Holidays can be difficult times – for such varied reasons. We each have our own list of who we don’t really like seeing, what we don’t really like doing, where we don’t really like going and why we should forget it all this year and skip the holidays completely. Yes, it is supposed to be a time of joy… sharing, giving and loving. Why then, for so many of us, does it often end up being a dreaded time of year; a disappointment, or worse yet, exactly as bad as we expected it to be?
Why? Well, from a sociological standpoint, we have so many “fabulous reasons” to embrace. Thanks to a variety of alternative lifestyles, today’s families are generally “broken” or “mixed” to begin with… It’s not unusual to celebrate the holidays with “family” you just met or hardly know. By virtue of birth, death, marriage, divorce and remarriage the landscape of familyland as it used to be, has been devastated. Now, add in an abundance of alternative life styles and hey, is it any wonder that hanging out with the family is a little tense and stressful?
And then there’s what we bring to the party… We show up for the holidays with lots of presents… (get ready for a very cool PUN) and a whole lotta PAST! If there’s any time that we humans carry the past in our pockets, it’s holiday time. I know that I personally have total (and often totally inaccurate) recall about what it used to be like; those OLD familiar smells and sounds, the songs and traditions; the games we played, the inside jokes, all that warm fuzzy stuff that just gets better as the memories get older. And, oh yeah, I remember all that “other” stuff, too. “THEY” were always at least an hour late, he was always so loud and so rude to everyone, she always wore waaay too much cheap perfume, they never listened – just talked, she never helped clear the table…
Every December – for as far back as I can recall – I have watched my favorite holiday movie, Miracle on 34th Street. I lose it every time little Susan Walker (played by Natalie Wood) finds Santa’s cane next to the fireplace. Seriously, I’ve seen this movie at least 50 times and every time… I cry. I remember watching it with my family when I was a child and, later, with my own children. It’s a magical, feel good movie. Based on this movie, I have an expectation that the holidays will bring miracles. Just like in the movie, I assume that there will be bad guys, problems and upsets… followed by miracles.
Based on the past, most of us expect everyone and everything to be “just like it’s always been”. Cousin Mark and his family will be late. The Cramer clan will be early. Aunt Ruth will pinch your cheeks and call you Cupcake. Uncle Frank will eat too much and fall asleep right after dinner. Great Auntie Linda will give you pajamas. The twins will fight over their presents and Grandpa will get indigestion from overeating.
I am an adult… until I get around my brothers. At that point we revert to thinking and acting like the children we were. We play, giggle, pull pranks, get loud and get physical. Is it any wonder that I am treated, as if I was still ten or eleven years old? Oops, what happened to the holiday “present”?
So that’s what we bring to the party… We show up for the holidays with lots of presents… and a whole lotta PAST! If there’s any time that we humans carry the past in our pockets, it’s holiday time. Empty your pockets… and get PRESENT!