My youngest daughter called me from Barnes & Noble the other day. “What are 12-year-old boys reading these days?” she asked.
She’d adopted a needy family whose name she got from a Christmas tree at the mall.
It was a sweet reminder. We’ve come full circle.
“Did you know our little family was adopted one Christmas when you were small?” I asked her.
It was the Christmas of 1990. A woman rang my doorbell and left a toboggan on the front porch, filled with gifts and preloaded stockings and all the food to make a Christmas feast. There were winter jackets for us all, wrapped toys for my daughters, socks and mittens and hats. Everything we could ever want or need. It was the best Christmas we’d ever had. It would be the only Christmas that I didn’t worry about how their holiday compared to those of their peers.
Comparing holiday spoils was something I was adept at. As a child, I dreaded returning to school after Christmas break. “What did get? Where did you go?” Basic stuff kids ask kids. Questions I was too embarrassed to answer.
When I became a mom, I tried to make sure my kids’ Christmases were great. I cooked the big meal or said yes to a lot of invitations to share it with friends. Along with the book or sweater I bought new for the girls were presents scavenged from Value Village, wrapped as pretend-new gift. I hoped their holidays would measure up to their friends’ scrutiny.
The thing is, there wasn’t any scrutiny from their friends. But the girls certainly felt my pain. They felt it through my moodiness and meltdowns. And they felt it through my martyrdom.
When they were teens, my oldest daughter broke it down for me.
“You do realize that you ruin all of our holidays by trying so hard, don’t you?”
I was gob smacked. While it was tough to hear, it was also freeing. Who says holidays need to be perfect?
Holidays have a way of amplifying old insecurities or hurts if we let them. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
In later years, my daughters and I settled on easier holiday routines. For gifts, we get one another things to experience. A pedicure, a massage, movie tickets, books. We like brunch with egg nog French toast casserole better than turkeys. And we like just enough time together that the sweetness lingers, but not so much that old bitterness’s resurface.
It doesn’t always work. And the trick for me is not expecting perfection on Christmas and other holidays when I enjoy an imperfect life all of the other days.
And the other trick is to appreciate the ability I now have to both give and receive.
I wonder sometimes about the nice family that adopted mine so many Christmases ago. I wish they knew how they touched our lives, and that we’re doing our best to pay it forward.
I hope you enjoy your holidays. And drop me a line if you know what 12 year-old boys are reading these days. It’s fun to hear from you.
Here are some of my recent reads from Alaskan writers.
Thank you for stopping by.
If you’ve wanted to come to one of my book events but couldn’t, here’s a link to a recent interview from Radio KMXT’s Dog Eared Reads.