Pre­par­ing for Christ­mas

The Covington News - - Sunday living -

Mean old Santa Claus. He snuck up on me this year, and I’m not ex­actly sure how it hap­pened. Per­haps it was be­ing sick for two weeks sur­round­ing Thanks­giv­ing that threw me off track. All I know is that in­stead of feel­ing my usual early-De­cem­ber glee over the sea­son, I am mum­bling and grum­bling like the Grinch.

Christ­mas is what, two and a half weeks from to­day? Usu­ally, my house is fully dec­o­rated by now. I would’ve planned what I’m go­ing to bake, and know what’s on the menu for Christ­mas Eve and Christ­mas Day. By now, I’d know what every­one’s get­ting and al­ready have some of it wrapped. My cards are usu­ally ad­dressed and pos­si­bly al­ready mailed by now.

But this year? Nada. My liv­ing and din­ing rooms are still stacked with red and green Rub­ber­maid bins half full of Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions; the other half hap­haz­ardly scat­tered around with no rhyme or rea­son. My cats think we’ve built a hol­i­day play­ground as they leap from box to box, hid­ing and pounc­ing from be­hind the gar­ish tow­ers of glit­ter and glitz in what has to be the kitty equiv­a­lent of Dis­ney­land.

I still haven’t found the Christ­mas cards I over­bought last year, nor have we taken the an­nual hol­i­day photo of the kids. I haven’t baked a thing. I haven’t even thought about bak­ing any­thing. Martha would be so proud.

My Christ­mas tree stands naked in front of the liv­ing room win­dow, co­or­di­nat­ing nicely with my to­tally bar­ren front yard. There is one tiny, lone wooden elf on my front porch be­cause I thought I’d save a few steps by stick­ing him out there while I searched for his bud­dies else­where. I still haven’t found the miss­ing elves. Hope­fully they’re in a tree out back, bak­ing us some cook­ies with their elfin’ magic.

I can only imag­ine what the neigh­bors think as they drive by our naked tree and that one dinky elf. “Looky there, Bubba! It’s a min­i­mal­ist Christ­mas at the Apt­eds!”

It just struck me, though, that min­i­miz­ing all the chaos ac­tu­ally sounds like a nice idea to this tired old mom. Could I re­ally do that, though? Could I re­ally cast aside all the ex­pec­ta­tions I place upon my­self to trans­form my home into a win­ter won­der­land for just th­ese few weeks, and fo­cus in­stead on re­new­ing our spir­its this De­cem­ber?

I am lis­ten­ing to car­ols as I type. “O Come O Come, Em­manuel” is play­ing.

Re­joice. In­ter­est­ing word, de­fined as, “To ex­press great joy; to be ec­static with joy.” I’ll ad­mit there hasn’t been much of that around here lately. The song con­tin­ues. “Oh, come, De­sire of na­tions, bind In one the hearts of all mankind; Oh, bid our sad di­vi­sions cease, And be your­self our King of Peace.” I love the im­agery there, the prom­ise of a King of Peace. Peace, the blessed ab­sence of worry or fret­ting, the op­po­site of Martha-Ste­wart-in­spired per­fec­tion­ism that loses the mean­ing be­hind the Christ­mas to-do list. The op­po­site of the stressed­out mother who yells at her son for break­ing an or­na­ment; the op­po­site of the psy­cho wife who barks or­ders at her poor hus­band as he tests the thou­sandth strand of blink­ing lights, just try­ing to make her happy.

And you know what? That is what I want for Christ­mas this year. I want peace. I want to re­joice. I want to cud­dle my kids and drink hot chocolate and build ginger­bread houses to­gether. I want to lis­ten to the beau­ti­ful old car­ols, and sing them off-key with glee. I want to find sim­plic­ity, and cel­e­brate it, and cast off the con­straints of liv­ing up to every­one else’s ex­pec­ta­tions of me this De­cem­ber.

Peace and joy. Joy and peace. They aren’t im­pos­si­ble goals. They aren’t ob­vi­ous gifts. But they’re more pre­cious than di­a­monds or any­thing any­one else could buy me, and they’re truly all I need.

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