Friday, December 2, 2011

Christmas Junkie

It in now officially December which means I can come out of the Christmas closet. See, while the rest of the country has been complaining about how the stores are ALREADY playing Christmas music, I have been humming along, my excitement for the holiday planted firmly in my chest. And, as the trees and garlands were hauled out of storage, dusted off, and put on display, my excitement began to grow. Now that it is socially acceptable to admit it, I am loving the hell out of being bombarded by Christmas.

I will admit that October is a bit early to begin the festivities. I don't like to think about a holiday nearly two months away while I'm still trying to get into the spirit of another. But, I will say that I have been listening to Christmas music since before Thanksgiving. As far as I'm concerned, Thanksgiving is just an extension of Christmas, anyway. It's nice that people tend to express the things they are grateful for during that time, but otherwise, it's just a day where we eat a big meal, and maybe some crazies plan their shopping strategy for the next day (or later that day, apparently. For shame, retail stores of America.) Be honest, you haven't thought about a pilgrim breaking bread with a Native American since you were in school. Thanksgiving is actually a bit of a bullshit holiday, but since there is pie and family involved, I'll take it.

Christmas has always been my favorite. I know it isn't cool to say that. It's cool to love Halloween, and believe me, I've tried. I mean, I like Halloween, but I've just never been very good at it. I never know what costume to wear, I never have anywhere to go, and as much as I try to drum up excitement for it, I usually find myself grudgingly dragged from the house when I'd be just as content to watch scary movies and hand out candy. It's better now that I have a kid. There's no pressure to have a wild night I hardly remember with some zombies and stumble home in my slutty devil costume at 4 A.M. I just put my kid in a cute costume, take her trick-or-treating, and snap lots of pictures. Then watch in horror as she becomes obsessed with candy. No big.

But, Christmas! Christmas has a whole "feeling" attached to it, and that starts about a month before. And in order to maintain the feeling, there is a list of Christmas traditions that need to be completed. There are Christmas movies to watch, cookies to bake, lights to see, eggnog to drink, and of course a tree to pick out and decorate. As kids, my sister and I were sticklers for the Christmas rules. My mom says our mantra was "But, it's tradition!" The tree was only to be decorated with the television off, with eggnog in hand, and with the Time Life Christmas collection on the turntable. We had favorite ornaments, and we took turns hanging them up, alternating each year. We nagged my dad to hang up the lights as soon as we knew we could get away with it. And, we made sure we were chauffeured around town to see all the Christmas lights, preferably with some hot chocolate in our demanding little hands.

Christmas circa 1994

It was the best. Of course, we also wanted certain things for gifts. We wrote wish lists to Santa and had innumerable toy commercials for inspiration. We were excited Christmas eve to open our presents in the morning. But, the season was so much more to us than that, and it has continued to be ever since. Before I wax poetic about how completely magical Christmas is with my own kid, let me just say that I have never stopped doing my favorite Christmas activities in the many years between my childhood and my parenthood. I have never gone one year without a Christmas tree, I bake cookies with my grandma every year, and I have always gone on long drives looking for Christmas lights, only now I have a Starbucks holiday drink in my hand.

And now that I have a kid? The holiday just became exponentially more exciting. When she was a baby, she didn't add too much to the experience. I had her picture taken with Santa (Thankfully, she isn't and has never been afraid of him,) and we bought her one, small gift. The rest of our family, however, doubled her wardrobe and toy collection that year. Last year was better, She sort of understood the concept a bit, she enjoyed looking at lights, and she REALLY enjoyed opening presents.

Charlotte's first Christmas

I can already tell that this year is going to RULE. She "gets" Santa now. She asked me if she could go see Santa while we were in the mall one day, and I asked the adolescent elves if she could just say "Hi" since we weren't exactly picture ready. They had no sooner approved our request and Charlotte was running over to Santa and climbing into his lap. He asked her a few questions, one of them being what she wanted for Christmas. And, it was hilariously awkward because she didn't know how to answer that question. She might see something in a toy aisle and ask me for it, but unless she is looking right at it, she doesn't know that she wants it. So, she looked at him, her smile fading, and started muttering "Um, um..." when Santa jumped in with, "Maybe a baby doll?" He couldn't have known that she has no time for baby dolls, and that this might not be the best time to bring up babies, since Charlotte tells me almost daily that she doesn't want the baby in my tummy to come out. But, she must have been so relieved to be out of the hot seat because she cheerfully agreed that a baby doll would be most good. But, after we left, she looked up at me and said, "Mommy, I want a princess doll."

After a trip to the Disney store where she discovered the princess doll she would like is a "big Rapunzel doll. The soft one." we headed back to Santa for pictures a few days later. This time she was prepared. He asked, she answered. But, it turns out she is a little fuzzy on the Christmas timeline here, because as we walked away the poor child looked genuinely confused as she shrugged her little shoulders, threw up her hands, and asked "Where's my Rapunzel doll?" She seemed satisfied with having to wait until Christmas, but then again, I don't think she realizes how many more Rapunzel-free days are in her future. I may have jumped the gun a little this time. Charlotte with Santa circa now

So, it's been fun. Charlotte knows most of the words to "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," and we sing that together multiple times a day. She loves Christmas lights, so last night I took the first of what will become many detours on our way home to hunt for lights. She likes the white lights, but when she sees even the simplest strand of multicolored lights, she gasps, "Look, Mom! COLORS!" At a particularly ornate house, she wistfully sighed, "I wish I had a house like that." And it was so freaking cute, that I have now resolved to empty our bank account buying gaudy, light-up Christmas decorations for the lawn so that next year she will indeed have a house like that.

The one thing that I want to work on with our Christmas experience this year and all the years forward is to instill the spirit of generosity in her. I told her yesterday that we were going to buy a toy to give to a kid whose family can't afford to buy him or her any presents, and wouldn't that be nice? "No," was her response. Oh, I'm not worried about it. She's two and therefore necessarily self-centered and incapable of thinking of such broad topics. But, that won't stop me from talking about it with her and getting her involved this year and onward. Eventually, it will sink in, and I hope that giving to the less fortunate will be something she is excited to do each Christmas and throughout the rest of the year. Of course, to ensure that this happens, I have to start walking the walk. Admittedly, I am usually too busy stressing over Christmas presents and trying to cram in all of my Christmas activities to bother with any kind of altruism. But, I guess that's how kids have the ability to make you a better person. When you imagine the kind of person you want them to be, and you realize that YOU are not the kind of person you want them to be, you have to make some changes. So, starting this year, my family and I will participate in a food drive and a toy drive. And, in our future, I envision adding some volunteer work to that, as well.

So, there you have it. I'm a giant nerd who loves Christmas. And, now if you will excuse me, there is some eggnog I need to pour into my coffee. Happy Holidays!