‘Tis the Season

Reader Contribution by Lois Hoffman
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I love the Christmas season. The sights, the sounds, the tastes, the smells, they all blend together to create this one magical feeling that only comes around once a year. People are generally in better spirits, they tend to smile more, they are more giving and there is a sense of merriment. I like this. Of course, it is the busiest season too and, although it is a magical season, there are always a few “oops” that accompany the hustle and bustle such as:

1. What would the season be without them? There is just something warm and cozy about seeing the colors glistening on the snow. But, this warm and cozy feeling is only after they are up and working. Why is it that you can pack each and every bulb back in the box ever-so-carefully at the end of each season and, even though no one touches them, moves them or even looks at them, you unpack them the next season and they fail to light. Is this just an unspoken law from season to season that these malfunctions have to be part of the ritual??

2. Do you ever wonder why the expression “bah humbug” really originated? It’s when you try to spend family time trying to get all the decorations put up and before the end of the day and everyone has a grump on. Mama is trying to set the moving reindeer out, which were perfectly formed the year before and this year they look like some creature that doesn’t exist. How did they get so mangled! All she wants is a little help bending them back in shape but Dad is too busy trying to string lights over the evergreens in some sort of uniform fashion…not going to happen! Junior and Sis promised to help but that was before the neighbor kids wandered over to try and get out of helping their folks do the same. Yep, if you can survive the day of putting up the decorations, you got it made.

3. Of course, this is the season when sweets magically have no calories (or at least the effects of the calories do not show up until January!) and there is no shortage of them. Cookies, fudge, pumpkin rolls, pies, cakes, sweet rolls, there is an endless supply and it would just be downright rude not to sample everyone’s. So, many of the festivities revolve around the sweet tooth as families get together and share a baking day. What could be more festive and jovial…until you have a dozen people gathered in the kitchen and find out you are lacking one ingredient for Santa’s cookies. Bah humbug!

4. Christmas cards go right along with the cookies. I start the season with the same list every year. It is always sad when I have to remove some names because they are no longer with us but, at the same time, I am so glad that I still sit down and engage in this task. Yes, it is time-consuming when we need to do so many other things, but years have a way of slipping by and sometimes we never connect throughout the year with some that we hold dear. We step back at this time of year to reach out and remember and I like that part. But, like missing one ingredient for the cookies, it never fails that every year when I have my list completed, and everything put away for the season, there is that one Christmas card that comes that you somehow left off the list. How does this happen?

5. More specifically, Christmas shopping. I think that everyone agrees, just like me, that all shoppers want the true meaning of Christmas to come shining through. So, each year I make gifts, I think of something unique but, inevitably, I still find myself in the crowds at the last minute buying a gift for that someone who has everything.  People are desperate in this season of love and joy they push and shove and are rude while they spread that joy. However, once in a while there is a shining moment that comes along that makes you smile and will stay with you forever. Last year I had one of those moments. Wyatt couldn’t drive yet and asked me to take him to get his mother’s gift. She had always wanted a huge stuffed animal with which to cuddle. He saw one in Meijer’s and we just had to go and pick it up. So, off we went. However, that had been a couple weeks before and they had since sold out. No problem, certainly Wal-Mart, Babies-R-Us, Target or 10 other places would have one, just one is all we wanted. In a last-ditch effort, we did find one at Big Lots. Finally. After stuffing our new addition in the hatch of the Equinox, we were headed home, never minding that we couldn’t see anything in the mirrors or out the window. Of course, the new addition had to reside with me until Christmas and it was my job to wrap him and restuff him back in the vehicle for the ride on Christmas Day. This was definitely a hassle that turned into a memory that we both will cherish forever. There are some shining moments.

We do this to ourselves. Every year we pressure ourselves into keeping all of these Christmas traditions alive because it wouldn’t be right if we didn’t go through all the motions. In the midst of it all, we stress ourselves out and make ourselves grumpy just like all the (other) people who we complain about. We strive so hard to keep the “reason for the season” so pure that we defeat the purpose.

All of the special treats that we make for those so dear and all of the shopping for the perfect gift for those close in heart takes so much of our time and effort  that we often lose the very thing that we are trying to preserve, time with those who make our lives special.

This year, some people who are the closest to me and have been so busy scurrying and trying to get everything done that we haven’t had any time together. We are so busy making it special that we don’t have time for “it,” the time with friends and family. But, have I not done the same thing, I wonder. In trying to make the season so perfect, we have lost the essence of it all; just spending precious time with those we love the most.

Every season I think that next year will be different; I will start shopping and baking earlier and have more time for those who really live in my heart. Really, who am I kidding, I have promised myself this for too many years. Maybe I should decide this year that next season I will forego some time-honored traditions in favor of new ones. Maybe next year I will not make the cookies, I will not put up the decorations and I will not shop for the perfect gift. Instead, I will give the perfect gift, the gift of time of myself to all those who are special.  On second thought, I could start this very minute because “Tis the season”  for me to really remember “the reason for the season.”

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