Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Magic Revisited

When I was a child, Christmas was a magical time, as I suppose it is for most children. I don't know how my parents managed on such a meagre income, but year after year, that special something found it's way under the tree. The year I was thirteen I wanted a stereo so badly I thought I would die if I didn't get one. But I knew that it was impossible.

I had two sisters and my parents did their very best to be equitable when it came to gift giving. Since they certainly couldn't afford such extravagant gifts for all three of us, I resigned myself to the fact that a stereo was not in my immediate future. And yet, Christmas morning, there it was. When I opened the box, my surprise was so great that I actually felt faint. I shrieked with joy, and my sisters beside me shrieked as well. I can't even remember what they got that year, but I remember that we were absolutely astounded. I remember that I was so happy, I felt like my feet were barely touching the ground.

Even as children, we understood the reality of our financial situation. What we didn't understand was the power of their love, and how they wanted us, for just one day, to feel like everybody else. To this day I don't know how they did it. I'm sure there were things that they went without to make those Christmas miracles come true; things that they probably really needed.

Now, as a parent myself, I realize that nothing I need could give me half as much enjoyment as seeing my child's eyes light up on Christmas morning. And now I understand that my mother could live with a threadbare winter coat that was hopelessly out of fashion, and my father could live with driving a rusty, oil guzzling hunk of junk. They could deny themselves small luxuries and not even miss them much.

But what they couldn't live without, was the satisfaction of making their children happy. What they could not deny themselves, was the joy of making dreams come true for us.

But it was more than the material things they gave us. They made Christmas magical.

My mother made so many different kinds of cookies and confections that now, it makes me cringe just thinking about how much work it must have been. There was almond bark and marshmallow fudge, rolled cookies, cut out cookies, rum balls, delicate rosettes, divinity, and yes, even fruit cake. And she decorated our shabby little home with as much care as if she was decking the halls of the Vanderbilt mansion.

My dad, though less involved with the aesthetics of Christmas, did his part to make it unforgettable. He watched all the specials with us; he knew all the words to every goofy song. I bet he could still sing "I'm Mister Heat Miser" word for word. And every Christmas Eve he sang "Birthday of a King" in church. People wept when my father sang that song, and I thought my heart would burst with pride. I think it was my dad who made sure that we understood that Christmas was about more than gifts and goodies.

For many years, there was never anything under the tree for either of them. They spent everything they had on us and there was nothing left over for one another. But like many children from low income families, we were industrious. And we rectified that just as soon as we could.

The year that I was ten, I used the proceeds from my paper route to buy them gifts. It was the first time I had my own money and I was so excited. I don't remember what I bought for my dad, but I bought my mother a knick knack that, upon reflection, was probably not very tasteful. But it was absolutely beautiful to my ten year old eyes, and since it was displayed in the nicest department store in our small town, I thought it very fine. It was a plastic skater, plated with cheap chrome, suspended from a fine silver thread onto a mirrored pond, where she twirled with the aid of a magnet. My mother still has that silly thing.

Years later, I learned that my mother really hated Christmas. She hated that they couldn't lavish us with gifts, she hated that they had to work such long hours at a time of year when everyone else was losing themselves in yuletide merriment. She hated that she couldn't buy us beautiful clothes for the Christmas Eve service, and she hated knowing that the other, more privileged kids would make us pay for that with whispered taunts and hurtful jibes. She hated the commercialism and the materialism.

But we never knew. To us, Christmas truly was the most wonderful time of the year.

As an adult, I have a love/hate relationship with Christmas. Now I see it from my Mother's perspective and like her, the greed and the blatant commercialism rankles me. The other day I saw grown adults fighting over a video game system in Target. When I say "fighting", I mean that they were about to come to blows. Years ago I swore I would never be sucked into one of those toy crazes, no matter how bad my children might want a thing. I didn't buy Tickle Me Elmo, or Furbies, or Cabbage Patch Dolls, or any of the other ridiculous toy fads that turn seemingly sensible adults into snarling, slavering beasts every year. Watching those men argue over something so ridiculous underscored that resolve.

