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.