No Simple Gifts

640px-juletraeslysAh, holidays. They are thorny for most people over the age of five on some level, I imagine. Between family and travel and scheduling, there are many pitfalls. Today, despite the fact that my husband and I made a deliberate decision to avoid all of these potential stressors and decided to stay home and relax, I am feeling a trifle taxed, and also a little sad — perhaps precisely because we avoided them.

We have a new puppy, we said. We’ll enjoy being at home, we said. We’ll see you in the new year, we said.

His family has issues; so does mine. He has issues; so do I. Traveling is taxing. The puppy is real — and while adorable, genuinely high-maintenance. And we are really homebodies. We like visiting family more at off-times, when there isn’t so much pressure. Still, I miss them all an awful lot right now. A lot more than I thought I would. I can’t deny it.

Despite the booking of plane tickets way in advance or driving through bad weather, the financial pressure of buying presents, the great food that makes you eat far too much, the not-so-great food that challenges your politeness, the tiredness that comes from running around seeing people, the topics that must be avoided, the awkwardness of opening certain presents from that one relative whose intentions are so good, the forced smiling, and the small talk, there’s a reason so many people do it.

It’s been a very long time since Christmas Eve was so thrilling that I lay in bed, wide-eyed with excitement, unable to sleep, thinking about what Santa would bring or not bring, sneaking trips out of my bedroom to tiptoe past my parents’ bedroom and peek down the carpeted stairs all the way into the living room where the tree, alight and magical, waited like a beacon of all things good to be surrounded by shiny presents. Today, at age 43, I understand why having a kid around would help my spirits.

It’s not like we’ve been totally un-festive. White lights are strung around the porch outside and the wreath my dad and stepmother send each year is hung on the front door. We’re doing what we planned: last night we ate pasta on the couch while watching Elf, tonight it’s take-out pizza with It’s a Wonderful Life, and fish chowder tomorrow likely accompanied by A Christmas Story. I may watch The Grinch Who Stole Christmas a third time. We’ll open a few presents and take the dogs for a walk.

It will be like a special weekend. Which it is.

But had to give my dad a call this afternoon, just to hear his kind, baritone voice, to ask about the carols he and my stepmother will sing tonight at midnight mass, to find out what presents he got her, to tell him I miss him. Mom’s next. Then I’ll be texting my brother.

Next year, I think I may need to sign back on for complicated — since keeping it simple seems like it may be an impossibility.

Photo from Wiki Commons/ author: Malene

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