Today, we enter the month that sees so many of us rushing, rushing — to choose the perfect gifts, book last-minute flights, plan that one last vacation of the year, clean and decorate our homes in advance of gatherings and guests, beat the crowd to the grocery store for the turkey and trimmings. For parents, add in attendance at the holiday concert performance, final season game, class party and turkey fundraiser run.
And in the midst of all the rushing, rushing — I find myself standing still.
Don’t get me wrong — I love the holidays, and promptly after our Thanksgiving turkey was carved, I was ready to turn on a Christmas playlist and put up the tree. Yes, our home will have lights, a few decorations and stockings hung on the mantle.
But I’d by lying if I said my heart was ready for the rushing, rushing…what I’ve heard referred to as the Christmas Crush. The one that tells you that every teacher, neighbor and friend of a friend must be bought and brought a gift, every card must be mailed before the 15th, everyone’s favorite dish must made for Christmas dinner — and every present wrapped in beautiful, unblemished paper.
Anyone with a cat or small child in their home knows that last one is a distant dream, especially if you already put on the bows! But I bet you know what I’m getting at here. That all this rushing, rushing — the urge to go, do and buy, bake, make, decorate, and mail — crunches away our time. Time in which we could just be with each other.
Maybe that time could be spent baking cookies or making cards, but maybe it would be ok if it was just one batch of cookies for one special neighbor, or two cards for two special friends. I’m betting those cookies will have been homemade with love, and given with more time to actually talk to your neighbor when you deliver it. The same goes for the cards, which will mean more when handwritten and given, if possible, in person.
Maybe I feel this way because I’ve spent the last year largely in isolation, shuttling between clinic hallways and hospital rooms. Perhaps it is also because I’ve now felt acutely the loss of friends we don’t expect to lose, and held the hands of children and families as they fought alongside us in the battle against pediatric cancer. It is true that time takes on a new and different meaning when you begin to to live for each day, not knowing how many you may have with your child.
So perhaps my perception is skewed by the events in my family’s life this past year, but maybe all this rushing, rushing — isn’t the way I ever wanted to spend a December. And I’m guessing it isn’t the way you want to either.
So, how should we spend it? I think the answer is as simple as what happened at our house this morning around 7:30am, when my teenage kids climbed into bed beside me. Without school or appointments, we could simply snuggle in.
We weren’t asleep any longer, and the bed doesn’t hold us as well as when they were smaller, but we were comfortable. We just needed some time — time to do the nothing together that really is everything.
This December, that nothing will sometimes look just like that — snuggling. But it might also look like a game of Pictionary or charades, a 500 piece holiday puzzle, attempting a Paul Hollywood bake after watching the latest GBBO episode, or a trip around town to see Christmas lights. And it will include leaving a few new toys at a Toys-for-Tots drop-off, participating in a local food drive and wrapping small gifts to take to patients and families we’ll visit during follow-up appointments at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
The small things that really are the big things. The things that we’ve worked hard this year to get back to, back to home and each other and the simplest moments of life that we took for granted before. And part of realizing what matters most is also sharing, and giving back, to others. If there is nothing else that the last year taught my family, it is this. Love matters.
To be fair, my kids are young teens close in age — and they certainly don’t always agree. None of us do. We aren’t picture perfect or fancy, and never will be. There will be squabbles, sometimes tears, solo walks or doors closed when frustrations rise.
But there will also be times this December when the doors are open, when we play and laugh and agree on things together, watch Home Alone, The Polar Express, Elf or The Grinch — and yes, snuggle. These are the December times that I’m looking forward to, and that I hope you find with your family too.
I’m going to call it the Christmas Calm, and be hopeful that it replaces the Christmas Crush. I’m also going to be hopeful for less under our tree this December, because it isn’t really things that we need.
It’s simply each other. And so, I will keep standing still. Breathe in, breathe out. Hold my arms open wide, make space for my kids and tuck the blankets around them. Snuggle in. For as long as possible, holding this December as the best gift my family could’ve been given.
The gift of a simple Christmas at home, a Christmas together.
🎄🎗️For ways to give this Christmas, please consider supporting the following organizations & foundations, which support children & families suffering from a pediatric cancer diagnosis, and help fund pediatric cancer research. Click on the images to donate. Thank you. 🙏♥️