Suzy's Blog/December, 2006        Click for Suzy's Blog Summary

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Two days after Christmas and I'm exhausted. So much for all that talk about doing it better. Looks good on paper, but how about the reality?

Actually I did do it better - not so emotionally involved, no expectations, no longing for that perfect Christmas. The proof? The falling flat of those special posters Ry made for the grandchildren. The card read "a special gift from Granddad" and indeed it was. Using computer magic, he had put a picture of each grandchild doing their sport with the Wheaties background. It looked like the real thing, our champions honored by General Mills. He framed them, I wrapped them. They were unveiled to blank looks. They don't eat Wheaties! Who'd of thought! We just laughed, we had so much fun in the doing, what did it matter?

We were not the Christmas dinner hosts again this year. Initially I missed this. Now after several years of celebrating with the young ones at their house, I consider it a great blessing. No rush to clean up the mess, no further preparations, time to savor our gifts to each other, and best of all time for a nap before the family gathers.

Oh that nap, that extra boost to charge the day. Two young whippersnappers are waiting for us on the sidewalk in front of their house, jumping up and down with excitement. They nearly knock us over as they leap into our arms. That nap has empowered us. We can jump up and down too!

Inside their house, under their glorious Christmas tree, we discover Santa has brought them an electronic drum set and an electric guitar. Periodically they provide foreground music for our celebration. Oh nap divine.

The packages are unwrapped, dinner is over. We linger over the last of the wine accompanied by softened drumbeats. Mommy starts to yawn. She's pulled off a great day for us all. It's time to leave.

We are both happy and sad on the way home. Christmas just isn't the same at this stage in life. Though our family has grown in size, and we have those incredible grandchildren, we're no longer the center of the family. We miss that. We unlock the door to our darkened house, struck by the quiet. Not bad. Falling gratefully and happily into bed, we realize with a kind of relief, the beat goes on, we just don't have to listen to the drum pounding it out.


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What is it about turning 70 that has changed my attitude about so many things?

Take Christmas. Fifteen years ago my friends and I gathered to exchange thoughts on how we could make Christmas easier. We all admitted we were overwhelmed by the myriad of tasks involved in the celebration. Christmas seemed more about stress than joy. We drew up a point by point written plan for handling the holidays. Basically it says, start earlier and simplify.

In the fifteen years that have passed since then, I didn't notice much change. We didn't start earlier and we didn't simplify, we just had good intentions that didn't get realized. Then we started turning 70. We began to think about Christmas differently and some of the things we talked about so long ago started to happen in what seemed like the natural course of things.

At 55 we still believed we could pull off the perfect event. Christmas dinner would be all candlelight, good food, good wine and good cheer. All the packages would be enchantingly wrapped and just what everyone wanted. The children would be perfect angels. And we, the moms, incredible magicians that we are, would have made it happen.

15 years later we've learned we can't control Christmas. The reality is Aunt Sally, as usual, is going to have too much to drink and become overbearing. Siblings are going to get into old arguments. The presents are not going to be received in the spirit in which they were given. The children are going to be wild in their exuberance. Whatever we do, Christmas isn't going to be perfect and we aren't either.

Oh that's nice to know

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Where will we put the Christmas tree was right up there in the list of questions I asked when we went looking for new places to live. Not a frivolous thought it turns out. That parade of trees is now part of family history, fondly remembered.

The first tree was pretty humble. The budget allowed the tree, but not the ornaments, so we decorated it with homemade paper snowflakes and reindeer. Not your most elegant tree, but endearing. In retrospect it was, perhaps, our best tree. Underneath it in a little, red plaid basket was something magical and seasonally appropriate: a new baby enjoying his first Christmas.

By our second Christmas, we had bought a house of our very own and with it acquired a family of seven as neighbors. Our little family of three became part of their bigger family. I explore the memories we generated every Christmas when I open the boxes of ornaments. Here are all the delightful baubles that Ginny, the mother of their clan, and I made together over the years. Ginny died many years ago. I carry her in my heart, but when I take those ornaments from their boxes, she lives. We are young again, raising children, making things.

One year we had a secondary tree in the dining room. I decorated it with gingerbread men I had made from flour, water and lots of salt. Nothing you'd want to eat. One morning as I passed the tree, I thought something was amiss. I went over to examine the tree and discovered, up to a certain height, all the gingerbread men were missing their lower halves. Dustin, our placid, well behaved golden retriever had eaten them. We forgave him, we were all a little crazy with a whirlwind houseguest who was making the walls vibrate.

Woman's Liberation arrived. I was the only female in the household and the only one interested in decorating the tree. One year I rebelled, going to the drugstore and buying lots of cotton balls which I threw at the tree with, I might add, dismal results.

 Then there was the year the tree fell on the assembled guests seated in the living room for a concert.

This year's tree is plastic and only four feet tall. It's sitting in a basket atop a table with the colorfully fading blossoms of our hydrangeas tucked into it's branches. Very effective, but very uncool in the eyes of our grandchildren. Bless those wrinkles and gray hairs that have made us comfortable with "uncoolness." This tree is just right for us. Every night in the darkened room we sit by the light of the tree remembering Christmases past and hoping for more to come. A little tree can do big things.

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