Christmas/holiday cards are long gone, the tree is bedecked and sparkling; the front yard glimmers with lights, and I’ve begun the holiday baking. I’m now sprawled on the couch, glass of sherry in hand, staring bleary-eyed out the window. An unexpected winter storm dashes raindrops against the glass. They enjoy a brief moment of stardom, taking center stage, absorbing and refracting colored lights from the Christmas tree. I wish I had the where-with-all to grab my Cannon and capture their moment, but fatigue has morphed holiday ho-ho-ho into Grinchy grunts, growls, and grimaces.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the holidays. I’m all about trimming the tree and decking the halls. I adore the childlike fun of Christmas décor. The themes of which fall somewhere between Disney’s Fantasy Land and an upscale children’s toy store. What’s not to like? My boxes of Christmas paraphernalia easily take up half the storage space in the garage, and I love every gaudy bit. I get positively Christmas-morning giddy every time I unpack my treasures and pull out my favorites, oohing and aahing over each piece. It’s like revisiting favorite old friends. You know the ones…no issues, no negativity…just all smiles and good memories.
Visions of decorating perfection danced in my head like proverbial sugar plums as I unpacked our holiday linens and ever-growing snow-globe collection. But, a few hours in, after too much (I refuse to say excessive) bending and lifting, and too many trips up and down the step ladder, it became evident that my grandiose plans for Martha Stewart perfection definitely exceeded my physical ability to follow through. Aging joints, my friends, can flash “reality check” through the rosiest of rose-colored glasses.
Standing on a ladder, stretching way up to the top of the tree to tweak that one ornament to its most picture-perfect angle, almost landed me in the arms of the treetop angel. I swear she frowned. I blame her porcelain glare for my loss of balance on the way back down. And getting down on howling knees to retrieve the ornament the cat batted off the tree…well, you get the gist of where my Christmas cheer was heading. At this point my teeth were firmly gritted behind my holiday smile.
I hate to admit it, but I see myself morphing into my mother in her later years. For most of my life, Mum was a huge fan of all the trappings of Christmas. My mother started baking her famous fruit cakes in the late fall, and by Christmas Eve the cake was well-doused in booze and covered in marzipan and frosted, and the freezer was full of shortbread cookies and mince pies. The tree was dressed and tinseled, the house lit up from one end to the other, the decanters filled, and the candles—along with my Dad—were lit. Christmas was the highlight of the year in the Platel household. My parents set the bar pretty high for what Christmas should be and set me up for trying to follow in their footsteps.
I felt almost betrayed when my mother’s holiday enthusiasm dimmed as she aged. I needed Christmas to stay the same; I needed her to be the same. The long-established traditions of Christmas were my anchor in a changing world. But, at some indefinite point, my mother wordlessly passed the baton to me, so I wobbled into her holiday high heels and knocked myself out creating Christmas for everyone. And, honestly, the pleasure has been all mine.
Fast forward about thirty years and this Christmas Elf is mimicking Mum in her later years, and beginning to drag her bedazzled behind. Yup. Persistent aching joints and a lowered energy level might be tweaking my perspective, but I stubbornly refuse to do much more than take the festivities down a mere notch or two. I still love the holidays, as does my husband…adult kids (no grandkids), not so much…but for us, Christmas remains the comet’s tail at the end of the year.
“In keeping with the situation,” to quote Scrooge's housekeeper, I’ve stocked up on Icy/Hot and Advil, dragged myself off the couch, squared my shoulders, and jumped deep into a pile gift wrapping paper and tape. Even better, looking for extra Christmas bags, I discovered a bottle of Southern Comfort tucked way in the back of the cupboard! Bring it on, Christmas.
So, on that note I wish you all a Merry Christmas and the happiest of whichever holiday you enjoy celebrating. Just pass the eggnog my way and don’t go easy on the rum.
Lynn Nicholas - AUTHOR oF Dancing Between The Beats
My blog is a window into my world. My slice-of-life narratives are triggered by life's