There are few events during the year that set my husband and I farther apart than Christmas.
Isn’t that strange? Possibly you couples who are engaged or considering lifelong matrimony would like to consider this as the prenuptial question: do you like a Christmas with all the trimmings or do you like a simple, homespun holiday?
Maybe there could be a Christometer, by asking: “In a range, from 1 to 10, how much fun and frivolity can you stand?” “Do you prefer a tree surrounded by gifts or a simple box with a traditional red ribbon, with maybe a chocolate Santa?” In 30 years, we have not managed to see eye to eye, or glowing nose to nose.
Within the first few years of our marriage, upon detecting the divide, I contrived to set up “The Gift of the Magi” (of sorts), by driving to Jackson to get his childhood movies, which show scenes of kids surrounded by presents – drum kits, Tonka trucks, games, toys. I wrote a short story about an erstwhile couple who could not agree, but who both loved the season. I set up an evening to show the reel-to-reels and read my story.
Fast foward, say, 30 years. And here we are.
To be sure, we don’t have a lot of money. Neither did my own parents, and yet holidays were always celebrated with revelry. You would indulge. Extend. We lived so close to the bone, it was the time of year to let go. All gifts, no matter how simple, were wrapped with extravagant bows, ribbons, and tags. Fa la la la la!
I wrote an earlier blog about childhood gifts. I can’t pretend to understand how the mind works, especially as regards our childhood experiences and how we translate them to adulthood. I only know, as sure as there’s a Santa Claus, Virginia, and a baby born to save us all, it’s a snow hill or stable we’ll fight to defend.
When the kids were growing up we fought, but I did what I could to replicate my memories. Now that they’re (mostly) grown, I’m losing ground. I think it’s easier without the childhood anticipation of three children, giggling and watching every holiday special on TV.
For those who are sympathetic to my husband and the commercial plight, please don’t misunderstand. For me, it’s not about the amount spent. You could give me $50 a person and I would make the most of it. Or $500. It really doesn’t matter. If I can start before Thanksgiving, plotting, planning, building, collecting, I can delight in the process.
My husband, who is not the Grinch, bemoans the season and grouses through the holiday season, only to be struck by the gift of giving ’round about Christmas Eve. His eyes start to twinkle. His mood spikes. He heads out into the fray on the 23rd or 24th, when I would rather be left to clean up after the entire Whoville celebration. He buys treats and treasures at a time of year that makes me want to stay in, In, IN, IN!!!!
And then he writes a check to the kids. This is his family’s tradition. My family never had the money to write a check worth cashing. By my college years, my parents were divorced and there was no spare money. My mom wrapped an extension cord my sophomore year. But his family could. And did.
So, here we are. To gift. Or not to gift. To enjoy, each in our own way? To enjoy in one person’s way?
I don’t think we’re alone. The stress of season hits us all at some point. You like celebrating with family or you’d rather run away. You want to decorate like it’s the North Pole or you want a wreath, preferably fake, so it won’t drop needles. You want to be surrounded in holiday frolic or only want to endure the hub-bub.
It’s almost as if we should all move to polar-opposite sides of the celebration spectrum, to be reunited after the New Year’s clock strikes twelve.
At any rate, this holiday season, my usually wonderful husband has stated that we can only give oranges in everyone’s stockings. And I am left to decorate what “never was such a bad little tree,” Charlie Brown.
Hark the herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled.”
Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim:
“Christ is born in Bethlehem”
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”
– Charles Wesley, 1839
Sung by the Peanuts kids at the end of “A Charlie Brown Christmas”
Cover picture: Charles Schulz.