Holiday QuietPosted: December 13, 2011 | |
These waning months of the year are heavy with meaning. I suppose it’s the cold and the way everything starts to turn inward to protect against it. We take all the joy and pain from the year, all the celebration and grieving, and we sort of plant it deep within ourselves and wait for the spring, when everything starts to bloom again. It’s a good time to center yourself, to sit with everything the year has brought, given, and taken away from you, and to contemplate it calmly and quietly.
Of course, the way we celebrate the December holidays makes this supremely difficult to do.
When I was growing up, my parents owned a store called Guth’s Luggage. It had been my grandfather’s business, and my dad took it over from his father when he died, before I was born. They sold luggage, purses, leather goods, travel accessories. Most of the year, this was sort of fun for my sister and me. We would go visit sometimes and “play” store, or hang out in the back room stealing sugar cubes from their dish and chatting up our parents’ employees. We loved the summer sidewalk sales, when we’d get to sit outside and help make change.
But December was hard. I noticed it more as I got older and could sense my parents’ stress more clearly. The pressure was on to finish out the year on a strong note, and of course during the holidays the store was crowded with more cranky and demanding customers. Some threatened to go to the mall, to the department stores, for better prices if we wouldn’t or couldn’t accept what they wanted to pay. My parents worked days and nights and came up for breath on Christmas Day, then dove back in the day after for returns.
When I was in high school and college I worked in the mall myself (at Express) and got my own taste of the annoyance and exhaustion working in retail can bring, even when you just have a part-time job in your teens.
The biggest thing that came out of all of this for me was a fervent love for the simplicity of Thanksgiving.
Now that I’m a parent, I appreciate and enjoy Christmas more again, because it’s for my daughters now. But I try to keep as quiet as I can during December. I do love decorating our tree and listening to mellow holiday tunes (Vince Guaraldi’s “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is my very favorite), and I celebrate with friends (my neighbor and I just hosted our second-annual cookie exchange party). But beyond that, I make an attempt to avoid the mall, especially when it’s crowded, and if we’re traveling, we attempt to fly at more low-key times (ha), or even drive, if we can (14 hours to Chicago is doable if you stop overnight).
This year it will be easy, because we’re having a simple Christmas at home, just the four of us. Then we plan to spend time with close friends on Christmas Day and over the New Year’s weekend. Just the way I like it.
It was a tough year for my family, and there is a lot to think about as it draws to its close. I look forward the new year — time to set a new intention and see what 2012 holds in store.