I have loved Christmas all my life. The decorations delight me, the food and family fulfill me, and the spirit of the season lifts my mood to end the year on a high note.
Now I'm facing a New Year with the typical resolution – but this time, I'm being more clever than saying I'm going to lose weight. I opted instead for the more generic "I'm going to take better care of myself." That could mean I just have to keep my dentist appointment instead of taking a kid to softball practice – a "me first" attitude from time to time.
You see, I'm finding that I return to work each January with less and less energy. In searching for the culprit, I find several:
1. My school system thinks we need to be professionally developed, so I am. Instead of waiting for the first Monday after the New Year to return to our classrooms, we go back on January 2 to learn – something… or other. I forget what, exactly. This means I can't get all my Christmas decorations down and put away properly. Instead, I opt for the "I'll straighten all these lights out next year" method of tossing everything into random boxes as quickly as possible.
2. My kids are growing older and it's harder to shop for those perfect gifts. One round through Toys ‘R Us is no longer sufficient. So, I have to plan more trips to different places, eating up valuable relaxing time.
3. My Christmas tree, though fake, continues to grow half a foot while in storage each year. Originally purchased as an eight-foot model, it now towers somewhere near 14 feet. It takes three days to put the thousand-plus ornaments on it… it should take as long to take them all off, but see #1 above.
4. Cooking all those traditional goodies is becoming – well, a bit too traditional. I spend time searching, in vain, for a new meat.
5. I haven't sent out Christmas Cards in years because I can't find the time, and the guilt is killing me.
In short, I am not feeling rested enough to start 2008. They even pushed Martin Luther King Day too far into January to provide much help to me this time. Think how great it would be just not to "do" Christmas one year! I'm not the first to think of this: In his novel, Skipping Christmas, John Grisham described an exasperated father wishing to take a break from all the fuss and muss. The family – indeed, the whole neighborhood - rebelled against the very idea of skipping the festivities in lieu of a relaxing cruise.
On the other hand, my family is finally starting to get it. They never believe me when I say I want a gift of their time, but this year, that's exactly what I got. My "big kids" took off for a week with us to go to a cabin in the mountains, while the "little kids" went to Grandma's house. The older two are now both adults; I've never traveled with adult kids, so I was a newbie at it. It was incredible.
Consider the benefits of being in a cabin, far from home, with a pool table, hot tub, air hockey table, and a fabulous view from the very top of the mountain:
1. Four drivers! Amazing!!
2. A different kitchen to mess up. We never had so much fun making Christmas cookies in our lives, because that was all we had to do.
3. The prospect of snow. Didn't happen, but just the prospect was exciting for us.
4. My son shot deer with a camera instead of a gun. It was the gift of a lifetime.
5. I went wine-tasting at the Biltmore Winery with my daughter. What a treat!
6. Did I mention there were four licensed drivers?
Of course, I had to "pay" for all of this in the end by slamming the aforementioned twenty-foot tall Christmas tree to the floor and yanking the ornaments off of it in record time in order to get assistance with putting it away. Everybody had to take off post-haste to wherever their real lives were upon our return. It's too bad real life gets in the way of real living.
Thank you, family. I'll never forget it. We'll go back to the old-style Christmas next year.