I still remember the dizzying anticipation I felt at Christmastime as a kid.
Christmas itself was of course huge in my mind. I wish I could say it was for noble reasons but it was all about the presents for me then.
The entire month of December was a joy to me though. My mom did an excellent job at making it magical for us. We pulled a small chocolate out of an advent calendar every morning. We took meandering drives through the neighborhood to see the Christmas lights. We baked treats for friends and neighbors. We watched a Christmas movie every night from Black Friday through Christmas Eve, with It’s a Wonderful Life always boring me to sleep on the 24th. Now, it’s one of my favorites. But then? Black-and-white torture.
Christmas Eve was a full day of hyperactive eagerness that probably set my poor parents’ teeth on edge. We were rowdy and crazy, my brother and me. Then it was finally time and we’d sit down to a quick dinner before we rushed off to the candlelight Christmas Eve church service. Silent Night and O Holy Night have always been my favorites on Christmas Eve. Sometimes the church would have a small dessert gathering afterwards. This was acceptable so long as we did not stay for too long. We’d rush home to open up our traditional one gift—always new pajamas—and then my brother and I would grumble and get ready for bed early because, sigh, It’s a Wonderful Life. (This year my own family will be enjoying the VeggieTales version, It’s a Meaningful Life. I like the real version much better, but this is admittedly a lot more fun for a kid)
There were a few years where Christmas was just not magical for me. It was kind of an obligation. I worked late for the month leading up to it, I wanted to spend time with my friends or boyfriend, I was engaged/newly married and unsure of how to fit all of both of our families into the day… it kind of just felt like a time of pressure. Aside from all that, there was everyone else to contend with too. Busy crowds and long lines give me a lot of anxiety. Splashes of color in the form of materialistic, plastic-junk ads hurt my heart. The air is filled with this sense of desperate urgency as everyone around me would shove past me, would sigh loudly as I took an extra 2.8 seconds to slide my debit card back into my wallet before moving out of the checkout line, would honk if I dared situate myself for a moment before backing out of my coveted parking space.
Some of those things are still there. Ryan and I have run out for wet wipes or miscellaneous grocery items a few times and both came home whining about how that was it and we just weren’t going out again until after Christmas.
But none of it really matters now. It doesn’t get to us like it once did.
Everything is different now and I am back in that place of dizzying anticipation. Every day of the past month has been such a joy to me. We very carefully selected each of our children’s gifts and I feel a surge of excitement every time my boy mentions the movie Beauty and the Beet or tells us “When me get bigger, me be a panda bear!” (You’re going to… you’re going to ride a panda bear? Or have one, like for a pet? “No, Daddy. Me be a panda bear.”) A few days ago we went to our used bookstore and he played with the resin animals, like he always does. He spent a lot of time playing with the panda bear, which I had already gotten for his stocking.
Every morning we have pulled a fun activity out of our advent calendar and he has excitedly moved the wooden candy cane over to its correct pocket. I have watched his eyes light up as we baked Christmas cookies, as we made ornaments for his grandparents, as we ate a picnic lunch in front of the Christmas tree. He has stayed up late to listen to Christmas music and play Candy Land with us. He has made a Santa hat part of his outfit on numerous occasions. He joyfully shouts into the phone, “Wewwy Cwissmas!” every chance he gets. Blue Cross Blue Shield and my midwife’s office love him to pieces.
I’ve said it a million times already but I will keep saying it for as long as it’s true. The only thing more magical than being a kid at Christmas is being a parent at Christmas.
Getting to experience it all through his eyes, and eventually our other children’s eyes, makes my heart soar. It’s obvious Ryan feels the same way when he tells me his plans for his day off—put on Frosty the Snowman, build a snowman with our boy, and then snuggle him with some hot cocoa—or when he follows the Christmas light-covered firetruck for blocks so our boy can get the tiniest glimpse of the chief dressed up as Santa.