December 04, 2005

Stockings and Christmas "Spirit"

Yesterday we began decorating for Christmas. Christmas prep has been underway for some time of course, but decorating just began. As has been the case since I became an adult there was something missing. It used to be easy to put my finger on it. I wasn't at "home." No parents, not much of my mother's herculean Christmas preparation. No cookies massed on the dining room table, no fruitcakes being drenched in spirits. The furtive shopping was minimal. My mother did Christmas well when I was a child. Extremely well, even though we didn't have massive extended family gathered together, and we rarely had tons of money, Christmas was special. Maybe too special.

So those first few years of grown up life missed a bit of magic. Ah, once I have children, that will solve it. Then for a while they were too young to understand what was going on. No problem, I can wait. In the meantime I filled my life with advent devotionals, foisted some traditions on my family, kept a few traditions to myself and generally had nice Advent seasons. I was excited enough for everyone.

Now we have a house full of children who are old enough to appreciate the season; some old enough to express disinterest or dislike. So, for my first Advent in years when I am not too sick to enjoy it; (knock on wood) I expected that nothing would feel missing.

Last year in the midst of Christmas blah, I bought off Ebay some ornaments that had become lost or died over the years, ah ha the tree is the thing. Yesterday, I happily placed the magic angels on the tree, the peculiar 60s and 70s ornaments of my youth. I still missed some...what could have happened to the Pluto my father painted one year in a Paint by Number Disney Ornament kit?

It occured to me last night that the tree isn't really the thing though. My stocking is, the stocking of my childhood. This stocking was one of the few things I have ever owned with my name on it. Knit by an elderly relative, three wide stripes, santas with beards, and my name. Over the years it has held some of the most memorable of my Christmas gifts. It was there that the toy that my family still speaks of fondly appearred (a ring on a string that fastened to the ceiling and a hook that fastened to the wall, you tossed the ring and tried to get it on the hook.) It was there, in that toe, that I received the tiny diamond chip earrings that were really the beginning of a more grown up relationship with my father, an apology/acceptance of my teenage rebellion in getting my ears pierced. But my stocking always had a few things standard each year...2 candy canes hooked over the edge, an orange or two, a marshmallow santa/bell, a Lifesavers Storybook. The oranges, the Lifesavers and other things crammed into the stocking have stretched it into an oddly mutated thing. My empty stocking speaks of those holidays past and yet waits expectantly for Santa magic to fill it once again.

How the stocking is like my Christmas blah you may be asking by this point. This is how, there stretched out places that are filled with different things each year as it should be, but somehow the past is remembered. My Christmas is filled with children, adults and love (along with the wee baby in the manager) The stretched out places are the missing people and places. I miss my father who I didn't have time to speak to on his last Christmas. I miss my mother whom is still alive but not sharing Christmas with us and even if she was, it would be different. I miss my siblings, one who doesn't do Christmas any longer, one who shared every Christmas of my life until after I left home. I miss the children's father,(no, not in a I made a mistake I want him back way, just a nostalgic kind of way) he shared some of the last of those childhood Christmas celebrations, and all of them once I left home. There is an odd shaped stretch mark in my Christmas with his changed presence in my life. All of these people are really what is missing these days in Christmas. On the other hand, I am now having the Christmas my parents had, a houseful of children, not just the ones they/I gave birth to, but others gathered in to be family. I get to plot and plan and worry and love and share all those things that make this a holiday important to me. But sometimes, the stocking just is stretched out and waiting.

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