My twelve year-old, Son #3, is making Christmas so much fun this year. I am so thankful for his spirit and the joy that is exuding from him these days.
Parents of teens know how the Christmas days of old are long gone. It is definitely a new era to adjust to. It reminds me of the years that I was an adult without children celebrating Christmas. It’s hard to describe – but there was something missing. The imaginative, magical presence that filled my childhood Christmas celebrations was sadly a memory…until the children were born and the magic of my Christmas Past returned. Seeing it through the eyes of a child (even when you are no longer the child) brings hope again.
But those children grow and become teenagers and life shifts again. The Christmas Lists of Past that were filled with super fun toys that would cause shrieks of excitement and children busting open the packaging are replaced with technological gadget covers and cases or cables and connections. Woo Hoo. I know that it’s what they want now, but geez is it boring. Accessories like bolts for skateboard wheels or chargers for cell phones end up packaged and found under the tree with no shrieks heard upon opening. Fun stuff right there.
It all takes some getting used to and it is most certainly a let-down as I think parents strive to live those magic days again vicariously through their own children. But there is a time period that our teenagers don’t get wrapped up in the Christmas joy the same way they used to. They are figuring things out for themselves.
After experiencing the “let down” for the second time, I am ever so grateful for Son #3 this year. His exuberance is contagious and I swear I can feel the Christmas spirit palpitating inside of his soul each and every time we hug this Season. And believe me, there have been a plethora of hugs this year! This is the child that didn’t want to put out a Christmas List. He wanted to be surprised. His mind raced with so many amazing ideas to give others and was chomping at the bit to the hit the stores to shop. He participated in the marathon cooking and baking this year for the ENTIRE process – beginning to end. He didn’t miss a beater – or a sprinkle.
If he has said it 1,000 times he has said one million – “I can’t wait! I’m so excited! This is awesome!” When I’ve asked him what precisely he is excited about, he spouts off a list. He’s excited about my Christmas potatoes, my Christmas crab ball, my Christmas mocha punch, all sorts of Christmas cookies, my father’s Christmas fudge, our awesome Christmas lights, leaving cookies and milk for Santa, lighting our Christmas tree every evening…the boy is overflowing with a “Tigger” inspired enthusiasm. I love it.
Every day that we have spent together proceeding up to Christmas, he has been incredibly busy. Helping me clean, do laundry, shop, bake…he just wants to immerse himself in the process and live in each and every moment. He hugs me numerous times throughout the day with an unmistakable joy. Today, as I am writing this, he is locked in his room wrapping presents that he is giving to his family members. He can hardly contain himself as he thinks of the happiness that each of us will receive when we open our gifts. He taunts me that he knows what to give me and how much I will love it.
Through this entire Season of preparation, he has never mentioned that he can’t wait until he gets his presents. Though I am certain that he is more than bowled over with the thought of what will await him under the tree from Santa or what his father and I have conjured up this year. But he has had a lot of questions this year. Not questions about whether Santa really exists or not and not questions of who Santa might be.
He has questioned my husband and I about our family Christmas traditions and where they came from. Each year our children go on a scavenger hunt to find their gift from us. My husband and I spend hours and hours up on Christmas Eve writing ten clues in poetic verse for each child that will take them to every floor of the home, to the garage, front yard, back yard, sometimes out to the mailbox, in search of their gift. The process requires that each clue leads them to find another clue – but upon finding the clue they must return to the Christmas tree where we are all waiting, to read the clue aloud before racing to the next destination. All of the children LOVE this! It ignites so much excitement for ALL of us!
While baking cookies the other evening, Son #3 asked my husband and I what that scavenger hunt was all about. Where did that come from? Why do we do that? My husband explained how his parents did that when he was a child and he kept it going for his family. Son #3 asked “Why?” At that point, I explained that sometimes there are memories that we have from our childhood that we carry over so we can remember the magic of our own childhood. His response, “Really? It feels different when you are grown-up?” I didn’t answer him.
He then asked me what things were carried over from my childhood. I began to say a few things. Suddenly my mind was swirling with all of the things from my Christmas Past that were incorporated into my Christmas Present. From the Bubble Ring baked and eaten on Christmas morn, to the gold garland hung on the Christmas tree, to the use of multi-colored lights…without those things how would I feel? Since my grandparents have passed away in recent years, I realized how much of them I have incorporated into Christmas now so that they are still with me…Grandma’s magnificent Christmas Crab Ball appetizer, Pop’s hand carpentered Mouse House, the use of the blue and gold Hostess holiday tins that carried fruitcakes from Uncle Courtney who worked at Hostess, the taste of aniseed Queen’s Biscuits from the earlier Italian generation, and a home filled with ceramic Christmas decorations that my talented and patient Grandmommy was so generous to make sure that each grandchild had upon her departure from Earth.
He was so surprised to learn that these things that made Christmas such an incredible experience for him, we derived from Christmas Past. They weren’t something that my husband and I just concocted and deemed a way to celebrate. It was all intricately woven into our lives over the course of time and given lovingly from generations of yesterdays. He was inspired by our conversation and I could see the wheels turning in his head. Probably imagining what his Christmas Future will be and what he plans to carry on.
I didn’t have an answer to his question that night about it feeling different when you are grown up. It isn’t often that I am at a loss for words – but at that moment I truly was. I felt sad. I’ve thought about it for several days now. At first, I was ashamed and thought that I had overshadowed the true meaning of Christmas with too much Santa Claus and diminished the birth of our Savior and that was why it was sad for me. I thought perhaps if I had properly kept the true meaning of Christmas at the forefront of my mind all of these adult years, it would have been more of a joyous occasion and not the mourning of my childhood. But today, as I walked through my home and mentally began checking off my Christmas to do list – I was overcome with emotion. I have the answer to his question and the answer to my teenage Christmas let-down.
“McLean, yes –Christmas is different when you are all grown-up. Yes, I still know what Christmas is all about. I know that it is the celebration of the birth of my Savior. But as time passes, we lose those we loved so dearly. Those that helped create our Christmas childhood magic. Those people that radiated Love in the most awesome, unconditional way. When they are gone, we fill our lives with those memories and things from Christmas Past, to bring that same Love to our Christmas Present, to hopefully pass that Love on to your Christmas Future. Christmas is Love, McLean. Thank you for making this Christmas especially wonderful for me this year. I’ll never forget this Christmas. I love you with all of my heart.”
P.S. And I know those teenagers will come around again when it’s time for them to reach into their own Christmas Past fueled with the Love that I have supplied in order for them to create their new Christmas Future.”