Are you a Scrooge?
When we were coming in from dinner out with friends late Wednesday evening, Mike and I drove past our employee's house. They had family visiting for a few days, and so there were extra cars parked in the yard. That is fine, we are happy for them to feel at home in their home. We had seen the cousins all playing in the yard when we left, and it reminded me of childhood days, when extended family came over and I had playmates my own age.
On the inbound trip, as we turned the corner off the highway, I saw that they had strung up several strands of Christmas lights. Nothing extensive, but I am ashamed to admit, since we pay the utilities there, my initial thought was, "Oh, boy..there goes the electric bill!"
Fortunately, what I said out loud to Mike was, "Don't you know the children are so excited about Christmas, with all the pretty lights." That brought out a convsersation about how much our own kids had loved to decorate for Christmas. I used to drag out the crates of lights, ornaments and Christmas storybooks the day after Thanksgiving.
Decorating was a big deal back then, and is one of my favorite memories of rearing our family. Now, I do a minimal amount. Right now, I have one tiny display up (Papa's favorite Santa's Marching Band that I found when moving storage boxes the other day.) I want to make a couple of red bows for the lanterns on the office doors and a couple more for the ones by the front door of the house, but that's about it, except for the tree. The crate of Mitford snowmen is waiting for the sideboard to clear off tonight, and I'll put them up, but that is it for Christmas decorating for me...and if any of that goes undone, I will survive.
The initial thought from the other night is what really bothers me...when did I get to be such a Scrooge? It's not that I mind buying gifts. I enjoy giving...I think maybe just not to the electric company? The feeling passed pretty fast, but it struck me hard enough to still be with me four days later.
I am finding myself thinking similar thoughts in stores this hoiliday season...I've been skirting around the decorations and stacks of pre-wrapped gifts (I've never really liked those, anyway.) I know it irked me that the Halloween stuff was just out when Christmas appeared, too.
Maybe it is just that the season is taking up too much of the year now. Maybe I am just feeling that everyone is trying to rush yet another year to an end, or maybe I am feeling that we all have too much, and so many have too little.
I don't know. I just feel ill at ease with it...and I can't shake it this year.
On what day in my life did I get so jaded that I would think of the price of a few KWH of power, before I noticed how carefully the lights had been strung, or thought about how happy they made some child? Are any of you having any of these thoughts and feelings, too?
Re: Are you a Scrooge?
Gosh, Kay, that is a tough question. What I find is that, as the kids get older, our home and traditions are moving further and further from being the center of their holiday celebration, leaving me with a need to find joy in new and different ways. It just is not the same and never will be.
I always loved the decorating, the shopping, the baking, the wrapping, the gift giving and the parties. I don't think I am a Scrooge but since I don't have a major role in doing all of that for large group of people (my mom is older and not able to travel, both of our extended families live far away, and our kids have kids and in-law families of their own to celebrate with, too) I just find myself approaching Christmas with a bit of a bittersweet attitude.
I have a hard time doing all of that decorating just for me and Ed but I love the way the house looks. It just seems like so much effort for so few people to enjoy it. Besides our one big family celebration and a couple ofsmall parties we host, our holidays are pretty uneventful these days.
I say bittersweet because I am relieved not to have so much activities to squeeze into so little time and sad because those times of me and Ed splitting our time between NY and OH and racing to one state or the other on Christmas Day (best day to drive with no traffic) to be with family before hosting our own celebration for all the kids before they all had families of their own is gone. Those sure were crazy fun times.
The holidays, more than anything, make me feel older. I literally feel like my life has slowly, then incredibly quickly, slipped away. The years of being a child with all the excitement are gone. The years of being a teen or young adult dating with all the holiday romance are gone. The years of having your own children and providing them with all the magic are gone. Even having grandkids, the most wonderful feeling in the world, cannot bring back the feeling of those years.
I miss Midnight Mass with all of them. I miss trying to surprise the kids with something they really don't expect or need. I miss the crazy trips back to NY.
So I have tried to find joy in new ways of celebrating. I focus more on what I can do to make Christmas special for needy families. There sure is no shortage of them in our community the past few years. Ed and I befriended a young family who lost their son DaNNY to cancer this summer. He loved horses and being a cowboy. I thought in honor of him I would buy cowboy type toys and donate them to a local Santa Shop that provides toys for needy families. That brings tears to my eyes but I know it will make me feel good.
We are doing things with the grandkids instead of buying them STUFF that they really don't need. We are taking 5 year old Liam to see Transiberian Orchestra and will go to the annual Horse Drawn Holiday Parade next weekend with the grands. I find myself more excited about doing things than buying things.
We are going to do smaller gifts for the grands and have a big play yard built for them in the orchard next spring. My son will build it and we know the grands will get years of use out of it. I want to have the grands over for an afternoon of making cookies to take home because I know their moms are so busy doing all the STUFF that I used to do when I was their age. LOLOLOL
I also plan to do something for my nephew's three new adopted children. That would give me joy. I have another brother and nephew who have had a tough year with my brother losing his job. I will do something extra for them and I know that will give me joy. None of this is the same as the way holidays were with the kids in years past but I see something valuable in that.
I have a hard time with my extended family. We are always expected to travel to NY for everything. No one makes the effort to come here. I get tired of being the visitor and wish that they would come to share in our holidays. Ed's extended family does not get together any more since his father died so the cousins don't get to see each other. That is too bad.
I am not sure how when I started to feel this way about the holidays but I expect it was about the time the last kid got married and my dad passed away within a year of each other. I love being empty nesters all year but I miss the fun of Christmas the way it was even as recently as 5 or 6 years ago.
