A SECULAR CHRISTMAS

Christmas was yesterday, and it was kind of empty.  It’s true that we didn’t have a traditional Christmas as far as the food goes.  We had  done that on 12/21 to accommodate some family members who wouldn’t be able to join us on Christmas day.  So as not to have to do a repeat of that (mostly the clean-up part) just a few days later, we decided to just pick up some pizza or Mexican food on Christmas Day.  This was definitely a first for me, but I figured some financially enterprising eateries would be open. That actually wasn’t the case, and I simply couldn’t bring myself to partake of a Burger King combo or something of that ilk.  I don’t want that any day of the year, but particularly on Christmas.  Yes, it was going to be non-traditional, but it didn’t have to be stomach turning was my rationale.

After calling about 20 places and even doing an online search, it was clear that the ordering of food from a restaurant wasn’t going to be a possibility, and at that point, I almost didn’t want to order from any restaurant that would be open on such a sacred day,  so instead I suggested we just grill burgers and chicken wings.  For sides we would have vegetarian baked beans, various flavors of potato chips and some oven baked potato wedges.  We would make sure to have a minimum of fuss and clean up by utilizing aluminum trays instead of ceramic platters, and somehow we would make it festive even without a burnished turkey and candied yams.

Christmas morning arrived with my granddaughter announcing that she was ready to open her presents, and, of course, everyone needed to be present for this event.  My kids are biracial, and it was important to my daughter that any dolls purchased, unless they were charactor dolls, were to be African-American.  The Elsa doll from the movie, “Frozen”, was okay, but no white Barbies or anything like that, so I purchased a relatively costly newborn sized Black baby doll, which was quickly rejected by my granddaughter in favor of platinum haired Elsa who she carries around with her everywhere, and the opening of the presents continued at a frenzied pace.  My granddaughter and her brother got a bunch of loot as was expected.

Later in the day my other daughter and her family arrived as well as my sister and her boyfriend, and we exchanged gifts and the grilling commenced.  A few other people stopped by with infants in tow, and I got to cradle a newborn baby boy in my arms for thirty minutes as he grinned contendedly and made cooing sounds in his sleep.  That felt a little closer to Christmas.

All in all the day was pleasant enough, but there was an undeniable emptiness that prevailed.  There was no telling of the Christmas story to the children and only a few random carols filling the empty spaces thanks to a Mariah Carey Christmas.  I did not attend a Christmas service or a musical concert during the holidays.  Nor did I help serve food at a mission or pass out presents to children or any of that, and I think that accounts for the sense that something was missing from my holiday celebration, which turned out to be all about a pretty, decorated tree, throwing together a few meals and buying presents.

I am quick to talk about how Christmas has been hijacked by all things commercial, but this time it was me who did the hijacking, and the empitness of a Christmas without Christ still hangs forlornly in the air, and I know it’s something that watching “A Wonderful Life” or admiring a festive tree won’t fix, and all I can do after the fact is say to the Messiah “Sorry I forgot to send you an invitation to my home this year and it won’t happen again.”

 

 

 

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CHRISTMAS DINNER…FUN OR FIASCO

Technically this isn’t really a Christmas event.  I have invited some family members over for a pre-Christmas dinner to be held on 12/21.  The reason for this is some of the guests will be elsewhere on Christmas day, and I have gifts for them, so I thought it would be a good idea to get everyone together for fun, frolic, fellowship and gift exchange.  I also want to impart into this get together, the true reason we are celebrating.  I want us to acknowledge the birth of Messiah, the light of the world.  I want to sing Christmas carols and read the Christmas story to the children who will be present…large and small.  I also want to be filled with good cheer about creating a delectable meal for people I love.  I do like to cook, and I enjoy feeding people, but for some reason, I am filled with trepidation about cooking this meal for upwards of 30 people.  I have done Thanksgiving and Christmas before, and I have felt pretty confident about it.  Actually I didn’t stew about it at all.  I just plunged in and did what needed to be done, but this time I am overthinking it.  Perhaps one of the reasons is that I was in a serious car accident four years ago and am still not comfortable standing for long periods of time.  I’m also not sure I have cooked for so many people before.  There will be a lot of young children present, and kids can be picky.  Heck, I’m picky and am probably inserting my own food issues into the guests’ enjoyment (or lack, thereof) of the vittles.  I want everyone to have a great time and enjoy every morsel of food, but I feel I’m becoming overly invested in making sure this happens.

I just need to take a deep breath and remember why I’m doing this in the first place.  When I bought this house, I offered it up to God.  I told him I wanted to be hospitable and honor him with study of His word, praise and worship and feeding people out of my kitchen, so I’m placing my hand in His and asking him to replace fear of man  with faith in Him, culinary anxiety with the joy of the Lord and self induced pressure with praise of the One who created me and every guest that walks through this door.

AS HAPPY AS YOUR UNHAPPIEST CHILD

My friend, Donna, and I both have grown children.  She has three daughters.  I have three daughters and one son.  We are both grandmothers.  I live in Los Angeles, and she lives in Las Vegas, so we don’t see each other very often, but we talk on the phone frequently, especially when one or both of us feels the need to vent about the kids and grandkids.  Recently Donna made the statement “We are only as happy as our unhappiest child.”  In theory, that sounds like something a loving, nurturing mother would say.  After all who is going to be  dancing a jig and singing “Oh Happy Day” if one (or even worse, several) of our kids is miserable.  The problem is the more children you produce, the better the chance that at least one of them is unhappy, whether it is a short term malaise or a valley that stretches for many miles.  Obviously all of my kids are far younger than me, so they have a better chance of their happy days outnumbering their unhappy ones, and, besides their angst, I have some well-earned angst of my own.  The fact is I have a personality that is two distinct sides of a coin.  I can be quite chipper and prone to counting my blessings, or I can be fairly morose, and equally prone to counting my problems.  Because I don’t want to shuffle along in a haze of misery, I have learned to take charge of and be pretty proactive about my own contentment, but there are many days when I have to work at it, because my life, for the most part, does not resemble a Norman Rockwell painting, and my default setting tends more to coming unglued than peaceful serenity.  I am usually able to cut off cluttered thoughts at the pass, but if I were to ponder my children’s potential unhappiness (and for that matter, the collective unhappiness of the world), I would be a raw nerve gushing a geyser of misery.  What if my kids took turns being unhappy rather than at least having the consideration to all be miserable in one fell swoop?  If that happened, I could be content for the brief period of time it took one to recover, only to be mowed over like a field of grass when another called to recount their tale of woe.

Fortunately my children are private people, far more private than me, in fact, so I don’t know every time they are unhappy, and if I did have “mommy radar” about those issues, I would be forced to disable it, because both of us being unhappy would not solve anything.

I probably wouldn’t be belaboring all this, but I just read an article in a women’s magazine where the author trotted out that same statement as my friend, Donna.  “You are only as happy as your unhappiest child.”  This woman totally lost credibility with me in the next paragraph when she recounted how all four of her children were doing well in their professional and personal lives.  Apparently three are deliriously happily married and one of them is over the moon joyfully engaged.  To that lady I say, write a similar article when one of your children is homeless, one is in rehab, one is in the process of a tumultuous divorce and one is miserably employeed as a pizza delivery person with three kids to support.  Then I might take you more seriously.  In the meantime, I am throwing that statement out the window and coming up with a new one.  “Adult kids are only as happy as their mama,” so keep those compliments and gifts coming, cause if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.