All this season, I’ve struggled to find the Christmas spirit. I think I had it earlier, like right after Thanksgiving, but I’ve had a hard time keeping it this year. I can’t believe that tomorrow is Christmas Eve. I feel like now that all my preparations are (mostly) complete, I need another two weeks to bask in the glow of chestnuts roasting on an open fire, and all that good stuff. Maybe if I had an extra two weeks, I’d be able to see December 25 as Christmas, and not just a Thursday.
It makes me sad.
I don’t think I’m alone in feeling this way.
I can’t even blame the lack of joy on a lack of snow, because we definitely have a white Christmas… and then some. I think I must be broken. It has to be me.
What is my problem?
Today, Kenny took the kids shopping. (The man is a SAINT, I tell you. Either that, or he hates wrapping presents so much, he was willing to drag four kids around a crowded store for three hours, just to get out of it. Probably a little of both.) I wrapped gifts, and got all but a handful labeled and stored for easy placement tomorrow night.
My good friend Nancy stopped by with a box full of gifts for my family, and each child got a new outfit. It was such a generous gesture, and all four kids put on all or part of their new clothes. (I think Kendra and Anthony are even sleeping in theirs.) I was thrilled, but sad at the same time, because I knew we would be unable to reciprocate this year. A plate of goodies just doesn’t compare to fifteen articles of clothing, no matter how well I cook.
We unloaded groceries from the van, and put the perishables away.
I intermediary-ed (not a word, I know) Abbie’s custody exchange.
I was tired, cranky, and stressed out, due mostly to the fear that my kids will be disappointed with their gifts on Christmas morning. This is the smallest Christmas we’ve ever had, and they are old enough to notice.
(Maybe that’s part of my problem. Okay, not maybe. It IS a big part of my problem.)
We had a coupon for IHOP, and kids eat free on Tuesdays, so we went to dinner and six people ate for the price of two. (For a family who used to go out for dinner every week, cutting back to once every 2- 3 months has been hard on all of us.) We sat in the back corner and sang along with the holiday background music, our waitress took great care of us, and everyone shared their food. (I think I might be partial because it was the meal I ordered, but my favorite was the lemon-blueberry pancakes and spinach and mushroom omelette.) It was a fun, but I still felt ho-hum about Christmas.
After dinner we drove to Lehi, where Thanksgiving Point hosted the “Holiday of Lights”. (My kids’ favorite light display was the pooping reindeer… don’t ask.) The minute we left the freeway, we could see a giant line of cars winding through the grounds. Determined to be cheerful and patient, we took our place in the queue and idled our way forward. After about 35 minutes of waiting in line (and only getting about halfway to the entrance), we inched past a hotel, where a silver van was waiting to turn into the lineup. Car after car was rolling by, ignoring the turn signal and leaving the poor car stranded in the parking lot.
As we got closer to the van, Kenny said something like, “Oh, I can’t believe they tried to cut through the parking lot. They should have to wait like everyone else.”
“I know,” I said. “But it’s Christmas. Let them in. It won’t hurt anything, and you’ll only have lost a few seconds in the long run.”
The red truck ahead of us pulled forward, and Kenny waited for the silver van to take its spot in front of us. As they drove past, three occupants waved wildly to show their thanks. “See?” I said. “That was nice.” He agreed.
We got distracted playing the “Once Upon A Time” game, where one family member starts a story and subsequent members continue it, and then we took turns reassuring Anthony that he’d love the lights once we got inside, and that we weren’t going to turn around and go home, no matter how much he wanted to. (By that point, we’d been sitting in the van for nearly an hour.) We completely forgot about the van.
Just before we hit the payment shack, the occupants of the silver van waved frantically at us, motioning for us to roll down our windows. They begged us to let them pay for our admission, because we had shown them such kindness. (Kindness? We let them pull out of a parking lot. It was no big deal!) They explained that they had just flown into Utah for Christmas, and their kids had just dropped them off at the hotel. They had been waiting to get out of the parking lot for ages, and no one would let them out. They weren’t familiar with the Thanksgiving Point layout, and were unsure about where they were going. In the dark.
We declined their offer to pay, and wished them a very merry Christmas. (In hindsight, we should have asked them to pay for the car behind them. Oh well.) They thanked us again, and we rolled up the windows and paid our admission fee. Kenny and I smiled at each other, and marveled that such a small action had such a huge impact on someone else. I was glad our kids were able to witness that. Hannah summed it up nicely from the back seat when she yelled, “Yay for Dad!”
For letting someone else pull in front of us.
(I’m still shaking my head.)
We drove through the display, oooh-ing and aaah-ing over the lights, and it didn’t matter that what took over an hour to get into was over in ten minutes. I was shocked and happily surprised at Kenny’s patience and good spirits. On the drive home, we sang along with the radio.
It was a great night.
I (FINALLY!) felt a tiny glimmer of that Christmas spirit I have been searching for. I just hope I can stretch it out and make it grow in the next 24 hours. (If I only had two more weeks, I think I could muster up a healthy amount of it, but as it is, I’ll have to make do.)
Merry Christmas, everyone. I hope your holiday is one of love. (And if you travel somewhere for Christmas, be sure to let someone in. You won’t be sorry.)