My Family with our Dog Clarissa in 2013

The Finest Christmas Gift

Christmas is a pile of little stresses with disaster looming on list-filled days. It’s a sinister treasure hunt that often ends with unmet expectations and a room full of shredded paper. Every year, I cut into the gift euphoria by picking up the mess with a big, black trash bag. I can’t make breakfast without restoring order, at least on the surface.

Despite the manic pace and tall orders, I’ll never give up on Christmas. Santa’s story is too delight-filled and inspiring. It’s so big that it takes a year for Santa, a very kind boss, and thousands of hard-working, adorable elves to bring the day to fruition. And his delivery method will never be beat no matter how hard Amazon tries.

The decorations lift every day of the holiday season. Some of my neighbors go all out, wrapping thousands of little white lights around rows of trees. Until recently, one risked life and limbs to get a large, sparkly replica of Rudolph planted on his roof. I love our Christmas tree so much that we keep it up in the living room through January. Then we move it to the back porch, where you can see it from the office and living room, and plug-in the lights at night. Sometime around the end of February we drag it to the woods behind our house because it’s supposed to make a nice habitat.

Since my children left for college, I’ve pushed back on Christmas traditions, tossing out anything that doesn’t hold real value and meaning for my family. As a result, we do Christmas by half, and it feels much better. More peaceful and manageable. I’m sending 12 cards this year instead of 100 plus. I won’t hang stockings filled with the ton-of-work it takes to come up with a creative collection of little things that are largely useless.

We have a tree, a wreath on the front door, and two poinsettias. I’m itching for a floral centerpiece on the dining room table, but we don’t need the $80 arrangement in my head. It won’t make our Christmas any better, and I’d have to move it at dinner because our table is narrow.

Paring down Christmas is a process. I don’t know what to give my children in this simpler tableaux. A book and a sweater? A book and a piece of art? A book and some super, fancy vinegar? Clearly, they are getting books.

There is one fine gift I’ve been thinking about adding, but it can’t sit under the tree. It’s a little dented and needs polishing. Matt and Emma will have to bring it home for tune-ups, but I give it with all my heart. It is acceptance. 100% acceptance for everything they are and do.

Just imagine having parents who love you simply as you are and don’t ask you to change. In fact, they celebrate your very essence. Parents who touch your foibles with a gentle finger. A mom and dad who let you rest in their love no matter what you do. This gift comes with a lot of ongoing maintenance for the giver, but I’d much rather spend time on acceptance than run around a mall looking for the perfect sweater.