By Lori Hanson
The holidays can stir up lots of emotions. Maybe as a kid the holidays hold fond memories for you. Or perhaps your memories are some you would rather forget. Most people I know have strong feelings connected with the holiday season.
It can be a mixed bag. The season comes with classic holiday movies, great music, an overload of Christmas specials..and my favorite the promise of a New Year. In many families the joy of the season is mixed with a huge serving of drama. It’s difficult to get excited about activities that you know will be enveloped in bickering, fighting, gossip, manipulation and potentially embarrassing incidents brought on by certain family members.
My childhood memories are filled with pleasantries of being at my grandparents house in Michigan. Grandma saved money all year and gave it to me to buy gifts for all the aunts, uncles and cousins. (Back then it was actually affordable, even if it was only a pair of sox!) I remember being allowed to open one gift on Christmas Eve which made it extra special. My Grandpa was a big tease and always made it difficult for me to choose which gift I should open. On Christmas Day the house was full of relatives. The day was full of laughter, opening gifts, music and food. I don’t remember a lot of drama as a kid. But as I got older that quickly changed.
My mom had high hopes for our family to all enjoy each other (“Can’t we all just get along?”) Only problem is with five siblings and 18 years between oldest and youngest we are all very different. I noticed that once significant others got introduced into the picture the dynamics became increasingly strained. So the holidays then became a challenge. A carefully orchestrated event so as not to piss off this sibling or that significant other. I always felt caught in the middle.
But, I know it’s not just my family. Every year the morning shows run segments on how to deal with “family”. I have friends who are torn between in-laws houses and wanting to have festivities at their own home with their children. Many people have a visitation “schedule” to follow on the holidays and are worn out vs. being able to enjoy it.
Why is it so difficult? Why can’t we all just get along? What I’ve observed through the years is that with seven members of my immediate family we don’t all necessarily have things in common. So you put seven people with their significant others and kids in one house for a day and anything can happen! I think National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation captured the painful experience of trying to spend holidays with relatives best! Just love those white shoes Clark got from cousin Eddie!
In spite of all the emotions stirred up this time of year fortunately I still have many wonderful memories. Growing up in Chicago and going downtown to see the sights including my favorite, the decorations in the windows of Carson, Pirie, Scott. And through the years my rituals developed: watching White Christmas, It’s A Wonderful Life, How the Grinch Stole Christmas and other movies that no matter how many times I see them still enjoy and can get carried away in the story. We had a Christmas album we used to listen to when I was in grade school. It was a variety of musical groups and songs. How I loved that album! But somehow in all the moves my parents made the LP got lost. (I’ve looked for many years but haven’t found it.) The advent calendar comes to mind too. What a great way to build the anticipation till Christmas!
So why all the reminiscing? As adults so often we fail to stay connected with our inner child. That part of us that isn’t shaped by what we “should, can’t or won’t be allowed to do”. As young kids we know nothing more than to feel and express our excitement, anticipation, disappointment and achievements. We aren’t hampered by what is or isn’t politically correct. We have a fresh, healthy perspective of the world filled with curiosity, exploration and a great collection of life experiences. As kids we knew how to keep it real. As adults we need a dictionary to remind us what “real” is because of all the conditioning bestowed on us through our life experiences.
So as Christmas approaches, take a few minutes to remember what made you giggle with delight as a kid. And share it with someone! It doesn’t cost a thing and is guaranteed to put a smile on someone’s face.
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