Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Christmas Traditions and Modernism

One in a series of failed shots for a Christmas photo that never made the cut. #babieshatetolayinleaves

So, I recently saw this new ad from Apple that is amazaballs.  It is nostalgic, yet it is able to bridge the gap between tradition and reality.  It just got me to thinking.  The holidays are a time for reflection, whether or not you try to will it otherwise.  It just creeps into your subconscious.  You can celebrate or NOT celebrate traditions, but past traditions are sure to come a knockin', whether you like it or not.

"What do you want to do different than last year?'  I have lately started to ask myself.  I remember Christmases at my house that were supposed to be EXACTLY like the year before, but they never were. Even if all of the elements are in place, meaning the SAME decorations, the SAME meal, or the FAMILIAR Christmas-induced stress, the actual EVENT is always different.

Another one. Fail.  B.E. - Before Eva

And it is DIFFERENT because the setting may be the same, but the actors have changed, depending on the circumstances of the year preceding them.  What I mean by this, is that children are a year older (which can be unbelievably transforming) and babies are being born, or loved ones are absent, or situations have arised in the family that introduces new people.

There is NO other holiday, other than Christmas, that ignites such nostalgia and emotion in people, myself included.

Due to some water damage, about half of my Christmas decorations were ruined this year.   It was upsetting at first, but then a feeling of catharsis overcame me.  I was happy to toss some of my old decorations, even though many of them were symbols of memories I cannot replace.  But, on the other hand, I felt like starting fresh. In a way, it was a metaphor for embracing new things within my family, and honoring what is left.

It is a balance, and I certainly don't know if I am doing it correctly, but evolution is a huge part of maturation and growth.  In the past, I set a lot of precedents in the beginning, with Christmas, and my expectations constantly competed with reality.   By the end of the holiday, I was always left feeling deflated.

Ewwww. Let's take one of them in the stroller at Disney World for the Christmas card.  That'll be good.

I will honor the freakin' Elf on the Shelf marketing/Pinterest ploy because it puts a smile on my kids faces and gives them something to look forward to, but when Mills creates a folder dedicated to her elf (yes, in a weak moment last Christmas, I agreed to individual elves) that she intends to write nightly letters to, requesting answers such as "Can you name all of the reindeer?" and "Can you send me pictures of what you do at the North Pole?" I want to hang myself.

Look Mommy!  The elf's on the tree again.  Silly elf.

I am a cross between what I know, and what is now, and in MY World the balance comes with one word answers on a scrap piece of paper and three elves that migrate from one lame, obvious location of our main floor to the next.  I smile up at my Mom as I stir my coffee and the kids exclaim, "They're all in the bathroom wastebasket, again." To which my standard reply is always, "Silly elves."

I BROUGHT IT this year with the Advent Calender, though, I'm not gonna lie.  The presents have vacillated between couture chocolate wrapped in foil resembling toy soldiers from the Whole Foods and mini glittery nail polish ( 18 in a pack at The Giant Eagle Supasto' - that's six days, yo') to fuzzy socks from Da' Nordstrom teen department.  (They come in packs, natch)  None of the advent calender presents are expensive, there is just thought behind them, for a change.  I decided, this year, to make The Advent Calender special and there are specific instructions to APPRECIATE each gift, or they lose a day if they argue over a gift or disrespect it.  I've made them forfeit a day for bickering just last week. I'm not kidding.
I'll do an angels-devils theme.  That's dark, but creative, right? Um, just close your eyes this time, but don't smile.

Oh, the headband hurts your head?  I'm sorry. Here. Take your hand away from your face for a second.

Try and look straight at the camera and don't close your eyes.  I know the flash hurts, but this will just take a  minute and then I'll give you this Hershey kiss, okay?

I feel like , sometimes, while you decorate, and order all your gifts off the internet, and hide the elf, and write his letters and address your Christmas cards and shit, you forget WHY you are doing what you do in the first place.  And then by the time Christmas Eve rolls around, you are so spent emotionally, physically, financially, and mentally that it is difficult to just live in the moment, especially if that moment is foreign to you, when it was SUPPOSED to be familiar and comforting.

I'm not trying to be Debbie Downer, I think I am just stating the obvious.  What it all comes down to, for me, is just providing some sort of magic for a very short period of time this year that, hopefully, my kids will enjoy and possibly pass down to their children, with their own nuances and modernisms.

I no longer WANT every holiday to be expected and according to plan.  What I REALLY want is to ENJOY the fruits of my labor, for a change.  I want to see the looks in their eyes and not video tape it.  I want to embrace their emotions as they open each gift and not evaluate them.  I want to chew my food and drink my wine and not worry about what I need to be doing NEXT.

So I am clear, I LOVES ME SOME CHRISTMAS.  It gives you an excuse to party and shop and brainstorm on all of the things that your loved ones would love to have.  If Christmas is anything, it is COMMERCIAL, but how you CHOOSE to make it have meaning, is the creative part of the game.

I look back on all of my Christmases fondly, but my favorites are when I was a kid, and I believe that is the way it should be.  My goal this Christmas is just to create another Christmas memory for my kids that they can reminisce about, not in the sense that everything is perfect, but in the sense that they felt love all around them. That, and a little bit of mystery, whether it be an elf that hangs upside down from their ceiling fan, or an unexpected, grown up gift for a girl who no longer believes in Santa, but is willing to keep the dream alive for her two younger sisters.

Let's just hope she likes it and that I don't get all broody if she doesn't have the response I was counting on, RIGHT?
This is what I'm hoping for.

SO, my advice to you has GOT to be pretty obvious by now.  Go out and get individual elves for your children, and encourage them to write curious, lengthy letters to each of them every night, or YOU are a lesser parent than I.  Word.

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