I spent a lovely, long Christmas holiday in Oroville, CA, at the home of my daughter-in-law, Megan’s family. It felt wonderful to be immersed in a fun-loving group of people, surrounded by laughter, generosity, and good cheer. This is a family that clearly relishes being together. I can’t recall seeing my son Phil and his wife Megan so relaxed and glowing. Usually, in Santa Cruz, they are stressed and juggling so many projects, jobs, and activities. In Oroville, they stayed in their pj’s much of the day and settled in. They cooked some delicious meals for us (chicken molé for one dinner, great lasagna for another) and we all watched the rain pour down, played games together, and talked.
As usual, I feel pretty conflicted about the holidays. Because Daniella, being Jewish, does not celebrate Christmas, she has taken to removing herself from the scene. In recent years our family has tried out having a “no gifts” policy. I hate the crass commercialism of the holidays. I often feel like I do a bad job of choosing gifts for people, and I feel terrible about that. I also know that part of my conflicted feelings have to do with my tendency to be a mega-caretaker. I feel responsible for making everyone’s holiday just right –for decorating, shopping, cleaning, cooking, entertaining, etc. etc. This is a toxic leftover from how I grew up, and the era where I learned that these were my jobs as a mother. I know that I need to break out of this behavior to be able to enjoy the holiday again, but I don’t know how. I’ve been floundering around, not making it better. It was good to see how someone else does it.
I gained a few insights this year, as I observed another family celebrate. First, I truly enjoy giving gifts, when they come from the heart. So to eliminate gifts from our holiday is probably a wrong choice for me. It makes me feel like Scrooge, mean and guilty and embarrassed.
I can envision ways to avoid shopping malls, big box stores, and all the kinds of shopping I hate, and still come up with wonderful gifts for people. There are artists to support, items I can make, gift certificates, books, and many other ideas. Second, I saw how the whole family participated in making Christmas work. I think our family could do a much better job of that. Third, leaving out all religious trappings, I think that this holiday can be a meaningful time to celebrate the opportunity to bring loved ones together, connect at the heart level, have fun and relax. It doesn’t have to be a solo marathon track event (how I think I’ve framed it up ‘til now)!