Thursday, December 9, 2010

Holiday Expectations

I want Christmas to be magical.  I start shopping over the summer so that I can avoid the crowds that sour my mood.  Jason and I plan our Christmas Day menu well in advance, this year purchasing the cookbook while on vacation.  I cancel all formal lessons so we can spend a month baking and doing crafts.  I make plans and purchase tickets for Christmas productions well in advance.

I want my girls to have wonderful Christmas memories.  I want my husband to have a fantastic Christmas.  I want to express such joy this time of year that everyone around me feels it.  I am a little selfish, I want what my friend calls "a Norman Rockwell Christmas".

When my husband does something that disappoints and upsets me, it dampens my holiday spirit.  When A and I argue, it bursts my holiday bubble.  When a friend's father is diagnosed with lung cancer, it is devastating.  And I resent that any of this has to happen in December.  It's supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, darnit!  None of this stuff is supposed to happen NOW!

Our church holds a service called "The Longest Night" for people who are missing loved ones and lonely during the holiday season.  The thought of that has always made me so profoundly sad for them.  As I get older, I understand.  I miss my Naunie, who always made Buon Natale special when I was a little girl, with her scungilli salad and roasted chestnuts.  I think about going to her house on Christmas Eve, walking down the block to her church for Mass and the Christmas pageant.  It always seemed so magical to be able to walk to church.  Very Norman Rockwell.  We would come back to her house and all of the guests would have arrived.  We would snack on celery with pimiento spread and my brother would beg to open gifts.  The adults would take joy in torturing him laugh as we ate a several course dinner of Seven Fishes.  When we finally sat around to open gifts, we would eat strufoli and the fabulous smelling chestnuts that my grandmother roasted.  I want Christmas to be like that again.

I miss my mother-in-law, with her big Christmas Day spread.  Her sticky buns when we got there on Christmas morning.  Drinking coffee with her while we cleaned up all the wrapping paper.  The men would all seem to disappear and it would be she and I making this huge spread for her table: vegetables and dips, cheeses and sausages and crackers, homemade salsa and chips, and other things, hot "hor doovers" as she called them.  Then she would open the wine and we would sit and talk.  Really talk.  My mother-in-law often had a bit of a wall up (around me anyway), but after a glass or two of wine, the wall came down and she opened up and we had wonderful conversations.  Then we would make the ham and the potato casserole.  She was a big baker, too and she would relish tasting all of the different cookies I had made (her wall now completely down) and I would enjoy sampling all of her cookies.  I want Christmas to be like that again.

I miss my grandpa, saying "Hiya" and laughing at everything I say and thinking my Grandma was the Queen of the Universe.  I miss his homemade babka.  I miss how emotional he got with every gift, how appreciative and loving he was.  I want Christmas to be like that again.

I want more than anything to create those kinds of memories for my family.  I want my girls to look back and say, "We had some great Christmases when I was a kid!"  I want them to have an idea of how magical and beautiful and wonderful this time of year can be.  I don't want to argue with anyone, I don't want anyone to be diagnosed with a disease.

My mother-in-law always accused me of being controlling.  When it comes to planning an event and wanting to know who is coming, I don't think that is controlling.  Or when it comes to getting my babies down for a nap and having someone stop by and wake them up, I don't think it's controlling to get annoyed.  But maybe when it comes to things that are really out of all of our control, maybe I need to be more accepting, more understanding and roll with it.

Maybe I need to not have expectations.  Maybe I need to not anticipate everything being wonderful.  Maybe I need to focus on it just being what it is, as good as it is and not wanting it to be anything more than that.

Tonight we are going out to dinner and to see "Dickens': A Christmas Carol".  Tomorrow night we are attending a holiday party.  On Saturday there is a holiday extravaganza at Rutgers, my alma mater.  And on Sunday we are going to see Jason's stepfather.  I am going to work at just being happy that we have these things to do and not expecting anything more from them.  I am going to work at being happy that they are just what they are.

Mary and Joseph didn't despair when there was no room at the inn.  They didn't stumble around kicking things and get really angry.  No, they took shelter in a manger, and that was where Jesus was born. There is something to be said for that.  No expectations, no anticipation.  Let's remember that baby born in a barn and exchange our expectation for acceptance and trust that whatever is supposed to happen will happen and it is out of our control, but God will be there for us every step of the way, just as He was that night in Bethlehem.