It's hard for me to remember exactly when "The Holidays" started to become less magical and more hassle-full for me. For the past several years, it seems the months of November and December have been full of headaches and heartaches for me. Last year, the guy who I was certain was "the one" broke up with me right after Thanksgiving. The year before that was my first Christmas divorced. The year before that, in November, my then husband told me he wanted a divorce, and the year before that (my icing on this sorrow cake) was when I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.One year I even ended up in the hospital Christmas night after an asthma attack. It seems as though I am setting up for the let down.
I think when you are a twenty-something single adult with no children, its easier to view the holidays with pessimistic eyes. I lay in bed days before Christmas trying to think of everything I need to pack to take home. I'm calculating how long a drive it will be with traffic. I'm wondering how many different houses I'll have to visit. How many relatives I don't even like, that I'll have to fake nice to. I wonder how many times I'll hear "How are you feeling?" or "I heard you had a tough fall, how's your asthma?" I'm wondering how many desserts I won't be able to eat, because someone forgot about my allergies to peanuts. I'm wondering how hard it will be to stand in the same house that for so many years held the loud boisterous belly laugh of my grandfather, to now only hear his echos.
Hollywood and Hallmark have turned the holidays into something surreal. No one without a mini Martha Stewart in the kitchen can pull a perfectly browned Turkey out of the oven, carry it into the formal dining room (while wearing patent leather high heels and a hand sewn apron of course) and serve an extended family of 20. My mom is phenomenal cook. She has served an extended family of about 20 on several occasions, but there always seems to be some sort of mini crisis 10 minutes before the guests arrive. Last year, our entire family was sick and my poor mom had to cook and do everything herself. The year before that she made a fabulous turkey dinner with all the trimmings only to forget the mashed potatoes at the last minute. It was a mad dash to peel, cut, boil and mash those suckers! She is always up Christmas eve finishing wrapping presents and is busting her ass in the kitchen Christmas morning trying to make sure whatever dish she's bringing to dinner later is perfect.
Aren't we kinda missing the point? Thanksgiving and Christmas aren't supposed to be about creating picture perfect memories. They're about creating lasting memories with the ones you love. When I think back to all the holidays I've spent with my family, I never think "...and MAN what a great turkey we had" No, I think about my grandpa "teaching" my cousins how to play basketball in the living room. I think about my grandma telling us the story (for the millionth year in a row) about where she got the silver aluminum Christmas tree she keeps on the porch. I think of all the grand-kids bundling up to go snowmobiling in the field. I think of my mom and aunts laughing at the same exact moment the same exact way, when someone says something funny. I think about red and green Hershey kisses in the candy dish. I think about my brother and I telling each other what we bought one another, because we simply can't wait another 24 hours. I think of our tradition of watching the Grinch on Christmas eve, and breakfast casserole and cranberry orange bread on Christmas morning.
We're all getting older and our lives are changing. We lose ones we loved dearly and at the same time, welcome new faces either by marriage or birth. Families get bigger and there are more places to visit and more relatives to see. Maybe it's time we stop trying to make every holiday season something spectacular and just enjoy the fact that for a few hours out of our hectic, crazy, drama filled year, we were all able to get together with people we love and care about. We get to share a meal together, and to enjoy the company of one another. To me, that's much more meaningful than a perfectly roasted turkey or a Christmas tree full of gifts.
So this year I'm making it my personal goal to let go of my bad holidays past and try to embrace the little things that make this time of year special. I think the Grinch put it best himself... "Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more."