Juicebox Confession: Perhaps it means a little bit more

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We made it. Thanksgiving was a success. Well, as successful as a holiday can be when it falls on a birthday and three of the five family members have a stomach bug and there were last minute cancellations.

But, we made it.

We ate until we thought we would explode, we laughed, we ate some more. We packed our refrigerator with leftovers and swore we would never eat again. Then, we ate a little bit more. We reflected on all we have to be truly grateful for.

We did it all without a single major meltdown and nothing caught on fire. I would call that a successful holiday.

Now, we march forward into the land of ice and snow and all thing merry and bright. This is the point in which a lot of people start to groan and roll their eyes. They begrudgingly wrap gifts and shove them under their tree. They angrily shop for food and treats while humming along to the piped in holiday music playing in the store despite their outwardly apprehension of the Christmas season. It is OK, eventually even the Grinch's heart grew three sizes bigger.

Me? I woke the day after Thanksgiving with a renewed energy, despite still feeling full from gorging the day before and recovering from a stomach flu. The Friday after Thanksgiving is one of my favorite unofficial holidays. I know what you are thinking, Black Friday, girl likes to shop. While I do love a good deal, however, I am allergic to the throngs of people and get overwhelmed easily.

No, my friends, the Friday after Thanksgiving is the official start to the Christmas season in my family and we celebrate by going to pick up our tree. Tree Day, as it is fondly referred to in our home, is one of my most favorite days of the year. It kicks off a month long celebration.

Putting up our Christmas tree marks the beginning of copious amounts of hot cocoa, cozy nights spent in the glow of the lights, by the fire, watching movies that conjure up happy memories and plentiful laughter. The smell of the tree as I walk by every morning reminds me of how much I love this time of year.

The music, the food, the gatherings, the sparkle, the giving, the love, the traditions, the joy, the faith.

As our family grew, my husband and I decided that we wanted to take the focus off from presents. We love the act of giving, do not get me wrong, however, we wanted the season to have a deeper meaning. We slowly created our own traditions, building on them and adding to them each year. We allow ourselves to slow down and savor moments, appreciating the magic this time of year holds.

There is nothing like watching my daughters' eyes sparkle as they spot Santa for the first time. Just last week we were at the mall, eating dinner after running a couple errands. Our middle daughter, who turned 3 last month, spotted Santa sitting for photographs. She had previously been frightened by him so we hadn't intentionally pointed him out to her, however, she was insistent on going to say hi. I took her tiny hand, fully expecting her to duck behind my legs the instant he said hi to her, and we walked over. The area was quiet and the helper elves invited my daughter in to say hi to Santa. She climbed up on his lap and melted into his shoulder. She spoke softly to him through an enormous smile. They talked for several minutes and then she wrapped her arms around his soft red coat and round, jolly belly and said good bye. I watched Santa as he thanked her for the cuddles.

I watched her fall in love with the magic and just like that, another generation of of joy was born.

I know how hard the holidays can be for many. I struggle with a deep and profound sense of loss during this season. I miss being able to share it all with the one person I knew who loved Christmas as much as I do. I have learned to nurture both my grief and my joy and allow them to become part of my holiday experience. Knowing that my grandmother's love of Christmas is alive in me and that I have passed it down to my children is an amazing gift. One I will cherish more than anything store bought, ever.

Tonight, as we wrap our newly cut Christmas tree in glittery white lights I will share the stories our ornaments hold. I will watch my children giggle and marvel at the beauty and whimsy of having a 7-foot-tree in our house while I allow space for my grief. I will sit in the comfort of knowing the true meaning of the season and the love that has been bestowed upon me.

"What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more."

— "How The Grinch Stole Christmas," by Dr. Suess.

Michelle is a writer, wife and mother of three small girls. She has a penchant for coffee and rarely turns down cookies. She is the authority on nothing and may just be the most outgoing shy person you will ever meet. Her family is convinced she is a super hero but most days she feels more like the bumbling sidekick. Her writing can be seen online at www.JuicboxConfession.com, parenting blogs throughout the internet, The Brattleboro Reformer, Mothering Through The Darkness- a HerStories anthology, and in crayon on construction paper in her home. All love letters can be sent to JuiceboxConfession@gmail.com.

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