Several years ago, we bought tickets to fly my parents out here for Christmas. They’ve only flown two or three times, so it was both an adventure and a challenge.
Let’s just say, they hated it.
My dad likes to see where he’s going. As a truck driver, letting someone else dictate the when and the where and the how of getting somewhere was difficult for him. My mother likes more room than airplane seats afford, and she doesn’t hear well, so travelling like that was confusing. Each said it was the other who didn’t enjoy the trip, they were fine. But they weren’t. They both hated it.
A couple of years after that we brought them out on the train, and this was much better. Dad found people to chat to. Mom watched out the big windows, and both of them enjoyed seeing our beautiful country. We offered to bring them here this year but they are approaching eighty, and turned us down. I understand that.
So this year, we thought we’d go home for Christmas. However, no one knew who was hosting Christmas, or where they would be on what days as they try to manage extended and/or split families. No one could make a commitment to dinner or gift openings in time for us to decide if we should fly into Calgary or Edmonton, never mind booking hotels and cars. As the tinsel tension level rose, we decided not to go.
And even though it was my decision I hated that it had to be made.
It’s been hard for me, as a result, to get my head into Christmas this year. The waiting has been more like Lent at Easter than Advent at Christmas. The merry-making that I usually experience from cookies and presents and decorations and music has been missing. I’ve been resentful and hurt. As I often feel, the songs “I’ll be Home for Christmas”, and “There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays” made me feel a little less-than. Not having room at the inn–or even the table–made me feel less-than.
I hate that too.
This weekend we went to Toronto as we always do, to celebrate my friend‘s birthday. We have made our own Christmas tradition of going to the craft show, wondering the aisles, marvelling at people’s creativity, greeting familiar vendors and laughing and talking and exploring while we do so. We usually share a meal together, and celebrate a friendship that is real and true and deep. Our husbands have been added one at a time, and they have fit in with us. The best part is all four of us get along well. We had a great time, but still underneath simmered a persistent melancholy.
The next day, my husband and I went to Toronto’s Distillery District where they have begun an outdoor market fashioned after the ones in Europe. We
wanted to see it because we went on a wonderful trip last year to Cologne, Germany to see the markets there. We’d had such a wonderful time. The market in Toronto is small, but I can see the potential for much growth. We rounded one corner and as we did so, the carollers started to sing. I teared up. “This feels a bit like last year,” I said. My husband hugged me and we listened for a few minutes before stamping our feet against the cold and going in search of hot chocolate.
We came home last night, and though we were tired, we started decorating because today, another friend arrives. We exchange gifts every year with this friend-like-a-brother and he arrives in a few hours. I found myself getting a little cranky last night, tired from the trip, and again, a bit resentful at there not being a place for us at home.
I’ve been consciously refusing to give in to these feelings. I had to stop myself a few times from looking at the decorating as something that needed to be done instead of something I wanted to do. I’ve been following our traditions because I know that at some point, the feelings will catch up. Action first, trust the feelings to follow. So much of life is that way.
As I put the new collectible ornament on our upstairs tree–we have one dated crystal ball for each year we’ve been together–the bitterness that I’d been fighting started to leave. Unwrapping the porcelain nativity sculptures as I’ve done every year for the last thirty caused a bit more angst to leave. But the best moment by far was when I asked my husband what mattered most to him about our weekend.
And I remembered. Christmas is not about what others can do for me. The best gift has already been given, thousands of years before.
Home for Christmas means being present, right where I am. It’s about honouring the traditions that say “you’re home” to my husband and our friends. It’s cooking and baking for the love of it, and for the people who’ll enjoy it. It’s about being grateful for the gifts I have been given. It’s about looking at what I do have, and letting go of what I don’t. It’s about choosing to release the tinsel tension, and embracing the joy that is here in our home. It’s about shopping for the children of friends because the ones in our family have all grown, about trying to find a gift that someone will love. It’s my responsibility to create an atmosphere in my home and my heart and my table where everyone, including God, feels welcome.
I AM home for Christmas. And I love it here.