Friday, December 29, 2006

No Obligation

My Christmas will be chaotic no more. Thanks to wise words from (YD) Youngest Daughter. I’ll tell you later what she told me.

But the chaos? You know all about it. Even within tight-knit families there is a high level of diplomacy involved in choosing the right gifts and communicating plans for the Christmas venue.

So like everyone else I fret a great deal about Christmas. We have taken early traditions, modified them, remolded them, and shook them up to find the right mix for us. My childhood Christmases were all the relatives gathered together Christmas Eve after a huge supper. Then out came the accordion, the mandolin, the sax, the mouth organ, the song books, and for the younger ones the tambourine, some kitchen spoons and metal pots. Or a comb and piece of tissue paper. Then we played and sang our hearts out.

Now that doesn’t work for our own family because although we have a couple of guitars and some of us like that kind of thing, there are the one’s that don’t. And any hope the non-musicians might have for a joyful Christmas is ruined by the raucous behavior of the rest of us with our sour notes and clashing pots and spoons. So we scrapped that.

Then, for a few years we did the high-end gift exchanges until we all felt a credit-card pain that literally wiped out any joy until mid-July. Then we exchanged names for a few years but somehow that too began to lose favor. Eventually we let the pendulum swing the other way. No gifts for anyone except the grand-kids. This too, seemed a bit unfair and bleak for the ones with no children. So somehow we have drifted back to a gift exchange of a simpler kind.

This year I promised not to let it all get me down. But how could it not? Hating shopping the way I do. Hating the dreaded trip to town the way I do. And the kids are all doing well enough that it is really difficult to find that special gift that will be both useful and appreciated. Furthermore, this year I was bound to Hub’s agenda because until I get eye surgery I am unable to drive. So although there were a few mornings where I was motivated to go shopping, Hub’s motivation didn’t come until late afternoon and by then mine had packed up and left.

So rather than taking my early morning motivation into town, I took it downstairs to my treasure room of cloth scraps, lace, leather, and string. I’m always happy here. It’s more fun than any mall. And soon I came back upstairs with a selection of Christmas gift materials. I made double fleece mitts for the boys out of some lovely faun-colored material and decorated them with blanket stitch around the cuffs. I used an excess piece of flannelette originally bought for a baby quilt to make a soft pale blue nightgown profuse with lace trim for Middle Daughter. Granddaughter had no night wear in her bag last time she stayed here so I gave her an old thread-bare cotton one to wear that was in my stash. She said it was beautiful, that she felt like an angel in it. So I pulled out some new cotton from my stash and using the old rag nightgown as a pattern made her a new angel-gown.

When I wrapped the gifts, I supplemented the boy’s mitts with boxes of chocolates. The girl’s gifts with small bath kits. Simple gifts all.

Then Christmas day came. The three girls and their hubby’s streamed in the front door with boxes and boxes of gifts. Huge boxes that they struggled with to push them through the door frame. The tree was soon buried with only the top half visible. I watched in bewilderment and with a sinking heart. Feeling scared, sad, inadequate, guilty – you name it, I was feeling it. And what I was feeling was not good.

As soon as the last package was precariously balanced on top of all the rest, I said to YD, “YD, why did you do this? Why did any of you do this? You all make me feel so obligated.”

YD’s reply was quick. “Obligated, why should you be? Did you shirk on dinner? Are we getting store-bought buns or canned cranberries? What did you do with dinner to make you feel obligated?”

I immediately swapped miserable feelings of obligation for a wonderful feeling of peace and joy. I DID NOT shirk on dinner. The buns were homemade. The pumpkin pie filling and cranberry sauce did not come out of a tin. I made the extra stuffing that is always in high demand. I had an impressive array of cookies, sweets, and dainties. And the Ceasar dressing was home made as well. The house was prepared as if the Queen, herself, was coming for dinner.

No obligation to be felt. I did my share and they did theirs.


Matty said...

I've been down that path too, maxing out the credit cards, buying too much for too many,,,,then cutting back and picking names,,that didn't work so well,,,,,and finally, I said, enough! Nobody in my family is doing well enough, let's just do it for the grandkids! So the grandkids are spoiled, and the adults enjoy a wonderful meal!
The exception is their birthdays and that day is special so yes, then I splurge.
Sounds like you had a wonderful Christmas and they all enjoyed the 'real thing', no cutting corners there.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Julie Oakley said...

Wonderful younger daughter for so promptly pointing out your HUGE contribution. It is so difficult.

Pauline said...

I found your blog via Patteran Pages. This is a wonderful message - that we all can do our part and it's enough. What a wise YD you have (and a wise mother she has for recognizing the wisdom in her words.)

Roberta said...

Oh matty, I am in such solid agreement that the greatest fun of being a Grandma is spoiling the Grand-kids. I'm totally in favor of that.

Thanks for the comment, Julie. I don't think YD had a clue when she joked about me 'shirking' what a great comfort that joke turned out to be.

Pauline, I'm truly pleased you stopped by for a visit. I left a postcard for you at your place.

And to all of you, best wishes for a Happy and Healthy New Year. Let's talk more next year, okay?

Matty said...

Here's wishing you and your family a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.
Keep on bloggin, see you next year!