As the years slip by and the children grow older, Gary and I laugh at how we have changed our views of the holidays. We’ve stumbled from our first Griswold Christmas, of family, obscene decorating and parties, to where we are today. Quiet Christmases spent with just the four of us. Every other year we have the pleasure of celebrating with an additional one or two family members, with a tree that has minimal decoration’s and dinners that amount to appetizers. Though we enjoy the celebration of family and friends, it has become apparent that change is in the air.
Last night we turned on the Christmas Vacation movie with Chevy Chase and laughed over Clarks decorating of the house. When Gary and I were first married Gary took it upon himself to see if he could top Clarks display by putting enough lights on the house we could see it lit up from the top of the street. At our second house, we witnessed him dangling from the ladder over the front door as he tried to hang a huge wreath over the window. Our third house had the welcome addition of lighted reindeer in the yard and blow up snow globes with the inside of the house looking like a Christmas Museum. Our current home struggles to keep up with the Christmas fanfare. Simple professional lights lining the house and one tree outside, and inside has been degraded to just a simple tree with enough decorations to hide the areas where the lights are out. The snowmen that once adorned the window boxes are still stashed in the basement, the decorative green corner swags sit in their storage bins and the stockings…. we aren’t quite sure where those have ended up. The soldiers lie still, sleeping away another year of not being placed on the banister steps and only one Madame Alexander doll makes it on the tree. As for the parties, those have long since become a thing of the past and our extended family celebrating Christmas together has ended due to distance, death and divorce. In fact, the last time our entire extended family celebrated Christmas was in 2004 and the last time we celebrated with our parents all together was in 2007.
As we opened up the branches of the artificial tree on Saturday, we shared fun memories of Christmases past and real trees that were freshly cut hanging over cars, those too big to stand alone and tied to walls, and those that fell during parties. We talked about movies that make you laugh and cry and got excited looking for them so that we could enjoy watching them in the next few weeks. After hanging half of the decorations, we started watching the movie Elf. Laughing at the memory of our son dressing up as Elf and surprising his dad at his office. Yes, he even had people on the streets laughing as he pretended to pull gum off of the railing of the bridge and considered jumping into the large tree in the lobby. The memories and laughter had me thinking of A Christmas Carol, considering the past, present and wonderment of the future.
It may sound sad to others, yet to us it has brought new opportunity for the four of us. We have started out our holiday season the last two years enjoying Disney and the beautiful displays that go up the day after Thanksgiving. Spending that first week of December driving around the campsites to see all the work put into decorations really is something all four of us enjoy, and hopefully something we can continue.
It makes me wonder how many more Christmases will we have with our children before they move out and marry, having children of their own? How much longer will we be able to celebrate in our own home before we have to start traveling to theirs? (After all, 17 years ago we started the tradition of not leaving our home on Christmas day, so I hope our children will continue that when they start their families.) Our senior is taking college classes and is confident he will be leaving as soon as he finishes his degree. Moving to Scotland is in both kids future plans. The question of the future remains, will they stay there or will they return to raise their families here? Will they end up somewhere else?
Do I long for Christmases of the past, with family, parties, decorations and fanfare? Of course! However, I embrace what God has done with our family unit and the memories that we are making. It is with great Joy that He has shown us what is truly important at this time of year. It’s the reminder that Christmas is not about us at all, it’s about celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior. It’s not about shopping, stress, speeding tickets, selfish desires and parties. Nor is it about the mythical figure of Santa. It’s about worshipping the creator of all things and enjoying the simple pleasures of just being together, with smiles and laughter that will be heard in stories for future generations.