Sunday, December 14, 2014

creating tradition

It's a quiet Sunday morning.  The snow is falling softly outside my window.  I'm alone in the house.  My music, my candles, my coffee.  I danced my little heart out last night and my neck and shoulders, hips and knees are feeling the aftermath of supreme joy.  I'm thinking about this season and what it all means.

When Eliana was first born, I was so excited to host Christmas.  I was so thrilled when I had our family's stockings made, elated when my mama passed down a set of our traditional Nutcrackers for my own collection.  I think we had, like, four ornaments that year.  It was sweet and simple, a tree cut in snowy woods, a toddler with wild curls and Pillsbury cinnamon rolls for breakfast, just like my mama did on Christmas. 

I had only one little taste of the metallic bitter that year -- it was when I decided that Eliana needed a full stocking.  My parents did an amazing job with our stockings.  There were so freaking many of us and my favorite part of Christmas morning was seeing all nineteen or so of those stockings stuffed full with, well, stuff.  My mom would buy some token little things and my dad would always put in random packets of Advil and Tylenol sent to him by the drug companies (I think one year there was even tiny vials of Vicodin...hmmm...).  Anyway, there was something magical about those stockings.  So I went for it.

I went for the first, and only time, to the Dollar Store.  I bought thirty dollars worth of random plastic crap to fill up Eliana's stocking.  And on Christmas morning, within about thirty seconds, that random plastic crap had been dumped on the floor, left for the landfill.  Holiday ick number one.

I felt it again last night, like a heavy wave of nauseating, this is just not right.  Jeff's mama had done a stupendous job picking out just the right presents for the kiddos.  We made the mistake of opening them before dinner.  And the kids were hungry.  So when it was time for honey baked ham and potatoes, Soli freaked.  Freaked.  Refused to eat, refused to sit properly, yelled and screamed.  Jeff responded with a hard hand.  And our early Christmas dinner was screwed.  Eliana and I got that scared, oh no they're fighting look.  Nana and Elie and I tried to make positive chit chat while the boys' yelled from the bedroom.  It was awful.  Really bad.

And I'm not going to now blame Christmas or consumerism. 

I swear.

This is not the first time that Solomon has behaved this way.  In fact, any time there is stuff involved, preferably cheap plastic crap, Soli's doomed for the dark side.  He's that kid.  His sister has yet to ask for a single thing for Christmas.  She's just not really a toy girl.  She likes books and art supplies and clothes, but give her a chance to pick any toy off the shelf and it's hours of indecision and frustration. Soli wants everything.  Everything.  And then some.  And it usually involves, eventually, some form of screaming and threats (...if you don't buy me that sword I won't be your friend for eighty days). 

So when you have a kid who is already predisposed to the gimmies, a holiday that highlights our greediest selves gives me a bit of pause.  What can I do to help guide this holiday so that I'm proud of the traditions of our family.  So there is a sense of peace and goodwill and giving back.

As far as peace goes, leaving the country and heading to a tiny fishing village on the Bahia de Banderas seems like a good start.  There are no parking garages or malls, no things to return and no last minute holiday steals.  We've told the kids that this trip is their present.  Of course, I'm bringing the stockings and, of course, I will give them some things to open on Christmas morning.  But I really, really want to try to be mindful about this stuff.  I want them to have a sense of calm on Christmas, a sense of cohesion.  Maybe going far, far away is not the best answer every year, but, for now, with my four year old and his ridiculousness, with my deep sense of shame and frustration when he behaves this way, perhaps removing him is the best bet.  You don't bring an alcoholic into a bar, right?  

I can't decide what I want for my kiddos right now.  Each Christmas we've had has been distinctly different, special and unique in it's own way.  Perhaps whatever it is, I just need to be thoughtful about what I want the message to be.  I want them to see the spirit of giving and gratitude.  I want them to feel secure and warm and surrounded by people who love them.  I want them to see that our gift is being together, of having each other, the simple experience of another season on this beautiful, kind earth. 

Monday, December 1, 2014


On the Montana highline, the mountains finally emerge, snowcapped and massive like a universe that's suddenly landed from some unknown galaxy, all sharp points and unknown places.  The plains lay out before us, endless and unreal.  There is nothing, anywhere.  No humans or buildings or interferences.  We are one house of lights down a dark road and children spill, their voices ring through wild games while their parents laugh and sing, share stories and work through meal after meal, each dish another opportunity for communion.  This may be the biggest gift of being together in this far away place, land untouched except by wind, a piercing wind, that croons through our days.

And the rainbow.  She lasted for two days.  The children wanted to know where she went when the snow finally came...