Monday, December 10, 2012

Who Cares if Half of the Tree is Naked?? And, a Little Bit of Christmas Nostalgia

Yesterday our family spent the afternoon putting up our Christmas tree.
Watching the boys bounce around our crowded living room in excitement and anticipation for this annual event never gets old.  Steve and I are thoroughly delighted by their innocent delight and the squirrely eagerness that they truly cannot contain.

This year, I decided that after Steve and I placed the lights and white ribbon on the tree, I just wanted to step back and let the boys take over.  I'll admit that, because I'm the only female in the house, I like for things to look pretty (that doesn't mean that things stay pretty in a houe full of men). And, that means that I try to control the decorative aspects of the holidays.  The boys boys might help mommy put the ornaments on, but being cheif decorating officer, mommy gets to move them around after they go to bed.  I just can't sit and watch mushy Hallmark movies with my hubby in the evenings when half of the tree is leaning under the weight of all the trinkets and the other half is practially naked.

But, this year, I just let it go.  During the hanging of the ornaments, I sat back with my camera and watched, listened, and enjoyed the moment.  You know, when you turn down the expectations and just let life simmer, sometimes all of the goodness comes together and makes something really spectacular.
I watched each boy unwrap an ornament, one at a time, their faces lighting up with joy as they shouted, "Remember this one? I love this one! I made this a long time ago! Did we get this one on vacation last year??...."
Tall boys lifted up little boys.
Little boys believed they were doing the best job of all.
One brother added his own homeade creations - a gift from the towering pines ouside.
The most brilliant sparkle in the house is not our tree, but the hearts of the boys who made a memory together today.  It is so good to just be, to relax and savor the sweetness of life. I'm leaving the tree just the way it is.  I don't wan't to change a thing.

A few weeks ago, I asked my parents and Steve's parents to share with you and I a story of a memory from their childhood Christmas.  For today, we will take a trip down memory lane with Steve's mom, Kathy.  Tomorrow, I will share my parents' stories.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!!
Kathy (far right) with her siblings.
Do you ever feel relieved when the Christmas season is over?  Mom, you in particular must feel overwhelmed with all of those little "expectations" that a GOOD mom must complete before Christmas Day.  The decorating, the baking, the shopping, the wrapping, the Christmas programs, the Christmas parties, the clothes for all of the special holiday events, the Christmas letter.  Oh! And, don't forget the camera and video, because we surely want to capture all this craziness!!  Whew!! Let's slow down a minute, and challenge each other to go against the expectations of a secular society and regroup, refocus on making memories, memories that will be etched forever in our hearts.  A bit of nostalgia....

As seniors, Bob and I remember a much different Christmas as children than one might expect to see in the family home of today.  Let us give you a peek into our homes during Christmas season's past.  First, the idea of Christmas preparations didn't begin before Halloween, but after Thanksgiving, and yet in a simple way we celebrated Christmas year round.  You see, we knew in our home that Jesus' birth was important in our decisions, our conversations, in our family life and in our relationships, so His living presence was just part of our daily life.  But, if you peeked into our living room window on December 1st, you would find all of us kids around a small tree, secured on a little table, hanging a few tear drop lights, tinsel and a few ornaments, some of which were homemade.  Because our life was so simple, this was pure joy!  It didn't occur to us to write Santa a letter or for that matter even discuss what we wanted for Christmas.  I guess we thought we had it all, because we had each other!  

Toys and things were just never the beating heart of our life.  We created our own fun, and YES, it was fun! We could see mom scribbling a few handwritten cards and the kitchen table, or baking a few cookies, but it was pretty low key.  At church Santa would make his annual visit handing out a much anticipated sack of a few candy pieces and an orange or apple.  Yep, it was simple, but there was such sweetness about those experiences.  The highlight of Christmas week was always the Bing Crosby Christmas program, where beautiful traditional Christmas music was enjoyed by all the family.  We would receive a small gift on Christmas Eve, before we all headed to Midnight mass.  As a child, Mass at Midnight was a much anticipated event, with all the candles lit for "High Mass" and the choir in full communion with the celebratory spirit of Christ's birth.  Christmas Day ended with a home cooked, simple dinner often enjoyed with Grandparents.  How I miss those days!

Today, Bob and I worry that children are missing the good parts of being a child, particularly at Christmas.  We see kids plugged into i-pods, i-pads, computer games, i-phones, X-box and television - just about everything except each other.  Shouldn't Christmas be about making memories with those you love and cherish? We empathize with you parents, living in a culture of lights and noise that is distracting, and endless store fronts that lure you in with all the "must haves."  I wonder what Christmas in your home would be like if you said NO to your children's long list of wants, and found a practical way to shorten their list. Or what if serving each other (older kids) became your new family tradition of gift giving? Simple can be more! And, what if you even managed to shout out a loud "NO!" to your own long "to do" list? I challenge each of us to make memories this Christmas that are pure and simple.  Do it for your kids, do it for yourself!  Imagine if you said no to the kid's desire to turn on the electronics, and instead, you went for a drive looking at neighborhood lights with a warm cup of cocoa in hand? Or, what if you gathered your child on your lap, turned off all the lights except the Christmas tree lights and listened to music? Or, what if you started a family game night one evening a week? I bet this one would be a weekly request throughout the year.  

We wish you a truly special Christ-centered time full of fond family memories for you and yours!


  1. Thanks for sharing these wonderful truths.

  2. It's such a mom's instinct to go in a "fix" the things their kids do. Great job resisting that urge. And a beautiful idea to ask your parents about their Christmas memories.

  3. I decided to "give up" last year . . . the boys LOVE hanging the ornaments on the tree and help. It is such a joy to see their excitement and watch their eyes light up as the tree gets decorated.

  4. New to your blog! I am a momma of boys too. I love your mother in law's sentiment in the last paragraph. We are trying our best to keep the real spirit of Christmas alive. I look forward to reading more!


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