Grimly determined to create Happy Holidays

ChicagoNow’s Evening Blogapalooz-Hour!Here is tonight’s challenge:“Write about something you believed as a child or in your youth that turned out not to be true.”

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…”

Growing up, I was sure I was going to be The Best Christmas Mother Ever. I would be baking seventeen kinds of cookies to share with the neighbors, decorating the baby bejesus out of my house, and spreading Christmas cheer like a boss. Had there been Pinterest in the 80’s, I would have owned the holiday boards. How hard could it be to create the perfect Christmas, dammit?

As with many rock solid neuroses, this one can be traced directly to my childhood where Christmas was, in fact, pretty much the opposite of a Jimmy Stewart movie. I don’t blame this solely on the fact that I threw up every Christmas Eve until I was in high school (which was when we finally figured out it was the egg nog and not the excitement causing my intestinal distress) or even that my parents announced their impending separation when I was home on Christmas break from college.  No, as innocuous as it may seem at first blush, my father’s birthday was the week before Christmas and he was the keeper of the calendar.  As far as he was concerned, the good folks of the Advent had it all wrong and the holiday season didn’t begin until his birthday passed and he SAID it could commence.

This quirk mushroomed over the years to the point of one particularly Grinch like year where we had no tree until Dec 23.  My mother later surreptitiously snuck a fake tree into the house so we would no longer be subject to that particular Christmas cruelty, but the fact of the matter forever remained that my father was adept at holding the holiday hostage.

I vowed that it would all be different when I was in charge.

Unfortunately over the ensuing years I have had to accept I’m a halfhearted baker, half-assed decorator, and a wholly crazy mother. Despite those cruel realities, in my early parenting days I was downright militant in my pursuit of Happy Holiday Memories for my children and even now can get mighty touchy when a sullen teen wants to be, well, sullen during this season of cheer (dammit).

Suffice it to say that single mindedness can be exhausting, maddening, and is certainly destined to fail. We go to Chicago! We ice skate! We volunteer at the Convalescent Center and go to Christmas Eve mass! As Christmas nears I find myself nearly frantic with worry that I haven’t done all I should to make up for the year’s transgressions and for my failings as a mother or done enough as purveyor of their present and future happiness.

The pain and needs of others outside my home weighs on me more than usual and I feel helpless to ensure Miami doesn’t melt into the ocean, the world doesn’t run out of leather back turtles and there is world peace in time for the holiday (which would conveniently serve to mitigate my guilt for any personal wants).

I drop coins into coffers and buy gifts for the holiday sharing tree at the mall if only to appeal to the Gods of Christmas that we should please be blessed with the Perfect Holiday, despite the fact we have so much goodness in our lives already. It. Is. Exhausting. And pointless and stupid and I can not help myself. By the end of it all, I sink into bed much as I did as a kid on Dec 25, and cry a little bit.

Until next year…

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