By: Anne Marie Holloway
I sit on the floor looking at the mess that is my living room. I watch our kitten crash through the scraps of wrapping paper and ribbon that cover the floor and I just have to smile. I have long since let go of trying to have picturesque Christmas scenes replicated in my house.
Our little family of six is like a centrifugal force – always in motion (and usually spinning!!). There is always something going on, something being spilled, broken, rearranged or painted. Our Christmas traditions typically include broken ornaments and spilled eggnog.
It is at these times that I often find myself remembering my own childhood and try to figure out how my parents did it all so perfectly. I still remember lying next to my little sister beneath the bottom branches of my family’s Christmas tree, looking up at the lights while eating homemade gingerbread men and singing carols. Things were never a mess like in my own house. (Sigh)
I treasured being little. My Mom and Dad created such beautiful memories for my sister and I. Our Christmas mornings were playful and perfect and full of love. I never knew what went into all of it. It just magically happened.
And as I grew into a teen, Christmas came to mean something more than presents. I remember a church filled with candles and people locked arm and arm at midnight singing “Silent Night.” I remember the quiet, reflective expressions on the faces of those I loved during these services, all of us understanding the true meaning of Christmas. And, year after year, I would watch tears stream down my mother’s cheeks as we sang. I never asked her why she cried – I just knew. God’s love has that effect sometimes. Joy and gratitude can be overwhelming…
Anyways, as I sit on the floor of my living room in front of our Christmas tree, looking at my “to-do” list and sipping my 100th cup of coffee for the day (and I am pretty sure this means that I will not fall asleep again until June), I am happy.
It is done.
Four kids’ presents wrapped, bows tied, tags addressed. This is no small feat. But, I am a professional. This is my 12th Christmas as an “Elf” and I have a system. It has taken me 12 years to perfect it. Although it does not always work out the way I imagine, no one knows that but me (and Santa, of course!).
As I start to clean up, I look over at our Christmas tree that is missing almost all of the ornaments from the side that is closest to our couch and I watch as the feline culprit steals yet another ornament and runs away wildly. A strand of lights that has gone out and I am pretty sure the tree is starting to lean to the right. To be honest, this is quite possibly the saddest looking tree we have had yet.
But again, that’s okay – I don’t mind.
I know that it is not about the crooked tree or the gift wrap or even the presents. Don’t get me wrong, I love the traditions and I enjoy the giving and receiving of gifts. But, I can also find myself immersed in the stress that accompanies the holidays and ends up focusing my energies on the wrong things during this time of year… things that don’t matter.
And so it is. I am just happy to be here. The kitten begins to chew the ribbons off more presents and the smell of dinner burning in the oven fills the air. I refocus my attention to the task at hand and then realize I have also labeled three gifts for the wrong child…
I start to laugh. The sound of my laughter fills the room and spills over onto my heart, filling me with gratitude. I am grateful to have the things that so many others do not have.
And it is all very, very, very good.