I read a great post today about holiday stress by my friend Janet on her blog Aunt Beulah. The post is titled Stresses of the Season. It is worth the read as we slide on into the 24th of December.
Janet’s words touched my heart and made me squirm because I have been known to stress. It’s about how we get so caught up in the stress that we forget the joy of the holiday, the reason for the holiday. We find ourselves missing the meaning. Family, time together, tradition, chocolate, and most of all, each other is where the focus should be, right? In her comment section, Janet wrote that it is people who make Christmas (and, in my opinion, everything else for that matter) special, not gifts.
I was reminded of this very thing on Friday, at Saturday’s office party, and this morning.
This is mom who, at 88, is all of 4′ 11″. She needed help decorating her door. Since we don’t want her climbing anywhere, I helped “trim” her door. We had a great time laughing, talking, simply doing something together.
While affixing the glittered stars I was reminded of Christmases past when we’d decorate as a family, mom and dad, my sister, and I. Dad would load the record player–the console type that took up half the wall–with Christmas records. He’d play them through and then again and again. When the lyrics “Do You Hear What I Hear?” would play, dad would invariably sing “No” loudly, off key, straight faced, all while looking me in the eye. I’d laugh and laugh. Then he would, too. We would continue to adorn the tree, and as those same lyrics came around, dad was always ready with his singing “answer.”
I’ll never be able to replace those years, but they glitter from within.
Each year my co-workers* hold a most enjoyable party. An old farmhouse turned contemporary Inn held the event, and while that may sound calm, it is anything but. The White Elephant gift exchange can be brutal. If you receive an ugly sweater, you put it on. If you receive adult onesies, likewise. There are many nice gifts as well, but the challenge every year, for each attendee, is to not get Herbie.
I joined the crowd long after Herbie had been making the rounds, but last year, my husband was the (un)lucky one. On Saturday, Herbie (thank God!) found a new home (for a year). Our take home this year was the following:
*While this may seem odd, after retiring, you still go to the party. I am grateful I am welcome because it isn’t a group one can easily let go of. They hold my heart. What they don’t know is why. When something icky happens and you are forced to start over, new people can play a huge role in overcoming the negative. They did that and more. When we have a net of co-workers who are good, honest, loving people, sometimes we forget to be thankful for that. To me, that became everything. As I sat there Saturday evening absorbing the laughter, the joy, the love among us, I gushed inwardly with gratitude. For them.
After my daughter left the house this morning, I took inventory. I’ve been hiding a few things since September when I saw a book I knew she’d love. Other items have also gone into hiding. When I had it strewn over my bed quilt, I recognized another gift I’d thrown in but had completely forgotten about. The bag showed up during one of my recent purges, and it has a message:
More specifically, it wasn’t the gift itself; it was the bag.
I stopped in my tracks when I read the message. I don’t think I noticed it before. The image of a swan spreading happiness to an unknown destination is lovely, especially now. I believe I know who bought the gift. I recognize my cousin’s handwriting on the bag, and when I searched this saying, I found the following:
My cousin lived in Tokyo many years ago, and there is Japanese writing on the gift. While the relative for whom my cousin bought this gift (the name is on the bag) and my cousin had a falling out before my cousin passed away, the gift was from the heart. It’s going in the mail, soon. My hope this season is that the knowledge of their once good relationship will be remembered fondly when the gift arrives. I’m happy to be the messenger.
Whether a memory, a group of loving people, or a message, let us all take a breath, release the stress, and remember our commonality. Let us remember what we love about each other, why we want to spend time together, what we can do to make someone’s day special. Christmas can be about Christ, it can be about mamma’s sweet potato recipe. It can be snow falling on a bitter, winter day, and coming in to enjoy a hot toddy by the fire. It can be trimming the door, the tree, and bringing in the smell of fir. It can mean singing silly tunes with your dad, or the arrival of an unexpected gift.
The season is different for us all. Let’s release the stress and remember what matters most. Thank you, Janet, for the reminder, for boosting my awareness of the glittering stars.