My childhood Christmases glowed. They really did, every year. It’s a little bit nostalgia and a lot totally true.
Glorious things happened, like Santa bringing us a family-sized tent and setting it up IN OUR FAMILY ROOM as we slept. We got a hammock, once, and left it swinging in the kitchen all through Christmas Break. Santa was such a cool cat. One year we got a puppy. I’m not sure that anything more crazy exciting had ever happened to me before.
Our Christmas rituals sometimes changed, but usually:
*We delivered my mom’s loaves of homemade bread and jars of homemade jam to neighbors. Only with the perspective of being the age now that my mom was then, do I want to go back in time and 1) high five her, and 2) tell her it’s okay to stop giving herself so much work.
*We put up the chunky colored lights outside that weren’t cool in the ’80’s, but that I loved anyway because they looked retro (a word I didn’t know then) and more importantly, jolly.
*I curled up after school in the armchair by the back window on December afternoons and read the Christmas picture books that were stacked by the sofa. It was cozy, and I was unencumbered.
*We went caroling. It didn’t sound great, but it felt exciting.
*Our Thunder Tubes sailed down the steep hill by the Olympus High bleachers next to the football field, smoothing deep tracks through the powder. Never had anything as satisfying and thrilling in the whole world ever happened to anyone.
And then on Christmas Eve, the joy peaked because:
*We ate the cheesy bean dip, the kind with the Velveeta that is silky and addictive.
*My Grandma Wilcox sang “O Holy Night,” her signature piece. Whenever it plays now on the radio or is sung at church, my Grandma is right there with me.
*My dad read aloud “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” and the story of Jesus’s birth from the Book of Luke, the most magical part of the whole holiday for me. We sat in the dark by the lighted tree, and I hummed with anticipation and dreamed of reindeer and baby Jesus.
I don’t know that I am creating for my children the same sense of pure magic that I felt as a kid at Christmas. I hope that I am.
The reality is that raising my children is different than it was for my parents. My house is in more of an ongoing state of messy survival in the service of disabilities. My home isn’t a beautiful gathering place for extended family and friends. It’s the house that Jack rebuilt.
Our traditions are fluid, as what worked one year may not work the next with our current family dynamic. I’m trying to accept this and let go of guilt and sadness.
We still read Christmas picture books and I’ve added considerably to our repertoire, for my sake if not for the boys who prefer to read the same three books over and over.
We still bake cookies.
Santa is obviously still a cool cat.
We still play carols.
We go to church and sing about angels.
We think about Jesus.
Christmas still comes, despite disabilities—or especially because of disabilities.
Now that I’m a grown-up, this is what makes Christmas glow.