Wednesday, December 26, 2012

When It's Not Norman Rockwell



The holidays are loaded.

Loaded in so many ways--with the television and radio commercials telling us how this season "should be." There are ads, newspaper and magazine lay outs with their covers displaying sparkling tables full of impeccably prepared food, equally perfect homes, and beautifully appointed families with matching sets of parents and children.

I remember seeing all these holiday depictions as a child, and thinking that was the normal. It had to be, right? That's the scene that's on every Hallmark commercial, on every cover of Ladies' Home Journal. That is how people live, that is what doing the holidays right means. Being that perfect family means being happy.

Anything other than that, less than that--and you were the one who missed the mark.

We see the glossy photos from the magazine racks and hear the holiday music piped in when we're in any store--the pictures and lyrics reminding us of how we don't do it the way it's supposed to be done are impossible to escape. We either nearly kill ourselves with exhaustion stringing the home made popcorn garland and creating what we're told is the "normal" holiday season, or we tearfully give up and feel like failures--letting ourselves down, and guiltily coming up short on making perfect holiday memories for our families. We're supposed to get along with everyone, be close with each relative--we're never to feel anxious, overwhelmed, depressed, deprived, disappointed, or in discord. Or lonely.

How many of us had the Normal Rockwell painting going on at our homes this week?

How many of us, sadly, because of the tragedy at Sandy Hook, have been thrown full face and snapped awake into recognizing the bountifulness of what we do have? I did not get to all of my Christmas shopping, I was only able to vacuum and dust my house and never did get to the deep cleaning like I wanted to. I had planned to lift my spirits with something red to wear this Christmas--but never made it to the store. I wore a brown turtleneck and a green skirt instead. The cookies never did get made, the Christmas cards weren't sent out until the 22nd, and we had to use watery brown and green too thin paper to wrap presents because the store had long ago run out of bright and beautiful gift wrap. I waited too long to go grocery shopping, too--so the duck my oldest son had asked for as the Christmas meal was another thing I screwed up on.   

Instead, we had a roasted chicken on the table, we didn't get to all the gifts the kids had hoped for under the tree, and I wore an outfit more suited for a day at work than Christmas Eve. My father passed away when I was a child, and my widowed mother was here with us. Though unable to help because of her dementia, she celebrated along with us, clapping her hands with every ornament she watched my children hang on the tree. Our 17-year-old son--my first baby--is with us just one more year before he leaves to start his own life. He sat at the piano I haven't gotten around to getting tuned, and thrilled his grandmother by playing her songs he had taught himself. Our scuffed kitchen table that needs to be re-varnished didn't have a single inch of space left on it that wasn't filled with food.   

We've never had Norman Rockwell. Our Christmas table set with turquoise stoneware, mismatched serving bowls, and the far from perfect people around it that I love beyond words, will never make the cover of Martha Stewart. But on this Christmas night, 2012, I don't think there was a woman on this planet who felt luckier with what she had, than I did.

***

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, a Happy Holiday season, and peace, joy, love to you and yours.
 

47 comments:

  1. Sounds like you are truly blessed and know it. That's a wonderful thing!

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  2. no rockwell...maybe moments of it but...its life, not fiction , not made y us...but still we have another day...the greatest gift we can ask for...

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  3. We haven't had the "traditional" Christmas celebration in more than a decade. It's gone from more than 60 people at my grandma's to about five at my mom's and then our daily visit to my gram's at the home just due to distance, divorce, disabilities, dementia and the general passing of time and traditions. But the time I spend with my mom on those days--even though I see her all the time--is still special.

    It was still special to sit with my mom and uncle in my gram's room despite her loopiness and the fact we're there all the time, only because it's who you spend the holidays with, not what you spend. There is no template for tradition, and as long as you appreciate what you have, that's all that matters ;)

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    1. I love the loopiness, that's my mother right now, and she has never been this wonderful. before dementia, she never said I love you. That's how it was with her. But now, she kisses and stays in for hugs for minutes and minutes...

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  4. Being surrounded by the blessings of loving family sounds better than any Rockwell painting. I'm glad to hear your had a special day, even without finishing that to-do list.

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  5. A perfect day is when you're with the ones you love. You have gorgeous children!

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  6. This is why I love you. You describe what so many of us wish we could...so eloquently. And no, this year was tainted by Sandy Hook for everyone. But maybe in a good way, because I find/found myself giving more to others and doing extra things for strangers, etc. There's nothing wrong with less than perfect. Screw Norman Rockwell and normal and all that crap. I don't really think it exists anywhere. ANd if it does? it's a facade and there are flaws behind the scenes.

    xoxo

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  7. I needed to read this today. My holiday definitely fell short of what I had hoped it to be.

    thanks for helping me shift my perspective. Great post!

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    1. Thank you, Erin. Love and peace to you.

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  8. It's so true...I still have trouble not feeling a let down at the end of the day, when the morning starts out so joyful. But we're all blessed with what we have. Merry Christmas to you and your beautiful family!

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  9. Very true; my holiday traditions will never make the cover of a magazine, either. But I would not trade the simple joys of togetherness, food and laughter for any Norman Rockwell painting. Happy Holidays to you and your family.

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  10. I am so glad you had a truly wonderful, imperfect Christmas. Those really are the best kind. After traveling to see family before the holiday, Christmas Day was spent at home with just the five of us, and it was divine.
    Oh, and I'm sure you already know this, but your sons are beautiful.

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  11. Just a beautiful post in every way. Thank you for this. Everything, this.

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  12. My sister and I ended up at a sports bar drinking Patron margaritas and eating fajitas and burritos amid some VERY loud people! Then we wrangled the parking lot pre-pay machine only to discover, after we paid, that it was free! Then we went home and watched a screener of Silver Linings Playbook. One of our most fun Christmases ever! Normal is for *other* people.

