Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Christmas Past and Present
This holiday season is really shaping up to be...different. Why? Well thanks for asking - I'll be happy to tell you. Pull up a chair next to the fire (which is non-existent thanks to 70 degree weather...ugh) and let's chat.
I learned some very odd lessons as a child about Christmas that I'm just beginning to fully release. Let's review shall we?
1. The house must be absolutely spotless before even one decoration can be placed. That means floors and walls must be scrubbed (my parents were smokers), venetian blinds must be soaked and cleaned, bathroom tile must be shined (using this stuff called Glass Wax) and carpets must be cleaned. Okay you say, every house needs a little cleaning before the holidays right? Yes. Except that my mother did very little of the actual work and left those tasks to my sister and me. So, from a fairly young age (say 9 or 10), we dreaded the holiday season because it meant that we'd be locked in the house all weekend long cleaning. Think ghetto Cinderella's and you've got the picture.
Oh, and that's while my dad (who was usually drunk) bitched about the fact that the cleaning had to be done in the first place and why didn't she get off her lazy ass and help? The joy in that house at holiday time was just sublime!
2. Not one decoration could be placed until after my mother's birthday on December 14th. She was not about to share her birthday with the Lord...not for one single minute. Her birthday must be celebrated sans decorations. I'm not sure why since she was never satisfied with how we celebrated or what we got her but...well that's just the way it was. So if her birthday fell on say a Monday, then we didn't decorate until the following Saturday which would have been the 19th!!! While all my friends had been enjoying their decorations for over two weeks, we sat in a decidedly "un-festive" house watching Andy Williams and the Osmond's sing Christmas carols on TV. Somehow it just didn't have the same impact.
3. The tree had to be perfect. The big colored lights (I still love those) had to be strung and re-strung until they were perfect and there were not two of the same color next to each other. Apparently the big bulb light police would have confiscated our tree or something if we had strung those lights wrong. Then each ornament had to be placed in the right place followed by the icicles which had to be placed one at a time (I am not even making this shit up). So the tree took approximately seventy trillion hours to put up, ensuring that if my sister and I never saw another piece of tinsel for the rest of our lives - we would die happy.
4. You must go into as much debt as humanly possible to make Christmas special. It didn't matter what your children actually wanted for Christmas, it only mattered that they had what every other good little girl on the block wanted. The latest doll, or doll house, or record album, or boots...whatever. Oh! And then (once they'd stopped believing in Santa) you had to tell them just how much debt you'd gone into to make this holiday special and oh what a great parent they are for doing it and aren't you grateful! Wait...what?
5. In spite of the fact that your husband was drunk off his ass by 5:00 pm, you had to invite all of your dysfunctional family members to a Christmas Eve Open House where they would eat all of your food and drink all of your booze while the elders sat around and talked behind your back about what an awful person you were and the younger generation would be busy trying to get your kids to try cocaine or weed for the first time.
Ahhh the memories.
To be fair, my parents had been damaged by their own parents and I'm sure all of this was my mother's misguided attempt to fix what was broken in her life. She was just way too messed up to get it done. She, like my sister and my niece, inherited the crazy gene which makes it difficult for them to see the world clearly. It used to make me angry...now it just makes me sad.
Anyway, when I began to keep my own house, I started out with all of the insane traditions she had taught me...until I got a clue.
1. Because I am an anal retentive control freak, my house is always clean and either I or the hubs keeps it that way. My children are not indentured servants and were not put on this planet to make the house look the way I want it to look. As a result, no extra cleaning is required before we decorate. And I don't wash walls...ever. If my walls are dirty, I paint.
2. I decorate as early as humanly possibly. Next year we will decorate the weekend after Thanksgiving and my grandchildren will help. I am really looking forward to that.
3. As I've stated in prior posts, giving up the perfect tree thing proved to be a little more difficult than some of the other fuckedupedness. But this year I let it go and I feel liberated. My trees are definitely not perfect but they are beautiful and my family loves them. That is all that matters.
4. Ahhh...the debt thing. I will admit that this one has been very, very hard for me. I hate debt and I do try to avoid it at all costs, but I am guilty of "over gifting" to not only my children but everyone else as well. I want the "wow". That doesn't always mean expensive, sentimental will do as well but trying to find "just the right gift" has stressed me out over the years and robbed me of the Spirit. I've been backing off of this over the last couple of years and this year I've stepped away completely. The hubs is doing all the shopping (except for our kids...let's be realistic here) and we're doing a Karma Christmas whereby we making donations to charity in lieu of gifts to the grownups. I feel so light and free and really filled with the spirit of what this season is all about. Damn I wish I had done this years ago.
5. When I entertain it's because I love the people I've asked to my home and they love me. It's not because I want to appear "normal" to my extended family and I am definitely not seeking any one's approval. And I watch my kids very closely - if anyone is hanging out at my house pushing drugs, they will be the recipient of a ride in a fancy blue and white car with sparkly lights on top...how festive!
How has your Christmas changed from your childhood version?
Merry Christmas Season everyone!