I think over time I will find a new form of joy to replace the old. But right now, while I may not be a Scrooge, I am certainly not as into Christmas as I once was. Going to Mass tomorrow and seeing the Advent wreath lit will certainly help to put me in the spirit. At least I hope it does.
Re: Are you a Scrooge?
I think you have the right spirit of Christmas. Giving to charities that you have a special bond gives a good feeling that can't be matched. Helping the family by providing the memories of baking to the DGC helps the DC too. The economy doesn't provide too much sense of job security.
It is too bad that many feel that traveling to another's place is not a form of giving. We have similar problems of one way traffic so now we only see each other at the funerals. How distasteful is that?
Re: Are you a Scrooge?
Glad I got a chance to read yruo reply before the kids showed up for out Thanskgiving supper tonight. Mike had helped me do basically everything I'd asked for help with, but we kept one pan of snaps simmerinn on the woodstove, for our younger daughter to season when she arrived in the early afternoon. She is the only one who can even remotely get them to taste like Mike's mother's version, which is everyone's favorite.
Older daughter and SIL came in and visited earlier than I'd expected them to arrive for a five o'clock meal. My turkey took a bit longer to brown that I thought it would, so I was in the kitchen when our son arrived, thickening the gravy and browning the rolls. The girls were filling up serving dishes and I called to Mike in the dining room to put a little but of everything on my plate while they passed the dishes as I got the bread and gravy into servers.
When I came in with the two handfuls of food, I saw my plate had teensy-weensy - like dollhouse-sized - servings. He thought that was hilarious. From there on out, our gathering felt pretty much like a time warp from their teenaged years, when everyone teased me mercilessly. I loved every minute of it.
As we were joking about the year that Murphy stole half of the turkey off of the kitchen island table while we were eating, we heard a scuffle in by the stove, and caught LG just in the nick of time, trying to commit the same crime. I am sure we all made up for it in bits sneaked under the table to her, though.
Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday...tonight reminded me why!
Re: Are you a Scrooge?
I was reading my post to Ed before I pushed the send button just as the first of the kids and grands walked through the door for our Thanksgiving celebration yesterday. Ed told me that we really needed to talk about my feelings more at a later time. I think he was kind of surprised at how I felt. I guess I do a good job of hiding my feelings sometimes...lololol
Well, anyway, the kids arrived one by one and we had the most wonderful Thanksgiving I can remember. The grands loved their new kid's area in my craft room and the adults had a great time watching football and four wheeling. Ed let the little ones play NO MORE MONKEYS JUMPING ON THE BED in our guest room...they LOVE that! It was great!
When the dust settled about 6 hours later and the last ones had left and we found a few stalks of celery from the turkey cavity on the kitchen floor....Sable pulled a fast one on us too.....we just laughed and counted our blessings.
It is hard but I realize it is going to be up to me to find joy in the holidays as our family evolves and our lives change. I am glad I wrote that all out because it forced me to really confront what I have been *hoarding*.....an unrealistic attachment to days gone by and a fierce holding on to something that will never be the same....that hoarding is keeping me from enjoying what I love about the holidays and I need to let some things go and move forward with life as it IS not as it WAS.
Holiday Blessings to all of you....
Re: Are you a Scrooge?
Time and age changes everything at some point. All of you have described it very well. We are going through the same changes. Our gift list is shorter this year, MIL is gone as well as our DD and two grandchildren. I see no change there, SIL has won that one. There will be no contact with them.
My mother used to say, "nothing stays the same'. That is what we should remember and be grateful and enjoy everyday. We never know what tomorrow will bring.
Re: Are you a Scrooge?
One time I stopped at the hired hands house and they were heating the house with the electric oven door open. They had a propane furnace but I didn't pay for that fuel.
Re: Are you a Scrooge?
You say that things change "at some point."
I can put my finger on some precise tipping points in our family's history - I am sure you can, too - and recognize the changes that came then, good and not-so-good. Some seemed good at the time, and then revealed negative implications later on, and vice versa.
People I tried to please for so long, and finally realized that some are never satisfied...and others who suffered in silence, while I twisted in that stiff wind of disapproval. I hope I have finally found shelter from that storm.
Other changes seem to slip by our notice, and slip up on us unawares. They come to our attention when we need a new eyeglass prescription, or decide to hire out a job we used to do ourselves easily not all that long ago.
Spending time in the hospital and nursing home on clincials these past few months, I've come to have a new appreciation for simple daily pleasures that these patients miss very much. My present sentiment is to enjoy them as much as possible while I can. When you lose your health, you can lose that option to a large extent.
Right now, the washer and dryer are humming down the hall, the bird is crunching away at his fresh tray of seed, and the dogs, who've had their morning romp, are snoozing all around my chair (except for Suzie, who's riding around the farm with her hero this morning!) I am waiting to hear Mike's boots on the back stoop.
Those are just the sounds I am hearing in a brief minute. Imagine when you play that awareness across all of your senses at once, then splay that across all the moments of all your days.
Do you think we realize how good things are only after they've passed and changed? Or are we able to recognize the blessing of every moment while we are in it?
I enjoyed the photos Soilbabe posted of her vacation, but they reminded me of a conscious decision I made one day when my kids were in the local Christmas parade back home. I was seeing everything - including them - only through the tiny eyepiece of my video camera.
Suddenly, I realized I was seeing a postage stamp in black and white, while this whole colorful life-sized spectacle was moving by right in front of me. I was worrying about having enough battery time and tape to catch it, instead of just enjoying the day. I set the camera on the tripod and let it run as long as it would, but I never looked back through it, not for a second. That was a change I can remember making consciously.
Maybe you could say this was when I started to make that change, to live my life, and not just document it. What do you think...right choice or not?