My husband Mark with Emma and Matt the Summer of 2013

All I Want For Christmas Is Peace Of Mind

Christmas is a pile of stresses with trauma looming on list-filled December days. The mall, really what could be worse? Clearly, lots could be worse, but getting side-checked and jostled on a Saturday afternoon is not my idea of a good time. Seeing clothing marked down to the bone and hanging akimbo makes me worry. What happened there?

I remember spending a year-long afternoon looking for a faux fur vest with my cousin Rosemary at Lenox Mall in Atlanta. She is serious about her gifting and finds the most wonderful presents. By the third store I wanted to hijack a pair of scissors and alter the latest vest option to her specifications. Didn’t say a word, but I was seriously longing for the end of this treasure hunt. Like Rosemary, I can take a serious amount of time making a gift decision, as if I’m shopping for Jesus and Mary and everything depends on the right choice.

Rosemary eventually found the perfect vest, and I applaud her intrepid pursuit. This year I’ll be handing friends Thistle Farms candles. Just like last year. Thistle Farms is a worthy enterprise that lifts women from drug addiction, prostitution and poverty into productive and soulful lives. Therefore, Christmas gift repeating is ok, right? I’ll mix up the scents.

Christmas day often ends with unmet expectations. After the gift opening melee, you might find a room full of mauled wrapping paper and ribbon cast under chairs. One sweep of the room and there is an appalling feeling you did too much and a blooming concern that you didn’t get it right. Once my anxiety starts to simmer, I cut into the gift mayhem by picking up chunks of torn wrapping paper and stranded bows with a black lawn 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 special. He is a benevolent boss, and his adorable elves bring Christmas to fruition after a year of hard work. One whole year. Consider this length of time in our Tic Toc world. That cheery workshop is open non-stop for 365 days a year just like my beloved Waffle House.

While I love Amazon almost as much as my children, it can’t match Santa’s delivery method. A glorious sleigh floating across a twinkly sky and fueled by eight reindeer, not four or six but eight? We used to check the NORAD tracking system every year to see where Santa is on Christmas eve. The territory he covers in one night outshines the space program.

Christmas decorations lift every day of the holiday season. Some of my neighbors go all out, wrapping thousands of little white lights around processions of trees. One risks life and limbs to get a large 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. We plug-in the lights at night. Sometime around the end of February we drag the ragged spruce to the woods behind our house because it’s supposed to make a nice animal habitat.

Our Family Christmas Photo 2004

Christmas Card Photo 2009

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 a holiday email this year instead of the 100 plus cards we used to assemble, sign by hand and mail. 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.

Paring down Christmas is a deliberate process. I struggle with what to give my children in this simpler tableau. A book and a sweater, a book and a piece of art, a book and some super, fancy vinegar? Clearly, they are getting books. Two gifts each though; that’s it. My husband and I will exchange one. Mae, our little brown toast-point of a three-legged dog, will get a small bone. Lance, our huge, ebony bother of a Lab, will be relieved from “time out” and get a big bone.

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. Let’s just say I’m going to really try.

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.