Mary Beth Writes

We spent a lot of money on our kids this past year and they spent a lot of their own money arranging and getting to all the stuff this family did. (Wedding events and more….). It was my opinion we didn’t need to spend more cash on each other. When I mentioned this to my daughters and sister-in-law, they agreed - so we decided to just do food gifts. Baked stuff, cooked stuff, tasty treats from delis, bottles of wine, etc.

This is what Christmas without major presents-shopping and buying has felt like:

Very. Very. Good.  

Len and I talked (this conversation was not very intense, maybe 10 minutes while we sitting in our office) about what we would like to do in December as well as what we would like to not do. We wanted to hear music, hike in a beautiful place, cook and eat good food, spend time with friends, get to know our neighbors a little more, not gain weight, live at a normal rate of speed, plus make our food-related gifts for our kids together.

I obtained tickets to the Christmas concert at Carrol University, which is walking distance from here. I may have cried a tiny bit when the choir that I thought was up in the balcony (they were at first) processed down the side aisles in the dark sanctuary, carrying candles while singing “O Come All Ye Faithful”. Why are humans so moved by yearning music and flickering candlelight?

Our granddaughter’s first birthday party was the next day, in Chicago. Off to a good month!

We had people over for several lunches and dinners; old friends and new neighbors. This can be a lot of work – and was. Challenging, funny, tasty (200 cinnamon rolls!) and rich. I don’t want to host weekly get-togethers every month of the year; but it was a jazzy adventure. Fourteen neighbors squished around a table designed for 10, speaking English AND Spanish – that was intimidating until it was opulent.  

(And because Len made his amazing chicken/ham/Andouille sausage gumbo and they didn’t eat it all, we now have in our freezer eight winter suppers for the two of us.)

We scheduled into our calendar the projects that we wanted to do. That way when things popped up we remembered to say no because we needed time to work.  The two sessions in the kitchen became fun; not just tedious tasks squeezed into over-busy weekends.

I have only done the normal amount of grocery and Goodwill shopping this month. No malls, no scrolling through Amazon on-line, no scouring little shops looking for “just the right thing”.

Our kids will all drive here Christmas morning and then they will  be here several hours until they drive away again.  I’m curious to see if it will feel disappointing because we do not have wrapped gifts to open.  

I suspect it will be just fine.

Like most of us: I loved Christmas when the kids were little and the pile of presents under the tree was magical. I loved the little play kitchen, the trikes and bikes, the Legos. There was the year of the American girl doll; Len built a 4-poster bed for Kirsten and I made bed-curtains and quilts. I will never forget my daughter, in her white and red nightgown, seeing that beautiful bed with her new doll in it, her hands to her face as if joy would carry her away.  There was the year one of the kids rode their tiny bike back and forth in the dining room. The Teddy bears and games, books and brightly colored sweaters. There were so many, many lovely, wacky, treasured presents over the years.

But the point of having and raising kids was always that mystery of human life – we need to give in order to receive; we need to join in the confusion in order to become clear-eyed about the privilege and craziness of being people. And that will change just as we do.

They love us, but they are building their own lives so we have to keep on doing that, too. I don’t want Christmas or any other holiday to be homage to what’s past. It seems to me that one of the best things we can give our kids is a path into older adulthood, and hints of the richness of the way it can be now. The magic isn’t in boxes wrapped with ribbons, but in a wintery season of music, candlelight, face-time phone calls with the baby who waves at us. In friendships and lovely meals eaten together and other meals skipped for a beer and a bowl of popcorn, because the book we are reading is just that good.

Life moves on.

To be really real here: In and among the hikes in the woods and concerts and amazing dinners and gorgeous friends – we have had three colds, my favorite pants broke, our car broke so bad the mechanic is suggesting a shot in the paw. Len has been working mammoth days for his contract job, Trump is still president, the Vichy Republicans passed their tax bill, and the cat just threw up in the hallway.

Comments

I still don't believe that's my new name...We are not doing real box and wrapping paper stuff either. Instead I've been going to Christmas concerts ( my brothers son is a music major at Parkside and is in several bands) Dinner and drinks with dear friends and just bringing food to people has filled the month of December with more joy and happiness then anything in a box ever could.

Made me smile. Merry Christmas, Gf!

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