My Perfect Christmas
By Connie Darago
The list looms on the large double-wide fridge like that unwanted magnet I received last Christmas but must display to spare feelings of the giver.
Christmas changes when you're older and the children have taken flight like Canada geese crossing the Bay. It becomes less exciting and more a chore. The knees hurt a little more and the hips start to speak after a couple of hours in Annapolis Mall. Pain soon overwhelms the desire to shop.
Christmas wasn't exactly grand where my husband George and I grew up. The coal mines had passed their heyday, and money was tight. Most gifts came from the Sears catalogue.
George remembers playing with toys when they arrived, then surrendering them until Christmas Eve when they reappeared. Unwrapped of course. Wrapping paper was a luxury most could not afford.
I must have been the oldest kid in Appalachia to still believe in Santa Claus, and I was devastated at 11 to find the American Flyer sled in the smoke house with the ham and bacon. I cried secretly for days.
So when George and I married, we vowed to make Christmas picture post-card perfect in our home with a big tree, lots of gifts and good food.
Our enthusiasm heightened when our three children came. They loved the season, too, and always wrote letters to Santa telling of their impeccable behavior, concluding with wish lists.
Buying gifts was my job. I chose each one with TLC, striving for my perception of perfection. Tonka toys, Matchbox cars, bicycles, John Deere pedal-tractors, Red Rider BB guns, music boxes and tiny collectible glass animals were among their favorites as youngsters, but stereos, VCRs, TVs and clothes topped lists in later years.
Early gift giving for George had to be practical when he needed new work boots and coveralls. I had to remember January was "hawk month" in the construction business.
Later, I did better by honing in on his love of coins and tools, though I asked for specific guidance in the tool department. For everyone knows, you need the proper tool for a perfect job.
For years I thought we'd achieved the perfect Christmas straight from the magazines as I'd envisioned.
Kids gazing speechless at the meticulously decorated tree, jumping with joy as they ripped open piles of neatly wrapped gifts and nibbled on special goodies I had carefully chosen from their favorites. Perfect.
Changes began when our oldest son, Eric, entered the Air Force and spent Christmas in Seattle for three years. I told myself it was temporary. Eventually, he would move back and Christmas would be the same. But it never was again. After leaving the military, he married and new lifestyles and other commitments chipped away at traditions.
When second-born William married several years later, still other changes came. How quickly I'd forgotten that new family members bring their own ideas and traditions, which must be interwoven with standing ones.
The holidays were becoming complicated. I was losing control.
My perfect Christmas concept truly disappeared when daughter Misty left home to be with her military fiancé in North Dakota.
How hard can this be? I've done it before and survived. After all, it's only four years. It sounded convincing, but in my heart of hearts I knew Christmas had forever changed.
Guess I'm just a sentimental mom feeling the pain of having only one child near this holiday. Eric is at school in Oklahoma and Misty's still in North Dakota.
Regardless, it's time to put that list in my purse, take an aspirin for the hips, head for the mall and just do it.
There is always next year.
Hopefully we'll be together. But I'm wiser now and it won't be about perfect gifts, traditions or misguided perceptions - just sharing the season with the ones I love safely nestled at home.
The perfect gifts I sought were always there right in front of me. My husband, children and love. Everything else was just buttons, bows and do-dads.
Darago, of Huntingtown, who joined NBT in the second half of this year, has contributed reflections and features.
| Issue 51 |
Volume VII Number 51
December 23-29, 1999
New Bay Times
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