I'm so happy to welcome Susan Henderson, author of the debut novel Up From the Blue to my Holiday Open House! In this wonderful post, Susan reminds us of the true meaning of the season--spending time with and enjoying the people we love.
The Gift of Time
When our kids were young, we got caught up in the idea of centering our holidays around gifts. We bought far too many, only to discover that there’s an inherent let-down if you believe others can fit their love or your dream in a package. This was so clear to us the year my youngest son asked for magic powers for Christmas. He ran down the stairs in his pajamas and headed straight for his stocking. We saw his shoulders droop when the thing he’d imagined was not there. He could hardly stop the tears as he opened the magic kit and decoder ring that were under the tree. And for the rest of the day, he was face-down on his bed, crushed by the cruel reality of our family.
What he had expected, he told us much later after he could actually speak about his disappointment, was for his Christmas stocking to explode with glitter and light when he walked near it. And then, after he stood inside the magic, he believed he’d have the power to walk through walls, to make himself invisible, to float.
We could never match his dreams with a present; his dreams were far too wonderful, and we were, well, human. And this reminder caused us to change our focus. When we asked ourselves what was the best thing one human could give another, the answer we came up with was time. Over the years, we’ve simplified our Christmas tradition so we can relax together.
It takes very little to set the mood. Our only decoration is our tree with its hodgepodge of ornaments from all the places we’ve lived. Then we light a fire and a couple of candles, make some hot chocolate, and huddle together with our dogs in the living room.
Sometimes we play the games we haven’t had time for, like Risk or Scrabble. Sometimes we have something easy to snack on—fresh bread with a bowl of salted olive oil or just-baked cookies. But always we read to each other. We start with A Child’s Christmas in Wales, a poem by Dylan Thomas that we practically know by heart. The kids fight over who will read the lines about snowballing the cats and Ernie Jenkins and the dry voice on the other side of the door. When the poem is through, we often reach for Dickens and put another log on the fire.
Childhood is filled with toys that look cooler on TV, beautiful paint kits that don’t make painting any easier, and model airplanes when you specifically asked for hovercrafts. We can’t fulfill our kids’ dreams, but we can make our house cozy. We can simplify enough so that we’re relaxed and can give our full attention. And we can huddle up by the fire and remind them we’re happy to be together.