right and it’s only taken me 40 years to realize it. We’ve all reached that stage in life where being all together at Christmas means more than any gift we could receive.