“What? No Christmas tree? Really?”, coupled with the look of horror and sympathy was the common response after revealing my skipping of the Christmas tree. Yes I chose to skip dragging the tree up from the basement storage, the tangle and wrangling of lights, the moving of furniture, the hoisting down of totes full of decorations from storage, the ironing of the tree skirt, fussing with the angel tree topper and searching for the hooks to hang mismatched bulbs. All these holiday delights not to be included on my Christmas list. Hard to believe right?
I have to tell you it was a surprise to me as well. Now it’s not because I dislike Christmas, au contraire I absolutely love the holidays. Last year Christmas just kind of snuck up on me. My son was going to visit his in-laws in Michigan, my daughter planned her visit weeks earlier to avoid the Christmas travel and my step sons weren’t coming home from NC with our grand kids. So why go to all the trouble just for me and my husband Terry and our two Yorkies?
We really did not miss the Christmas tree. Seriously, I felt like a huge weight of obligation was removed from my shoulders. The whole experience was quite liberating actually. Oh I pulled out my Christmas table runners and filled a trifle glass dish with glittery bulbs and set the nativity scene up and hung my Christmas cards as they arrived. I’m not a total Scrooge! Honestly I did not miss the Christmas tree but a I felt guilty for not missing it.
Christmas clean up was a breeze. Lickity split Christmas 2012 was packed away in 10 minutes. No tinsel or pine needles to vacuum up for months after either. The only difference not having a Christmas made was I had one less thing to do at the holidays. For this I was thankful.
Fast-forward Christmas 2013.
I had no intention of putting up a Christmas tree. Last year was so enjoyable without the added clutter and work I wanted a repeat. While embracing a less work for Gina attitude, low and behold the season became even easier. This year my son and his wife invited us to spend Christmas Eve at their house, breaking from the 25 year tradition of celebrating Christmas Eve at our house.
My son was worried I’d be upset at the change in tradition. Without a moment of hesitation I accepted and volunteered to bring a green salad. The thought of spending the day with our precious 9 month old granddaughter was the best Christmas gift I could ask for.
I’m still reeling from my Christmas break. No tree, no mad rush to prepare for guests, no big dinner, no cookies to bake, no table to set and no dishes to wash. All I had to do was show up and enjoy my granddaughter, Kendall.
Then the epiphany hit me. This is how my mother in law, Norma must of felt when I asked permission to hold my first family Thanksgiving meal back in 1980. Norma’s smile and laughter was the highlight of my day that year. Remembering how her normal holiday look of exhaustion was transformed to joy and relief as I stepped into her shoes and accepted the Thanksgiving Day baton of hostess is a priceless memory.
I was feeling the same relief Norma felt 30 years ago. I finally gave myself permission to stop the “perfect picture” of Christmas etched in my mind. Deciding to give up all the expectations and the anxiety of a “Picture Perfect Christmas” along with the regret the day after wondering if I had done enough was a gift. Instead I experienced a truly joyous holiday.
The joy of watching my son and his new wife and daughter hold their first Christmas dinner. The pride I felt is inexplicable. My son Mark is a fabulous host and his wife Rose prepared a fabulous meal. The table was impeccably set and their home was beautiful. In the corner was a 2 foot potted evergreen with a single ornament, a commemoration of Kendall’s first Christmas. And of course Kendall was the star of my picture perfect day.
What will 2014 bring? No one knows but whatever it is I am certain there will be joy.