Christmas Present.

In my book, “Christmas” is one of those hot button words. It conjures up all kinds of swirling bits. Memories, happy and sad, vividly etched for a lifetime. Traditions loved or those tests of our patience we vow never to do again.

Most of my young life, our family packed up the minute school let out. We drove 8+ hours to my grandmother’s house deep in Mississippi Delta country, where my father and his eleven siblings grew up. I can’t remember a single time we had Christmas in our own house, or a tree, or presents waiting for us on Christmas morning. We were always rushing to get somewhere else. A little metaphor for the rest of my life.

My mother tried so hard to be perfect for everyone. She taught home-bound children, too sick to attend school..which caused her to drive to homes all over the city, every single day. Then, she came home to us where she continued to doing everything “just so”.

One year, unbeknownst to us, she was completely fried on that last day of school. We had no idea that as my father was impatiently revving the engines for our 3:00am departure, that she had just thrown all our clothes in the trunk of the car…without suitcases. Popping open the trunk upon arrival, it looked like the washer and dryer had thrown up in the back of our car.

For the next 45 years, almost on cue, signaling the start of Christmas season for her, my mother apologized to us about that. It took becoming an adult, feeling my own deep sense of hysteria (not the funny kind) over the high performance expectations surrounding the holidays, that I totally got it.

Then, there was Aunt Ethel, who was my grandmother’s sister and “caretaker”. Aunt Ethel, a behemoth of a woman, who, when she lumbered through the house caused the windows to rattle, literally clicked her false teeth in time to Lawrence Welk. One of our great family traditions was in taking bets about Aunt Ethel. At some point we knew she would be sharing, in vivid detail, every treacherous moment of her previous gall bladder operation. Performed in 1952. The blood and guts of it all would usually coincide with a meal….our bet was about which one. Extra pie was delivered to the winner.

Christmas just seems to kick up the family dust a bit more than usual, doesn’t it?

It’s a great reminder about expectations. Those pesky things with white picket fences around them. The gift of guilts from Christmas’s past. Family folklore for years to come.

So, what about this year? This Christmas…..present.

I bet your plans are made. No turning back now.

Hold your breath. Say your prayers. We’re goin’ in.

But I wonder if this year would be a good year to give ourselves a chance to take stock. To really be present to those people and things and traditions that might need some re-tooling. What if this Christmas, we could be gifting ourselves with insights about what we really DO love to do, who we really DO love to be with, what we could DO differently next year to bring a new focus to the season.

Last I looked, Christmas is supposed to be about the birth of our Lord and Savior. Not the best price on a 55″ flat screen. Or, if all the decorations made it up in time for the party.
CHRIST-mas…..if we were thinking in Spanish for a moment…..it could mean, MORE CHRIST.
More peace on earth. Less spin. More compassion. Less verbal and social combat. More kindness.

How could the gift of our PRESENCE be gift enough?

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