Christmas is a funny holiday around the Willowsphere. I love it, don’t get me wrong, but there are stages of Christmas in my world that are fraught with their own peculiarities and dangers. This is the typical breakdown (both metaphorically and mentally) of how my holiday season looks.
Nov. 28: OHMYGOSHCHRISTMASCHRISTMASCHRISTMASSSSSSSSS!!
Nov. 29: Lights on the house: check. Eggnog purchased: check. Apple Cider brewing on stove: check. The warmth and love of the holiday season is filling my heart with a euphoric sense of well-being. Actually, I’ve probably just had too many rum balls.
Nov. 30: THROW AWAY THE RUM BALLS. Really. It’s on my list.
Dec. 1: Go to only shopping option in Smalltown, UT: Walmart. Smile lovingly at all the grandmas and children and mothers as we all bustle about to the friendly tunes we love so dearly.
Dec. 2: Get the tree! Attend a holiday festival in the middle of town. Lights, sleigh rides, roasted chestnuts. Christmas is a.may.zing.
Dec. 3-11: Move into the illness portion of the holidays. All the Christmas Town miniatures are covered in snotty kleenex, the television room looks like war-torn Afghanistan, and my daughter could heat the entire west side of Smalltown with her forehead. Ho-frickin’-ho.
Dec. 12: Re-enter the land of the living by attempting to Christmas shop at the mall. All the other moms step away from me like I’m the Ghost of Christmas Ponytail Sweatsuit. They are correct.
Dec. 13: Move into the CREATION portion of the holidays. This is the part where I decide that what I really want to give for Christmas is a part of myself – something that is so unique and personalized that it will move the receiver of my gift to say my name on their deathbed. “Yes, I know that I only have moments to live, but I still remember that fuzzy sparkle scarf that Willow made me in 2014. Changed my life.” Begin 23 different projects that I am 100% sure I can finish by Christmas.
Dec. 14: Play all the Christmas stations, all the time. I have memorized the lyrics to “All I Want for Christmas is You,” even though I hate myself every time I sing along. With my first project 60% finished, my husband has begun to ask those clichÃ©d spouse questions: When is the last time you showered? Did you eat today? Are you safe to drive? I lie.
Dec. 15: The tree has disintegrated into a pile of razor-sharp needles. I throw 4 pounds of tinsel on it and hope no one notices. I can’t deal with that right now. I’m too busy staying up all night finishing a personally-designed, hand-crafted, full-sized Lego Ariel. When my dog uses it as a private toilet, I consider the legality of roasting him in lieu of ham. Which reminds me…How much Ramen can you feed a 6-year-old before they take you to jail?
Dec. 16: Put “effort” into not looking like a cat lady. Go to Walmart. All the grandmothers look gaunt and the children are whirling dervishes. I try to buy groceries but instead go into a Holiday delirium. When I come home, I realize all I’ve bought are Christmas lights and 4 pounds of cinnamon bears. I add cheese to the Ramen to make it “healthy.”
Dec. 17: This is the last day that I can send gifts in the mail and they will get there BY THE GRACE OF GOD. In my hurry to catch the post office during business hours (1-3pm Wednesday and Thursday) I accidentally pack all the late Christmas cards into the package to my grandmother. Also, I invent a new swear word.
Dec. 18: Music time! I am asked at the last minute to be a part of the church Christmas party. They want me to read a book, write a 4-part arrangement for an original song “Sexy Santaface,” and lead a group of raging adolescents in a nihilistic version of “We Three Kings” – which actually sounds like “We Three Kings?” and has a killer cell phone solo in the middle. On the plus side, they feed us cupcakes, so I don’t have to make Ramen.
Dec. 19: With a week to go, I have 14 projects that I’m 100% sure I can’t complete by Christmas. Magically, my hard work turns into fancily-wrapped gift cards to Chili’s. I cry myself to sleep on a bed of fabric and glitter glue.
Dec. 20: Abigail is out of school! This is awesome. We get the eggnog out, then summarily throw it’s expired contents away and drink “Holiday Water” instead – it’s just water from a Santa cup, but at least it doesn’t smell like dead elves. Abigail asks me why the Christmas tree looks like a skeleton. Note: Buy more tinsel.
Dec. 21: I’m asked to sing at the Christmas church service – in an octave that only dogs and Navy Seals can hear. I agree without hesitation. I also invent a new game called, “Mommy Is Trying Not To Cry.” In it, Abigail sings “Jingle Bells” at full volume for two hours straight while I try to make a foot of wrapping paper cover the earth. I consider which weapons I will need in order to purchase more at the Walmart.
Dec. 22: I do it! I complete the Christmas shopping. I make it out of Walmart with a limp, a fistful of someone’s weave, and a single roll of wrapping paper. To celebrate, I turn the Christmas radio station off and listen to the sound of 4 minutes of silence. Just kidding! Abigail treats me to a 4-hour rock-block of “Jingle Bells,” a cappella. I decide bedtime is at 4:30pm.
Dec. 23: Time to decipher where all the presents have come from. I have approximate 400 boxes that say “Becker Residence” with no return address, shipping information, or distinguishing marks. We wrap them all with labels that say “To someone from someone different,” and hope that the dog’s medicine isn’t in one of them.
Dec. 24: Ham is thawing, eggnog is fresh, and “It’s a Wonderful Life” is on TV. I sit and reflect on the Christmas lights. They are a soft panorama on the crook of our ceiling. Abigail sits beneath the tree and looks up into it, dreaming, like I used to do. I think of all the things the season brings – the music, the mess, the overextension – and I wonder if it’s ever really worth it.
As my husband and daughter curl up around me on the couch, thankful to God for everything I’ve been blessed with, I remember that there are better gifts in the universe. Gifts that aren’t ever wrapped: family, faith, and forgiveness.
I look to the top of our tree (dry and shedding like a collie in August), and realize that the love of God, the Savior of the world, the Redeemer of all of us, was born on a night like this. Somewhere, where no one could see Him. Tiny and cold, He came as a stranger into the world. And God looked with love, sadness, and hope, knowing what His baby would do.
It’s always then that I wish I could have remembered this more during the Christmas season. I wish I would have loved better, spoken a kinder word, and thanked God every day for his precious gift. Behind all the stuff, and activities, and rituals, Christmas is about Jesus Christ and what he did to bring his family – all of us – back home.
Dec. 25: And, so, on Christmas Day, we eat. We talk. We laugh. We love. We tell the story of the girl who was special, the field laborers who were surprised, the scholars who were crafty. We tell the story of a man who believed his wife was amazing, so amazing that God would choose her to have a baby. We tell the stories of our lives – the times that make existence worthwhile. And we remind each other that we have the option to go home together at the end of this life. All because of a gift.
So, I pray. I thank. I look at the ones I love and tell God how amazing he is for giving me the chance to learn and love and become like Him. That’s when my Christmas truly begins. Every year, I find it begins earlier and earlier. And some day, when I am wiser than I am now, I hope to find that it never truly goes away.