Many believe that Christmas has magical powers. For some reason it's the one time of year that "goodwill toward men" isn't just a slogan on a card. The effort required to have a merry Christmas increases with time. As technology speeds by us and we create our own places in the world things aren't as easy to put together anymore.
It's harder to get together, to fly, to get time off work. But when you are able to make something work, it can be worth everything in the world. I remember brief moments where Christmas felt like the most glorious day on earth. Nothing compared to the rush of the morning, where sugar plums dancing on my 6 year old brain kept me and my siblings awake at night. Christmas Eve was always the worst day of the year because it just wasn't Christmas. Wrapping paper ripped to shreds and big, young eyes fixed on glittering trees, ornaments embossed with your name, the year you were born. Those things tend to fade away as you get older and the magic is revealed: No Santa No real gifts The pain of shopping The gutting of the wallet The travel The time off work All of these factors make you lose your faith in the holiday season. Bright lights and festive sweaters can't mask the hard hitting reality of money, time and energy. As I spent my first Christmas away from home, I learned a great deal about what really matters in life. Yes the time, money and energy matter, but they don't even come close to the look on the face of a child who really loves their Christmas gift. I met my little cousins for the first time this Christmas. And far off, near wine country, halfway to Lake Tahoe (a place I faintly remember as the site of many family trips) I found something I knew I was missing since I moved away: a sense of belonging.
Families become distant for a number of reasons, but distance is number one. My aunt and uncle have always been in California, and at one point my family was too. And of course we saw each other a few times per year. Because why wouldn't you? Family is family. Anyway, we moved. And with that came great distance. Some cards and some phone calls exchanged, but there isn't anything like person to person contact, seeing the faces of people who share your tree, share your secrets. People who are not bound together by common interest, but by common blood. It's powerful. Something I've learned this year is that there needs to be no apprehension when reconnecting. More often than not, if you haven't seen someone in 10 years, they're just happy to see you. Families are like that. Distance comes and years pass, but once the opportunity to become close or to help in any way comes, they are right there. Anyway, I drove for three hours. Nervous that whatever expectations they had for me wouldn't be met...for my lack of age and wisdom preceded me. I was accepted with open arms. I spent a happy two days in great company. There was wine and laughter, little rosy cheeks in the winter sun, ice skating. I was part of something, even if only for a weekend. When you move away from everyone you know, you get this little chip on your shoulder. It's a reminder that while you're struggling, trying to find yourself, look for the hope, your friends are all together laughing and drinking like you never existed. Your nuclear family misses you, but they must carry on. Your memory exists in mismatched boxes and plastic bins. Your trophies collect dust. Your pictures removed because it upsets your mother too much to look at them.
The details aren't important, but the chip on your shoulder can wear away, if you're willing to accept that things change. People get older and some even forget about you. But if you can look forward to little things...like kids playing, laughing at things you say, the ability to teach a little human to ice skate, drawing pictures to hang on fridges, having adult conversations and holding your own...well, than any things possible. Christmas is a facilitator. It encourages people to take a look at their lives. It's a comparison: how can next year be even better? I'd love to get my whole family together in California. No pressure. No expectations. We have a blind acceptance. Support at all cost. it's part of being a family. It's part of love.