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Finally Giving Up Fantasy Family Festivities
As with most parts of parenthood, I visualized in my head the way things would be once I was a mother and nothing was clearer in my fantasies than future family Christmases.
There would be a fire, merrily crackling in the fireplace causing my daughters' cheeks to have a healthy, rosy glow. The girls (Elizabeth, Victoria, and Diana) would sit at my feet, contentedly stringing popcorn and watching as I put the lights on our majestic Balsam Fir. Later, we'd sip hot chocolate and put up the ornaments, laughing over the stories and history behind each treasured bauble.
I think the main purpose behind self-reflection and meditation is to allow yourself the time to wonder which childhood blow to the head affected your reasoning abilities. Because not only do I not have a gaggle of girls named after British royalty or even a working fireplace (ours is an old gas one and my husband says it'd be safer and cheaper to light a twenty dollar bill and watch it burn), but because of allergies, my kids have never experienced the seasonal, fragrant joy of a live Christmas tree.
Instead, our Christmas tradition involves going down to the basement and bringing up the storage bag that houses our artificial tree. We spend a half hour fluffing up the branches and trying to guesstimate where the ones that lost their paper labels a decade ago, are supposed to go.
I put on the lights alone, as the kids lost interest in the entire project back when we were still hoisting the bag up the stairs.
After mustering the troops for the application of ornaments, it becomes quickly obvious that no one really cares about the tales behind the tinsel, but I share it anyway. "This is the plastic apple that Michael thought was real and took a bite out of when he was about three years old. See this one? It's made from cinnamon and applesauce. We made a whole bunch one year and gave them out as gifts, remember? It was fun. This one shaped like a gingerbread man had a head until James ate it and then threw up. Remember that, James? That was not fun. Oooh, here's the glass bell my grandmother gave me after I got married. That crack in it is from you, Shelby. You tried to help a whole lot of angels get their wings one day when I was in the bathroom and you shook it so hard it flew right out of your hands and onto the floor! That "Babies First Christmas" one needs to turned so the hole from where someone knocked a hole in it with a candy cane won't show."
Some people (whose name rhymes with Fartha Goowart) have amazing trees every year that are not only gorgeous, their decorations all have themes like The Twelve Days of Christmas, or White Christmas, or Candy Land. It started to bum me out that the only theme that could be applied to our tree was: Total Destruction.
Finally, it dawned on me that we DO have our own traditions. Listening to lame excuses for not wanting to put up ornaments and then making teens do it anyway ("Hey, if you'd like to opt out of Christmas this year entirely, that is totally up to you. Let us know decision and we'll notify Santa.") is a new tradition. And after finally realizing that no matter how sentimental the piece is, losing it to a co-ordination challenged kid isn't really that big of a deal in the larger scheme of things.
And even though I've never had a holiday like those blissful ones I imagined, the ones involving shards and glue have been special and memorable in their own way.