I love Christmas. I love it. And, no, I don’t mean “the holidays” even though that’s PC because I don’t celebrate the other holidays – though my kids and I got the directions for playing dreidel and we play several times throughout the season until Pip locates the chocolate gelt and eats it all when no one is looking and I find little gold and silver scraps of tin foil under the sofa. That’s how we know we’re done with that for the season. But Christmas, heathen though I am, is what my family has always celebrated with great gusto and tradition.
Before I ever had children, I dreamed of taking them home – to my parents’ home – for Christmas. I imagined us driving in and stopping at a rest area to take our baby girl out of her stained, drool-covered onesie and put her in a red velvet dress before arriving on their doorstep where they would run out to greet us. I imagined the way my parents would spoil her. I imagined my mother beaming - watching her tear at wrapping paper and giving her cookies and eggnog and dancing with her to the Christmas mix my dad played 24/7.
We never spent Christmas with them. For Bunny’s first and second Christmases, my husband had to work. So we didn’t go to Florida. And my mother was on oxygen by then. She didn't want to travel. She passed away on New Year’s Eve after Bunny’s second Christmas. No matter what you put in place, the future will never be what you dreamed it would be.
Since then, since I lost my parents in one fell 18-month swoop and since they took with them all those imagined priceless moments, I have tirelessly fought to build Christmas traditions and memories here in Chicago. I make lists and mark calendars and scour listings and we do everything we possibly can to make things MORE SPECIAL (imagine me growling ferociously when I say that.) Two years ago, every single attempt at Special-Christmas-Tradition-Building was unmitigated disaster. From the holiday party where Pip knocked expensive sound equipment off a table, to the trip to Macy’s (was it still Marshall Fields then?) where Pip suddenly projectile vomited fruit punch all over the food court before we had seen a single light or window display or giant tree. Did I mention I was wearing white? Did I mention he was sitting on my lap? From the trip to see Zoo Lights when we happily drove into the parking lot, miraculously got rock-star parking, and then realized that the zoo was closed, to the ride on the CTA Holiday train that was so crowded and loud that Pip was terrified and Bunny started to cry and we had to get off two stops later, eat at Chili’s, and walk home. “Maybe failed holiday traditions are your tradition,” said my husband. Yeah…OK...maybe, Sasquatch. Or maybe, no matter what you put in place, the future will never be what you dreamed it would be.
Now I have no idea what future Christmases will look like. Besides me and Bunny and Pip, I have no idea who will be there. We’re playing it by ear. I haven’t dreamed a moment of it. How could I? There are too many unknowns. And I have pretty much stopped all the feverish planning.
On Saturday, we had tickets to go see 500 Clown:Trapped downtown. They were offered for free in an email and I grabbed them without even checking the calendar. Cause I’m a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kinda girl now. I picked Bunny and Pip up from their dad and we headed downtown – 7 and a half hours early - to do…what? I had no idea. No plans and no expectations. We went to Macy’s and saw the moving picture windows and saw some drummers and the Salvation Army band. We saw the big tree and rode the escalators and sent another letter to Santa and checked out the toys and tried out all the beds and spun around in a $700 swivel chair. We walked over to Target and got a small toy each. We got snacks at Starbucks, ate dinner at Gold Coast Dogs (Bunny: “Oh! I thought it was an animal shelter. They should call it ‘Hot Dog Place’ or no one is going to eat there.”) and had dessert at Dunkin Donuts. We ran up and down the sidewalk between Randolph and Lake to get rid of the sugar buzz, we saw a great show, we got T-shirts, and we drove home – listening to music and looking at lights.
I held so tightly to what I believed these Christmases were supposed to look like for so long. I tried so hard to push and pull our reality into something that would match what I had dreamed. But most of the key players are now gone in one way or another. And even if they were still around, those dreams weren't necessarily reality based. Because, really and truly, no matter what you put in place, the future will never be what you dreamed it would be. I’m beginning to think that’s maybe perfectly fine.
It was a wonderful day. I mean, I do believe there were a couple tantrums along the way. Maybe several. And Pip fell at the theater and gashed his eye. Bunny was upset that she left her stuffed kitten at her dad’s house. Pip has sensory issues about loud noises so the drummers made him cry. And you know what? It was great. I didn't have expectations of anything different.
Maybe the tradition should be that we spend the day together. Maybe the expectation should be that we recognize how precious that is.
Filed under: Uncategorized