The crowds irritate me. The prices irritate me. The rudeness and the greed irritate me. The fact that turkey carcasses are scarcely cold before stores are hawking the latest greatest thing and blaring carols from their speakers irritates me. The idea of dragging all that crap down from the attic only to haul it back up there weeks later irritates me. and And I hate that here, there is simply no hope of a white Christmas. It's very hard for me to get into the Christmas spirit when there is no snow, and when it's quite likely the temperature will not fall below 60 degrees.

For a while, I let myself succumb to the humbug. I had no children, so it really didn't matter. I would go home for the week of Christmas and allow myself to be caught up in the Christmas Spirit just long enough to remember how it used to be, and recapture a little bit of that magic.

But when I had children, everything changed. I began to see Christmas through young eyes again. And I became determined that my children would have the kind of Christmases that I did. And that's when I really understood why my Mother did everything she did, despite her distaste. She did not want us to be touched by the ugliness....only remember the magic. And she succeeded.

Now that I am the magic maker, I find that each year the humbug fades a little more.

A couple years ago, when Pre-Pubescent One was about 7 and Diminutive One was about 4, our tree decorating had been somewhat less magical than I would have liked. The four of us had been bickering. Husband I had been impatient and snappish with one another and the kids who had been devilish and hard to manage in their excitement. It had not been a heartwarming yuletide scene. But when the lights went out, we sat in companionable silence looking at our twinkling tree. It was hopelessly smushed on one side and listed badly. It was loaded down with lumpy, misshapen homemade ornaments. It was already dry and brittle and would likely be dead within a week. But it twinkled brightly and somehow, looking at it made me feel better.

I realized that PPO had tears pouring down his cheeks. Alarmed, I asked "PPO, what's wrong??"

He sniffled, wiped his cheeks, and said, "I'm just so happy!" and then he started to cry in earnest. He was moved by that stupid, ugly little tree. He hadn't heard the bickering, he hadn't noticed the undercurrent of irritation. All he saw was Christmas magic there in our living room.

Since that day, I find myself loving more and hating less. When I am irritated, I try to remind myself that they are growing up, and soon they won't believe in or care about the magic much.

I have my children to thank for giving me back the Christmas Spirit. The least I can do is make a little magic while they are still young and innocent enough to appreciate it. For them, I can keep the humbug at bay for a few more years.

My shopping is almost done, (don't hate me, there were plenty of years I was out shopping on Christmas Eve) and I can concentrate on all the really good and fun and special stuff. We're going to get our tree tonight when Husband gets home, and tomorrow, I will put on Elvis Presley and Christmas with the Rat Pack and Rock the Night Away with my boys.

Now, if only there was some snow. Well, no matter. That's what airplanes are for, right?


  • At 2:48 PM, Blogger Bea said…

    I feel a post coming on about the value of broken things, flawed things, like that Christmas tree. It's not that Christmas was magical for you in spite of its imperfections - it is the imperfections that make it magical.

  • At 3:50 PM, Blogger Amie Adams said…

    What a wonderful post!!

    When we first moved from New England to Florida we had a very hard time getting into the christmas spirit. What Southerners don't have in snow they make up for in lights. Eventually you have to just have to adopt the when in rome attitude...

    I love the romantic/magical aspect of Christmas--I try to ignore the greedy, stressful part. Easier said than done, but like you since I've had kids everything's changed.

  • At 4:46 PM, Blogger The Sour Kraut said…

    Your post brought me close to tears. I too grew up in a home with not a lot of money. Somehow my parents managed to fill our family room floor with presents each year. They sacrificed so much to make it special for us.

    I have a plaque in our family room with the saying "These are the days we will remember forever". It is my reminder that we are constantly creating our childrens' future memories--and a reminder to make them positive ones.

