I prepare for the pile up on the dining room table to clear the floor for him to vacuum and I begin the tedious task of unburying my desk, dresser tops, and counter tops and work to put everything where it belongs. It looks like we had a wild party of scavengers come through the house, turning everything upside down! I can hear my mother say, "This isn't the way you were raised!" My mother would be appalled, or would she? She knew me better than anyone and tore her hair out like I do with my own kids! Some training just doesn't "take", though she did manage to train us kids make our beds every day and hang up our clothes when we took them off and put our toys away? I have since learned from my children that that is what chairs and floors are for and save time and leave my bed covers turned back for a quick return day or night!
As a young adult, I used to prepare for Christmas before I returned to my job as an educational consultant every fall. My Christmas cards would be signed and addressed, and packages would be wrapped, hidden in black plastic bags and stuffed into closets, and my children were programmed to want what was on sale and affordable (though in truth, that only lasted for a year or two, before they smartened up, and marched off to tell Santa a couple weeks before Christmas what NOT to bring in addition to what to bring). Nothing is perfect but at least Christmas Vacation was ALMOST always a vacation, as packages would be mailed on time along with my Christmas letter, and I would "settle in for a long winter's nap"...
I was in such control that I even initiated more traditions, not knowing how hard they would be to keep in the years ahead. Yes, we had a special Advent Elf, that brought a package to each child each day during Advent. At the time, I started this I only had one child and it grew exponentially with our second! We soon found The Advent Elf forgetful, and so another tradition was established: he took to hiding his packages and so the kids would hunt for them in the morning as we scrambled to get them out! What was I thinking?
Whatever happened to the Laura-Ingalls-Wilder-sorts-of-Christmases where a stick of peppermint candy and a pair of pretty red mittens would satiate our wanton children's appetites for surprise gifts. Surprises we learned weren't fun if they were the wrong color, and too practical! Fortunately, we did invest in a few Christmas music boxes, and lovely creches and ornaments and so little by little it has become less about the packages and more about the decorating and celebrating. A few years ago, I informed our now adult children that The Advent Elf had died, unless they wanted to keep it going by bringing their worn out parents little gifts each day! It is interesting that that idea has never caught on, though it does seem that our oldest child has taken on the role of Santa, and works to see that our stockings are full. I had taken to filling them with items from our pantry and I am sure that she still lives in fear of getting a can of baked beans in hers! She likes molasses but in beans it is not a treat!
It is the Advent Season, and we prepare for our traditional family gathering with Christmas Eve Mass, a Christmas breakfast and opening of packages in the morning and a Christmas dinner in the late afternoon. We have also taken to doing a jigsaw puzzle or some other family activity while we are still gathered.
We bustle about to prepare. I foolishly suggested that I make a handmade gift for each my daughters and though I tried to eat my words as soon as they fell out of my mouth, this is another tradition that they love. They remember dolls, teddy bears, aprons, and whatever else I could make to stretch our dollars. It is reminisce of my most favorite Christmas as a child when my mother made me a trunk full of doll clothes, complete with tiny pockets capable of holding a kernel of popcorn. Traditions are traditions and don't change!
I even look forward to the little irritations and clashes of personalities that inevitably arise during our decorating: I want to get it done and over with and to sip a cup of hot cocoa in front of the beautiful tree. An "unnamed other" hangs similar ornaments all in a row and another is too fast to be careful enough for "The Ornament Nazi" who needs to see it perfectly done, down to the last red bow on the tree. I smile and am glad to have turned that task over to another who has been well-trained by me. Some tasks are best delegated to be sure!
Well, back to my do-lists. There is still much to be done! I do look forward to ending this overly-challenging year by preparing to celebrate again the most wonderful gift of the season: the spirit of Christmas renewing our hearts with God's love made manifest right here in our own family. We are delighted that our grown kids remain young at heart and wouldn't miss our traditional Christmas!