Now take off those rose colored glasses.
After everything we’ve been through in the past year, it sure is tempting to feel sorry for ourselves. Christmas without family is just plain sad. No family parties. No traditional family foods. No swap gifts or big family photos. For the first time in 35 years, we don’t have even one of our children under our roof of Christmas morning.
Not one measly kid.
Boo-hoo, poor us!
In the face of our pitiful pandemic celebrations, it’s easy to look back at every Christmas of the past through the lens of perfection. Compared to this year, it seems like every single holiday of my life was filled with fresh snow, happy children, and perfectly cooked meals shared with smiling loved ones.
Oh, and tastefully decorated trees, too.
When I look back on all the years of Christmas, I’m sure that I looked exactly like this lovely blond woman wrapped in her white furs and yuletide evergreens. I can clearly remember the sweet ringing of silver bells as our horse carried us over the snow……..
But naturally, that’s all bull pucky.
So as I sit here listening the rain pouring down on my snowless roof, in my completely quiet house, I am thinking back on Christmases past.
And you know what I am remembering?
Some of them were pretty bad!
For example, I remember the year when we put up our very first full sized fresh tree. Our daughter was three years old, and this was the first time we were living in a house instead of a cramped apartment or my parents basement.
We spent more money than we had on a beautiful tree, took hours to decorate it perfectly, and stand it in our window. And two hours later our sweet little girl was covered in hives. Dear Lord, was she allergic to the tree??? We called the doctor, who said, “I don’t know.”
So out went the tree, and off to the store went my husband. He came back with one of the only fake trees left. It was a gorgeous pretend blue spruce and it cost three times what the overpriced real tree had cost.
But we set it up, and we went on to use if for about 20 years.
THAT was a tough Christmas.
Then there was the year when we took that same fake tree out of the basement closet and dragged it upstairs to the living room. As we unwrapped the tarp, we found the branches filled with bits of fiberglass insulation, pieces of cloth and dozens of bird seeds.
The mice, it seemed, had been nesting all year in our tree. When we opened the cardboard boxes containing all of our ornaments, we found that they were full of mouse poop and seed shells, too. As the Mother of three very young kids, I reacted with typical mother serenity.
I put EVERY washable ornament in the bathtub and filled it with hot water and bleach. I soaked the crap out of those things. I threw away a bunch of stuff, sprayed bleach water on a bunch of stuff and vacuumed that poor tree to within an inch of it’s life. The kids cried. I cried.
Eventually the tree went up and we lit multiple candles to cover the smell of bleach.
Good times, good times.
One Christmas we all had strep throat. Well, four out of five of us did, anyway. Dad had his tonsils out as a kid, so he was healthy. But I was as sick as a dog, and so were all three of the kids. We skipped the extended family Christmas Eve gathering at my parent’s house, because we were all feverish, sick and aching. As I recall, we were all asleep by 7pm. We got up to open Santa’s gifts, but everyone was wrapped in a blanket and shivering again by 9 am.
I distinctly remember that Christmas dinner that year was Cream of Wheat cereal.
And I will never forget the year that we finally retired the old fake spruce. That extravagant expenditure ended up being the bargain of the century, because it lasted for so many years. But when it’s plastic needles started to fall off and it’s branches were mostly bent out of shape, we decided it was time to go for a real tree.
That was the year I convinced my now college aged sons to help me cut down a local pine. See, we basically live in a freakin’ pine forest. It seemed silly to pay for a tree. It was also the middle of the big recession, around 2009, and most of the homes in our neighborhood were empty. The pines were beginning to crowd onto lawns.
So, environmentally conscious woman that I am, I grabbed a hand saw and headed out with my strong young sons. And off we went. We found a nice healthy white pine growing along the road, and down it came.
It was only after we tried to hang ornaments on it that we realized white pines are WAY to weak and floppy to be Christmas trees.
That year was our “Charlie Brown’s Tree” year. We had to tie the damn thing to a hook we stuck in the wall.
So you can see that not every Christmas in my life was perfect. I’m going to guess that a lot of yours weren’t so perfect either.
But you know what?
These are some of our favorite stories now. These are the stories that make us laugh and appreciate each other and share a common warm memory.
So I’m thinking that one day, in the not so distant future, we’ll be laughing at our Zoom dinners, our distanced visits and our Christmas texts.
It’s time to take off those rose colored glasses and start appreciating what we still have right now.
Merry Christmas. Happy Hannukah. Festive Solstice to you all.