I have tried for at least three days to complete this blog post. When I realized I would not get it done Saturday, I resigned myself to being alright with spending Sunday morning with my pen to paper. That didn’t happy either and I became pretty aggravated. Before feeling like a complete failure, I thought about why I missed the proverbial mark over the weekend. This weekend, like a number of weekends in recent months, tested my ability to be flexible, to become comfortable with discomfort, to be more aware of the sheer exhaustion of life learning, and to embrace change.
My adult life never mirrored the lives of the villagers who raised me. My village was filled with people who grew up within thirty miles of their homes and who for the most part worked the same jobs for thirty or more years. I moved away from the village in my early twenties and never returned for more than short visits. As a result, one would think that I grew up comfortable with change. The truth was I learned to accept some changes like moving from one city to another. I think that I only got somewhat comfortable because my foundation remained fixed. In my opinion, God placed more dependent variables in my life than controlled variables. Every time I thought I knew what I was supposed to learn I felt like God changed the hypothesis then started a new experiment.
This week the frustrating narrative of the failed lab experiment entered my mind. However, this time I flipped the interpretation of the data because I could not and would not give energy to negativity this holiday season. I understood that even though I reluctantly made changes to my writing schedule and some of my Christmas traditions, my foundation remained intact. I still held on to the fundamental values and practices established by the village. Thankfully, the reminder that Christmas traditions were less about Mama’s lanterns lining the walkway and her multicolored spinning wheel at the base of the tree and more about the warmth she created through the season of joy and giving. Christmas was not about cooking the same dishes every year, but more about the memories created through the process from planning to plating. Christmas was not about the gifts under the tree as much as it was about the time we spent window shopping and laughing.
On the other hand, Christmas has always been about the wrapping of things I believed could generate smiles, ooh’s, and ah’s. Wrapping gifts has always been an experience for me. I loved selecting the paper that fit the personalities or interests of each family member. I held the title of chief gift wrapper and Santa’s most reliable helper. Since I was old enough to independently use scissors and fold a crisp edge with the wrapping paper, my family has counted on me to add to the holiday cheer with well-placed gift wrapped packages around the tree. I designated Christmas eve as the appropriate night to wrap gifts primarily because I could watch Christmas movies. By the time my children came along, there were Christmas movie marathons. My favorite was and is “A Christmas Story.”
I still don’t know why that movie tickles me so, but it does. Ralphie, the mouthy boy at the playground with his tongue stuck to the metal pole, and that bar of soap his mother believed would wash away profanity crack me up every time. I love watching the scene with the santa who treats the children like he missed lunch and his smoke break. This santa makes himself a nominee for the prize for least caring santa yet most practical santa when he says, “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!” And then there’s the famous leg lamp that arrived in a huge, wooden crate with the word fragile on the side which the dad pronounced “far-gee-lay.” A couple of weeks ago I went to a friend’s house for an ugly sweater dinner gathering and there stood the leg lamp from “A Christmas Story.” In the process of accepting new holiday challenges, I found comfort in seeing a reminder of that feeling I get when I think about years of wrapping gifts for my family while watching one of my favorite Christmas movies. I laughed out loud and so did my friend. My friends didn’t know it, but they were helping me find the goodness in changes to my Christmas traditions that have come with the loss of my mother, my brother, and reality of my children being grown. I hope that if your family dynamic has changed or if you have had to start new traditions for the holidays that you have some reminders that it will be alright. I hope that you find quirky friends who laugh are as easily entertained by simple things as you are and that you can laugh out loud together.