Building Traditions

Did you know that it is December 22nd? My eyes, mouth and brain all seem to know it.

“Mama, what day is it?”

“Why, darling, perfectly behaved, never whining child, per the calendar on the wall it is December 22nd.”

“Thanks, mama. You’re the best! I love you! Also, I cleaned my room and put away my laundry. Can I go take a nap now?”

Clearly the above was a fantasy. But a fantasy that illustrates my point: I know what day it is. December 22nd. The day that follows the previous 21 days of December. The 356th day of the year (okay, I had to look that one up).

But my heart, and the part of my brain that is not rational and organized (aka most of it) is FLIPPING OUT. There are only THREE days until Christmas. Three. Uno, dos, tres. I’m practicing my Spanish. Solamente tres dias a Navidad.

I approached this Christmas season with high hopes. We had parties to attend, elves to shelf, Santa to meet, pictures to take, cards to send, cookies to bake, halls to deck, carols to sing, presents to wrap the whole kit and kaboodle. I wanted it all to go perfectly, and to get beautiful, Instagram photographs of the kids in awe of the things they were seeing. I wanted it all to be bathed in multi-colored Christmas lights while carols played gently in the background. I wanted the calories in Christmas cookies to not exist. In short: I wanted Christmas to be magical.

And for the most part, we accomplished it. Every major thing I wanted to do this holiday season, we have done. We had fun. No one was majorly injured. We even got some semi-decent photographic evidence that we did these things. I can (and probably will) create a whole “Johnson Family Christmas, 2017 Edition” photo album on Shutterfly and look back on it in future years to see what an amazing time we had.

But… now it is December 22nd… and… I feel like I somehow missed the magic. Christmas is in 3 days. Then it is time to take down the decorations. Some presents will already be broken. Hearing Christmas songs will activate that same part in my brain that lights up when I hear fingernails on a chalkboard. I will think colored lights are tacky. The Christmas tree will haunt my dreams as a giant, pine-needle-dropping, tinder box just waiting to spontaneously combust and light my house on fire. The imaginary “CHRISTMAS” switch turns off at midnight on December 25th, and the magic is gone. (Apart from a trip to Portland for second Christmas!)

How did this happen? How did we reach December 22nd without me getting my fill of Christmas magic?

Perhaps I just tried to do too much. We went to a Christmas tree lighting, the Great Dickens Christmas Fair, Santa’s arrival by river boat, the Christmas tree lot, Christmas sightseeing in San Francisco, a neighborhood party, a work party, two birthday parties, a cookie exchange and a Kindergarten performance. We sang Christmas carols and Hannukah songs, we baked cookies and more cookies. We made cards and addressed cards and delivered cards. We asked for presents, we shopped for presents, we wrapped presents. I think I just forgot to BE present. I got wrapped up (Ha! Like a present!) in doing ALL THE THINGS and making ALL THE MEMORIES that it was hard to truly experience it myself. I was constantly thinking about the next activity instead of 100% committing to enjoying where I was. That, plus the constant supervision and refereeing that two three-year-olds and a five-year-old require diminished the magic for me.

But, here’s the thing: I wouldn’t change a bit of it. I love every single one of the traditions we are building for our family. I get to be the magic maker. And every year things are getting just a little easier. We don’t need a stroller, we are ::thisclose:: to being done with pull-ups, attention spans are getting longer, memories are growing. Next year, I know that Marian will remember the things we did this year (helped of course, by the Johnson Family Christmas, 2017 Edition photo album). Her excitement will hopefully add to the magic of the season next year.

These foundation years are hard. Building our traditions takes work. It takes a lot of trial and error. Next year, we won’t do all the things we did this year. We will do a lot of them. And we will try different things as well. I, for one, will try to be more present. Present, like inhabiting my mind and body, not like wrapped and placed under the tree. Just in case you were confused.

Flash forward to 2018:

“Mama what day is it?”

“Why, my wonderful, super calm and rational child, it is December 22nd. Don’t you just feel like this Christmas season has been full of magic and wonder and has been everything you imagined?”

“Yes, mama! You made all our dreams come true!  I don’t even want any Christmas presents this year, give them away! Let me cook dinner. Sit down and have a glass of wine and some calorie free Christmas cookies.”

A very Merry Christmas to you all. I hope that your holiday season and traditions have been everything that you imagined and more!