  • At 5:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    As a single mom, I today struggle to give my girls a happy Christmas, and it is. They are also very involved with their Dad's family. I'm glad to know I can keep the anxiety to myself, though, so that their day can be happy and free. Your mom showed true courage.

  • At 5:35 PM, Blogger Bobita said…

    With you 100%...I hated the "C" word until having children. Now, I find absolute bliss in finding just the right gift (like your stereo) for my kids.

    I can hardly wait for Christmas put out the cookies for Santa and send my oh-so-very-excited children to bed! I love that feeling of anticipation, but not nearly as much as I love the feeling of inspiring shrieks of joy in my children!

    Like you, I want to take advantage and relish their innocent delight, knowing that it is a temporary condition!

  • At 6:34 PM, Blogger ewe are here said…

    I believe that Christmas is about children. And family. And I want mine to experience the magic.

    My Christmases were hit and miss growing up. When we were little, my mom worked hard to make them as lovely as yours did. Then there were many bad years, uneasy years - my mom and 'bio dad' hated each other - then finally, good, magical years again when my mom remarried my 'real dad'. And the Christmas spirit returned. It was never about the 'stuff'; it was about the sentiment, the feelings, and, yes, the magic.

    I'm glad you're finding the magic again.

  • At 9:22 PM, Blogger OhTheJoys said…

    I've been thinking a lot about this lately too. K and I have been talking about what kind of family traditions we can create - things that we do every year that they will remember...

    ...and YES! Where is that halfway Starbucks? We MUST go there together and soon!!

  • At 9:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Your parents gave you the best thing of all, wonderful memories. And even with more boxes and bows, that is what your boys will come away with as well. Well written, as always, BA.

  • At 4:54 PM, Blogger Karyn said…

    Hear hear.
    Or here here.


    Well said, BA. Those of us who came from distinctly unprivileged backgrounds know what it was about back in the day and how it colored our view of holidays as adults. I am now the one wearing the wonky sweats and tatty old tees because my children have cute clothes and Christmas toys.

    As for the snow... I live in New England and it was mid fifties yesterday. Bugger. Not Christmasy at all.

  • At 7:38 PM, Blogger Chicky Chicky Baby said…

    BA, I was so touched by this post. You could have been describing my childhood, save for a few details (my mom did not bake and my dad did not sing) right down to the anger and hatred of Christmas that came when I became an adult. I never think about the shabby furniture and the cheap plastic tree of my childhood, only the magic of presents under that tree and the lights and magic. And I can't wait to do that for my daughter.

    And I love you for mentioning the Heat Miser. Whenever I bring him up no one remember the tv special. I have that song (and the Snow Miser's) on my iPod!

  • At 8:36 PM, Blogger Sandra said…

    Another brilliantly written post BA. I think I say that too much to you :)

    Brought back so many familiar memories of my own. I do relish in being the magic maker now and work hard to make Christmas about more than the commercialism for my son.

  • At 2:32 AM, Blogger Maurissa said…

    I almost started crying as I read your post.

    Even if I am eighteen, I am not in the finest financial situation, or even the most decent. My childhood was much like you described. I never understood the true power of love, but I did realize my mom and I's financial situation.

    I look forward to the holidays, because I can see my cousin's eyes light up when they open their gifts (I don't have any siblings or children, but I do have younger cousins :-D )

    Take care!

  • At 10:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    God, you are a fantastic writer.

    I had a very, very hard time with Christmas when my mother was sick, when she was dying and after she died. Her birthday's on the 22nd, which didn't help things much after she died. But when I had Julia, everything changed. It was this huge shift for me. Christmas became something for me that it hadn't been in years -- exciting. Magical. Wonderful.

  • At 7:37 PM, Blogger Mom101 said…

    Classic, exquisite BA. Such a great post.

    What we didn't understand was the power of their love, and how they wanted us, for just one day, to feel like everybody else. - that's going to stay with me.

  • At 3:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hello. Good day
    Who listens to what music?
    I Love songs Justin Timberlake and Paris Hilton


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