I grew up in a family of modest means in a small beach town in California. We were big fans of Santa, decorating, baking cookies, presents, and even had a small gold elf that waited on the mantle every year; the story was that he came to life when Santa came down the chimney, and he would help him unpack our presents.
Every year we hung our stockings from the mantle of our fireplace and got to open one present on Christmas Eve; ALWAYS pajamas. (Mommy wanted us to look good for pictures on Christmas morning). We always seemed to get what we wanted somehow; probably because my parents went without for a while or daddy worked extra hours….all of which, we were completely oblivious to. My grandparents always showed up for the holidays with literal garbage bags full of presents; each of us having our own… indulging us to the fullest.
Christmas growing up for us…WAS the presents.
The tradition continued with my own daughters. We didn’t have the elf but the stockings and pajamas were just as they were for me. Each year they were asked to make a list and we always told them we wouldn’t get EVERYTHING on the list, but they promised they would be thrilled with whatever they received ….which was everything. It was great when the presents were $5.00 Barbies and art supplies or clothes but as they grew older, their lists got shorter but much more expensive; including stereos, cameras, video games, computers, cell phones, and anything techie. It got entirely out of control but no matter how much I promised my husband it wouldn’t happen again next year…it did.
Christmas growing up for them…WAS the presents.
Last year was our First Christmas as a blended family; two of my daughters weren’t home to celebrate but it was a daughter for me; and a son and daughter for my husband. The house we were living in was entirely too large for us since it was just my daughter and his son living with us at the time. I decorated banisters and balconies, foyers and columns, and had a couple of different Christmas trees; even clear lights glowing in the bathrooms. Neither of us were working at the time but we wanted the kids to have a good Christmas and not realize just how dire things were beginning to get (Let’s face it….we should have started looking for somewhere smaller to live two months earlier; but didn’t). They each received one gift but it was a doozy; us maxing out our Dell credit for laptops, cameras, GPS, and even an extra Coach bag…..because the GPS didn’t have an equal dollar amount for the laptop and camera. (We are STILL paying them off….a year later).
Christmas for them…WAS not only the presents, but had to be equal on all accounts.
This year is different. Very different.
We moved. We only have my daughter at home with us; moving out on her own in the new year. I am excited that I will have two of my daughters home this year and know that God will lead the other one back in His timing and her terms when she is ready. Robbe’s son and daughter may still stop by although we don’t know specifics yet. I have a feeling that perhaps they will change their mind when they find out that NO presents will be exchanged or “left by Santa” this year.
This year…it isn’t about the PRESENTS – but the PRESENCE. Not just the presence of Jesus which is HUGE in itself, but the presence of family; the feeling of family and togetherness. My husband is working but it has been a trying year for our family: one daughter taking a ten month detour, another living very meagerly and just losing her boyfriend. His daughter in college but never checking in or connecting with us and no longer “forced” to celebrate with dad after 10am on Christmas Day. His son lived with us for nine months but decided he didn’t want the structure our household provided and wanted to go back to his mom’s; where he lives now. We have told them that we are not doing presents although I am sure that a couple may hope we are only teasing and testing them. Boy…won’t they be surprised.
I want to get back to basics. I wish I had done it years ago. But now that we are living as Christians and coincidentally not financially able…we are making it about family. We are celebrating the life that He gave to us. We are embracing hope that He promises us. We are praising ALL that He has gotten us through this year and THANKING Him for getting us under the same roof again; praying for more to join us next year.
We want the kids to feel like kids again. When they walk through the door, we want them to forget the worries of their lives they live and pretend they are 10 all over again; with their biggest worry about which friend to play with or sleeping in on Saturday morning. We are going to go sledding as a family at a local park. We are making Mom’s Homemade Soup and eating dinner at ONE dining room table. We will bake Christmas cookies, complete with frosting paint and trim. There will be cocoa and Christmas movies going non-stop. Christmas music will be sounding throughout the house and we will ALL enjoy church as a family on Christmas Eve….A Campeau Family First.
Just as new mom’s have 9 months to plan for a new baby that they have never met but are excited to share…I AM excited for THIS Christmas. I have been planning the possibility of this First Annual Christmas at the Cottage for about 5 months and am more excited to decorate my “cottage” to honor Jesus’ arrival than any new mom could be in welcoming her baby. I am not painting pastels, or wallpapering walls. I don’t have mobiles hanging from the ceiling with animals and prints. But… I WILL have a Christmas tree decked out, a Nativity placed in a prominent spot (once I buy one and find the perfect place to put it), candles that smell like gingerbread, and string popcorn and cranberries to place around our small 1800sq feet.
I am celebrating with PRESENCE; his presence; the presence of family. There won’t be a birthday cake or party hats and horns but it will be the most joyous of Christmases I have ever had. And I could not be more thankful to share this season with my family; praying for those that aren’t able to make it home this year. But maybe….just maybe… there will be a Northern Star over Plymouth and the ones that are still wayward will follow it to be home for the Second Annual ….. Christmas at the Cottage.