Christmas is over for another year.
It was a crazy, loud, lovely, family (and turkey) filled couple of days. The kids were thrilled with their gifts from Santa and sad to see their little Elf pal leave until next year (yes, we have one too). And as per the family tradition that my mother tells me I started as a child, my children woke up promptly at 6:00 AM to inform us of the big guy's annual break and entry!
I've got to say though, Christmas felt a bit weird to me this year. If felt like it snuck up on me very, very quickly and just as fast, it was gone. All that is left are the two dozen gingerbread cookies that SOMEONE is going to have to eat and half of the turkey begging to be made into who-knows-what kind of leftover dish.
I've done a lot of reflecting for the past few weeks (and little else apparently). And I keep coming back to the thought that the magic that we associate with Christmas, that we remember from our own childhoods, just can't be recreated. Or maybe it can, but we, as grown-ups, just don't see it the same way anymore.
As kids, my mom used to take us to Candy Cane Lane every year. As I remember it, this yearly tradition was always a spectacular highlight to the season! So many lights, so many little Christmas montages on everyone's front yards, and practically every single house on that eight block stretch lit up like an multi-coloured airport runway of Christmas kitsch for Santa to land his sleigh on!
Last week my sister and I took our little ones to the lane as we have done almost every year, but for some reason, this year, I just wasn't feeling it. And upon debriefing with my children afterwards, it seems I was not the only one. Oh sure, there are still the few houses that really do make the effort and try to capture all the awesomeness that I remember from long ago, but the gaps of three or four houses in a row with no lights at all, or the one who put out a string of lights and a sign that reads, "No Time, NO money!", really kind of puts a damper on the whole Christmas spirit thing, especially when your kids can now read and ask you why someone would put up a sign like that.
At one point on our trek down this literal memory lane, I looked over and saw a packed horse-drawn sleigh ride going by and on it an over-tired and over-stimulated toddler losing his ever-loving mind and screaming his head off while his mother just held him on her lap and stared ahead with a look of utter defeat. That sleigh ride is 45 minutes long people. FORTY-FIVE minutes.
It makes me wonder about my mother taking us there all those years ago. She was a single mom, with four kids to keep an eye on. There HAD to be some whining and crying and yelling and not-so-much-with-the-Christmas-spiriting at some point. She MUST have been that mom with at least one kid losing his or her shit on one of those occasions. The thing is, I just don't remember it that way. I remember the magic. I remember the wonder. I remember the way that a tree full of twinkly lights, a Santa being pulled by reindeers attached to someone's roof, and a full-sized manger scene with a real, live donkey makes my heart feel. I remember getting home after and having hot chocolate with all the marshmallows we wanted and telling each other which house was our favourite. (Mine was always the house with the GIANT star way on top of it with strings of light "falling" to the top of the elaborate manger scene - did I mention we were a very Catholic family?)
I keep going back to Candy Cane Lane every year because I want to believe that this tradition will somehow evoke those magical feelings that I used to have in my own children. This year was the first year that I realized that this may not be the case and that it may be time for a new tradition. That my memories of something the way it was, just don't add up to the way it is NOW.
In some ways, this realization makes me profoundly sad. It is one that I am making about a few things in my life right now and this is a major breakthrough (struggle?) for me. It is hard to let go of the habits or traditions or thought patterns that take us back to who and/or how we think we are supposed to be. Regardless of what Elsa sings on that mountain top, letting go is not as easy as conjuring up a giant ice castle with your bare hands in a matter of minutes!
I believe that part of what I have been feeling this year was this need to tick off a list of all the "must do" Christmas activities and then feeling disappointed in myself when we didn't do them or no one wanted to do them. And I know this may sound silly, but I think that in those few seconds that I looked over at him, that screaming toddler, on what I can only assume was a very long, ear-splitting sleigh ride, may have taught me the most valuable life lesson this Christmas season. Family traditions should be fun. For everyone. And if it they are not, then it's time to pull the pin on it and find a new one (or perhaps try again later).
The fortunate thing is that my wonderful city is full of great winter and holiday season activities and we won't have to look far to find that special family tradition that will be OURS. That we can all truly enjoy and that my children will one day look back on and only remember the magic, the joy and the special heart-feels that they got from doing these things as a family.
And then they will very likely wonder all of these exact same thoughts that I just have and move on with their own families and traditions.
Freaking circle of life...