My Christmas was lovely. I hope all of you had lovely Christmases, too.
My Christmas season followed the pattern of my entire life. I sign up to do certain things because I love them and want them to exist in the world, and they won't exist unless someone - i.e., me - makes them happen. Then making them happen turns out to involve a certain amount of work, worry, and frustration. So I vow never again to be the one to make these things happen. Then when they do happen, they are wonderful. And I tell myself, "Sure, I'll do this again next year. Why not?"
At my church, I organized a Mitten Tree for the homeless. A bare tree stood at the back of the sanctuary - bare, until we all decorated it with hats, scarves, mittens, socks, gloves, as I led the congregation in singing the song I wrote for the occasion, "O Mitten Tree, O Mitten Tree, we come to fill your branches." Actually, I didn't turn against this project partway through, but I did almost forget to take the collected items to the shelter the week before Christmas, which occasioned one of those stabbing moments of total panic when I suddenly remembered: "Oh, no! I still have to take the stuff from the Mitten Tree!"
At church, I also helped organize a cookie baking afternoon for the youth group, which made me realize that I am temperamentally unsuited to deal with huge amounts of chaos involve dozens and dozens of cookies, flour everywhere, burning smells from the kitchen, frosting all over the floor of the fellowship hall. My whole soul craves order. This was the world's most disorderly afternoon. But it was also hilarious and heartwarming to see kids of all ages from 6 to 20 (we have a very small church) working together. The cookies were surprisingly tasty. They made a wonderful offering for us to share with the shut-ins to whom we went caroling the following Sunday.
If you want an arduous job during the Christmas season, try organizing a caroling excursion to four different retirement homes/assisted living facilities. It only made sense for us to start at church and then fan outward from there, going first to the closest facilities and then to those farther away. But every place I called had a reason why that time wouldn't work for them. The place closest to church wanted us to come at 2, rather than 3, as I had suggested. The place right next to it didn't want us until 4:30. Naps needed to be taken into consideration. Activities directors didn't return phone calls. "Never again!" I vowed darkly. Yet when the afternoon of caroling came - a blustery afternoon where you could barely stand upright against the wind - it was wonderful. What is better than singing your heart out with people who are so glad and grateful to sing along with you?
At home, I filled stockings for the boys and for Ashley, my new daughter-in-law. The stockings were knitted by my mother, beautifully, so many years ago, and are a wonderful reminder of how big a part she was of our Christmas every year. But the stockings are enormous. Filling them requires buying large quantities of tacky stuff for large sums of money. Maybe, at 22 and 25, the boys have outgrown Christmas stockings? But then it was so much fun watching them open them on Sunday morning.
Frantically I scrambled to bake my mother's scrumptious yeast cinnamon rolls late on Christmas Eve. But what would Christmas morning be without them? Christopher and Ashley left mid-day for THREE other Christmas dinners with her extended family, so our own Christmas buffet was just me, Rich, and Gregory. Hardly worth bothering to make all that food for only three people? But it was delicious, and sweet to have that time alone with Gregory.
So this is the story of my Christmas, and my life. Saying yes, then regretting it, promising myself to say no next time, and then being glad I said yes, after all.
I might as well just accept the fact that I'm always going to end up saying yes to Christmas.