I'm still tidying up after the whirlwind holiday. As usual, I had a laundry list of things I wanted to do before Christmas and, as usual, I fell short. The woman who started Christmas shopping in September didn't quite get it all done. Again. I guess you could say that not getting everything done is now a tradition for me.
We celebrated all of the family traditions that are important to us: We cut down our own Christmas tree at a beautiful farm near Somerset, Wisconsin. The farm has a big beautiful barn and a straw mountain for the kids to climb with ropes. There are also wooden tunnels and hot cider and fresh donuts. It is one of my favorite days of the year.
We went to see Santa again. I know my kids love it, but sometimes I believe that my husband and I enjoy it the most. We had smiles on our faces the entire time. My son wore a suitcoat, and he had his list for Santa folded in the inside pocket. Santa actually laughed when the son pulled the list out of his pocket. He looked like a little James Bond.
My daughter was the Angel in the Christmas pageant at our church. She was a narrator last year. She did a wonderful job with her lines, and she looked beautiful with her tinsel halo. My son spent most of his time on the stage pulling at his tie and looking uncomfortable in his white shirt and blue dress slacks.
I helped with my son's first grade Christmas party. One of the Dads is a musician, so he had the kids doing a musical game with Christmas songs. Another Mom helped the kids make mouse ornaments/candy cane holders out of construction paper and glitter paint. Yet another Mom had a bean bag toss game. And I coordinated the whole event so I took the easy way out and made trail mix for a snack (no baking required), served a beverage, prepared candy bags for the kids to take home, and I helped out the other parents. The kids had a good time and weren't too hyper.
Early on the morning of the Christmas party, my daughter and I mixed up the trail mix for the first graders. I needed a fair amount for 22 kids, so we mixed up a big batch with Cheerios, raisins, peanuts, pretzels and M&Ms. I looked for a container large enough to transport all of it to school. And in the back of my cupboard I found a large red Tupperware container that I inherited from my Mom. It is huge with a sweet little kitschy Pennsylvania Dutch-type design on the front of it. Perfect.
When I was younger, my Mom used this container to store her wonderful spritz cookies at Christmastime. No one can make spritz cookies like my Mom. In later years, she even had a recipe where she used Jello in the cookies to give them color, and it added flavor and made them even more moist and wonderful - though she doesn't remember doing this. I have my Mom's old cookie press though I'd never try making a spritz cookie. Can you imagine how many ways I could mess those up? I tried making my Mom's Mexican wedding cookies this year and messed them up so badly that my kids begged me not to leave them out for Santa because "they are really bad." Evidently, you aren't supposed to use light butter in the recipe. Who knew?
I kept the red Tupperware container on my kitchen counter all through the Christmas holiday. Just looking at it made me smile. It brought back a happy memory of a simpler time. When I was little, Christmas was a wonderful season. We would make gifts and drive around town to see the Christmas lights. At school, the choir would practice Christmas carols for our annual performance. We would practice an hour each day - usually in place of math class which I believe is why, to this day, I suck at math. Our school would have Mass in the cafeteria before school let out for the holiday. We would honor our parent volunteers with little gifts during the Mass, and we always brought canned and boxed items for a food drive collection. We would have a Secret Santa gift exchange in our classroom, and we would always give a gift to the teacher. Some years I would have to sing in the choir at Midnight Mass, and my parents would always let me open a small gift after Mass before going to bed. We celebrated St. Nick's night on December 6th with small gifts. And my Mom was the queen of Christmas baking. To this day, the smell of rum brings back memories of her Canadian rum cake.
And every time I would see that wonderful old red Tupperware canister on my kitchen counter, all of the good memories came back to me. The warm wonderful happy times of my childhood in a drafty old farm house on an acre of land just on the outskirts of a little town in central Wisconsin. I cherish these memories so much. They are always in the back of my mind as I celebrate my new holiday traditions with my own family. They still envelop me like a warm hug from the past. They still live on in my memory.
This was a strange Christmas for me this year. Normally, I would trim the tree while the kids are in school. Unwrapping each individually wrapped ornament gently and placing it on the tree. Thinking back to when and where I got the ornament. Some were from old friends that I'm no longer in touch with, which always makes me sad. Some are from the Christmas trees of my childhood, beautiful antique glass ornaments. Some are handmade loveliness from my children when they were in preschool full of glue and glitter, each containing their name and the year it was made. I even have a beautiful pewter ornament of a cat with my darling Josie's name on it. I always hang it on the bottom of the tree - a place she used to lay and enjoy the lights on the tree. It usually takes a couple of hours to decorate the tree. And this year, I didn't feel up to trimming the tree at all. So, I let my daughter do it. And she did a wonderful job. She even decorated the house with nutcrackers and a nativity scene, snowglobes and a Christmas village. She was so proud, and so am I.
So, the holiday was a bit incomplete for me. I never got to watch all of my favorite holiday specials and movies. I didn't do a lot of Christmas knitting. I lost my Christmas card list, and I didn't get cards out to everyone. It's as though the holiday just passed me by. And now it's almost time to pack everything away. No more holiday music. The stores are bare. The snow and cold seem colder somehow. Time to move on.
And here I am staring at 2010 with my usual feeling of dread in the face of a new situation. I've got that feeling of being on the edge of a precipice afraid to move. I normally don't believe in resolutions. Yet, I have the funny habit of writing a note to myself each year when I pack the Christmas ornaments away. I always remind myself whether the lights worked well that year, or if I bought new lights and where they are located. I leave reminders for myself to do certain things, to give myself more time to accomplish certain tasks. It's hope in a note. And I always like reading the notes from myself the following holiday season. A gentle nudge from the past to get my act together. The constant striving for perfection.
This year, I've decided to write notes to myself to open every three months. Notes that will force me to take stock of things as the year goes along. Ways to measure whether I'm making progress on my goals. Nudges to help me get my act together and take it on the road. A reminder that I am a work in progress.
Yes, next year is the year that I will actually write a Christmas newsletter. I will get it all done. I will even bake spritz cookies, dammit. 2010 is going to be my year. I can feel it.