As a child, Christmas Eve was in many ways my favorite day of the year. Our holiday tradition meant that my mother and I would either host or travel to one of her siblings’ houses for a big meal and the opening of gifts. All of my cousins and me would play games and try to stay up until midnight, when we might go with our grandmother to Midnight Mass.
On Christmas Day itself, my mother and I, being a 2-person nuclear family, would often join her friends somewhere somehow for a yuletide feast. Those were fine, but those Christmas Eves were Christmas to me. In my memory, I picture sparring with the cousins, rolling around on the rugs, drinking hot cocoa and hot apple cider, eating the Christmassy foods, shaking the presents, sneaking a peak at other people’s Christmas cards, staring absent-mindedly at the lit-up tree, watching a cartoon or two or “It’s a Wonderful Life,” getting away with things in my cousin’s room and then hiding something when adult footsteps came, checking out the new audio equipment someone just got as a gift, and all that.
I wonder what Christmas means or ever will mean to little Dar.
So far, it means fingering the lower parts of our Christmas tree, enough that we have to move the glass ornaments to the top. (This year, as I was decorating, he actually grabbed one glass ornament and took a big bite before I could stop him. That was scary. We escavated his mouth like archaeologists on a dig, and knock on wood, nothing happened.) Other than that, hard to say. These days he refuses any of the seasonal delicious treats – even gingerbread cookies. He’s eating his (Kraft-brand) goldfish, and forcing him to eat anything else has become a chore.
I’m a long way from the perfect parent that I may seem to be on this blog. Dar doesn’t seem to care about most things, and thus I find myself falling into an unwanted pattern where I don’t care to share most things with Dar. That is, unwanted thoughts flash like: oh, well, it doesn’t matter whether Dar sees it. I have to force myself to be as “present” for him as I am for our other child. I’m not proud of that.
Before becoming a parent, I looked forward to “giving” Christmas to my kids. I don’t think I ever really knew what that meant. I just wanted to recreate the joy that my mother and our family had given to me.
My mother was raised Catholic but turned utterly against the church; she was no more a Christian than she was an Iroquois. But she believed that Christmas was a special time, a time that was worth making special. She reliably bought a tree large enough to tap the ceiling, suspended received Christmas cards around the house, and made eggnog for our friends. Christmas mattered to her, and I suspect that had less to do with Christ and more to do with dedicating yourself, as days grow colder and shorter, to an annual celebration of life and joy. Or maybe it’s just a great time to be a kid, and she was happy to enable Christmas to enable my childhood.
How do I do that for Dar? How can I make Christmas for him be what it was for me? For as long as he can’t communicate, will I always feel like Dar is “missing” Christmas somehow?
Yes, I will. However, despite about a hundred holiday specials, perhaps we never really know the meaning of Christmas anyway. Perhaps Dar will have his own interpretation that will be just as great as anything I ever came up with.
Perhaps. I just wish he could tell me a little bit about it.