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  13. I can never hear the laughter or feel the love in those paintings...I bet you. Had both in your real world! Much love to you, Empress!

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    1. A world of love to you, ANdrea. My good good friend.

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  14. Who needs Norman Rockwell. I think we all want some ideal, when really it is about presence and not presents. I think it takes a tragedy like what occurred to make us all aware of that. This was probably the leanest Christmas my children ever had. But they were grateful we were all together. That was the best present I could have received.

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    1. My kids do better with less: they're less ADD and sporadic, feel less pulled in so many directions, when they can focus on just a few of their favorites.

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  15. Merry Christmas to you. As I visited my critically ill father on Christmas Day, I realized things are way too short to worry about perfect. We need to be grateful for all that we are blessed with and try to do as much good with what we have.

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    1. How is your father?? I know you enjoyed every minute spent with him this holiday.

      xo

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  16. This right HERE is the best of all: "But on this Christmas night, 2012, I don't think there was a woman on this planet who felt luckier with what she had, than I did."

    That's as "perfect" as anyone needs!

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    1. We are all so lucky. Happy New Year, Nina!

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  17. Our day started out joyfully until we had the inevitable Christmas day meltdown by both girls. This post helped me put their meltdowns in perspective. They are only little once. Then the 5 year told us, that the most important thing about Christmas was being together. My husband and I teared up at how blessed we truly are.

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  18. It sounds PERFECT. Your sons are all so handsome! Belated Merry Christmas and I hope you have a wonderful new year!

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  19. I'm glad Christmas is over. IT was a hard one this year.

    I enjoyed your post. So true. http://lessonsonthecheap.blogspot.com/

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    1. Oh, so sorry to hear that. Yes, the holidays, they leave me feeling so raw some years.

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  20. I think that's what I love best about the Holidays..that we MAKE it whatever it is, by being who we are.
    My family isn't perfect..it's a mishmash of lots of people, some blood, some not..but FAMILY all the same.

    I don't want a picture perfect holiday, I just want everyone I love there.

    Loved this post and those gorgeous boys of yours.

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    1. Yes, as always, yes, Kir.

      We have so much, don't we?

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  21. I love the internet. Thanks for this and thanks to all the other comments. It's so easy to think that everybody else is making the Martha Stewart Christmas come true and I'm the only one who couldn't pull it off.

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  22. I felt like such a failure this Christmas. Sometimes I feel I live to beat myself over the head with those missed marks, so thank you for the reminder. There were so many things left undone, and I really believed everybody else was that super-organized, well-dressed, punctual perfect mother. I'm glad you tell it like it is. And despite all the things I didn't accomplish, we too had a Merry Christmas with imperfect people I love more than life.

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    1. Oh, Hilary. I always feel that way: trying to keep up with the perfect neighbor, the decorated houses around here, the clean sparkling home. But, let me tell you: my kids are alive and safe, I have my health, my husband has a good job, and we have a home, food, and 2 cars that work.

      How lucky can one woman get???

      Peace to you, lovely.

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    2. Amen! So true, and thank you for saying it so well. Happy New Year, Alexandra!

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  23. Nothing good comes of comparing or of coveting. Bountiful good comes from being present, memorizing the good, and shaking off the bad.

    So glad you had a real and joyous Christmas. You wouldn't be happy with magazine moments because they're not true, real, or warm. Brown turtlenecks are warm.

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  24. You know what is perfect? This post. Perfectly describing how I and I'm sure, many of us feel at being deluged with media images of what our lives and special days should be. I actually got into an argument with my husband on Christmas Eve over the fact that so much was left to the last minute. But you know what? In the end, the day was great, the meal delicious and everyone was happy. Everyone was safe and healthy and alive. Sandy Hook reminded me of what's important. I guess the media did give us that. I still have three batches of unbaked cookie dough sitting around. Big deal. Let Norman Rockwell and Martha Stewart bake them. I'm playing video games with my kids.

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  25. Gorgeous, gorgeous boys! I slaved over a holiday meal that nobody liked. ;-) But we survived it and we're all together and that is the best blessing of all.

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    1. I know. I made everything so that my mother could eat it BUT I prepped the boys, this Xmas was for her, and her Colombian favorites. I was lucky, they got it.

      xo Love you, Jennie.

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  26. I didn't grow up with a Norman Rockwell family, and since I've been divorced (6 years) it is definitely not the standard N.R. Christmas. But it's ours, and that's good enough.

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  27. I so love this. And you. Merry Holidays my dear friend. xoxo

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  28. Happy Holidays, Alexandra!

    I am late here with my visit and holiday wishes, because I spent my own non-Rockwell Christmas falling under the strain of a difficult few days with my husband. I have been a bit depressed and like you too I missed the target of more than one goal, like sending out cards, getting presents on time...I even nearly missed the meat I had to get for dinner as the market was completely out but the time I finally got around to food shopping (until the butcher said, "I've got one last piece back here if you want it"). Such is life - I wanted the perfect Christmas this year because for once my workload was fairly light at this time of year. But I need to look at the big picture, which is that we had a spread of food that many families will never be able to enjoy, and I was with my family. Fighting and bickering aside, there is still love. As long as we can set aside our expectations for perfection, I think we will be okay.

    Thank you for your beautiful card and I hope you have been enjoying this week!
    xo

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  29. I loved this post and I love you! xo

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    1. the heart never lies, Anna. It just can't. Peace, joy, love, good health to you this year.

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  30. I smile. I laugh. I join in. But my heart is always somewhat heavy at Christmas. Constantly thinking about what it would be like if my mum was still around.

    Your writing is just beautiful.

    Thank you for this.

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    1. How I love knowing you, Liz. I really do.

      xo

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