Christmas as a child and Christmas as a college student.
Christmas as a singleton, as half of a dating couple, and as a newly married.
Christmas as a new parent and Christmas as a tightly budgeted parent of three.
Each of these experiences on my holiday résumé had many common denominators but they each also came with their own unique set of experiences and emotions — all a variation on the holiday theme.
Some years I’ve been overwhelmed with warm sentiments, both secular and religious, and some years I plodded through eager for it to be over. I’ve experienced the stand-out emotions of the wonder-thrill of being a child on Christmas morning, the please-stop-time sweetness of sitting under a lit tree with a newborn, the emptiness of the first holiday away from all born-into family, and the excited pride of new traditions in my own growing family.
All the same holiday, all different experiences, and Christmas 2017 is proving to be no exception.
New independence of a dependent: The kid that goes to sleep-away college has made his maiden home-for-Thanksgiving pilgrimage, a foretaste of the month long winter break.
At school he likes his independence, he likes not having to check-in and answer to anyone about his daily schedule. He likes living in his own self-decorated, and maintained, door room nest and he really, really likes not having a curfew, but he doesn’t want to give up any of those things, even temporarily. College years from the other side, I remember my parents telling me the same things that have come out of my son’s parents’ mouths: “When you’re under our roof ...” and “In this family, we have certain expectations ...”
Giving cash or gift cards: I firmly believe that presents should be something that someone would like but wouldn’t buy for themselves. I married a man with a history of gift-certificate giving, so certain compromises had to be made. I conceded that a dinner out at a favorite restaurant is, indeed, a thoughtful gift, and I personally discovered the joy of receiving a gift card or cash present (over say, a gold lamé dickey), but I can’t make the gift card leap to my children.
Gone are their long Santa lists — along with visits ... I miss you Firehouse Santa — and gift cards or cash would be an appreciated gift for any of them, but I just can’t do it. Maybe I’m clinging to kid-on-Christmas-morning memories, but my gift-giving criteria seems to glow stronger each year when it comes to our kids.
Not buying things for myself: No longer shopping at the Giant Toy Store or the children’s departments anywhere else, I can’t help but see things that meet my gift-giving criteria ... for myself. I’ll confess to several twofer gift purchases — one for someone else and one for me. I’ll own the selfishness, but how could I possibly pass up the chance to own an I Don’t Sing in the Car, I Perform T-shirt?
Hiding presents: I still can’t find the Chiefs jersey I got Luke two years ago, so the days of deep-secret hiding places are over. This year? A blanket on an obvious pile. If they peek, they only ruin their own surprise.
How few lights/Christmas décor I can get away with: I used to love lighting up the house and decorating every inch, but that thrill is gone. New rule: If a kid doesn’t put it up, and promise to take it down, it doesn’t go up.
I know that there are more new-to-me, unpredictable holiday experiences ahead — Christmas as an mmpty-nester and Christmas as a grandma, for instance, but I know two holiday constants will remain: change and love.