Things change as you get older. For me, the holidays used to be filled with… magic. A lightness, an excitement – enthusiasm. There were stories of baby Jesus and Santa, whispers of presents, and tours through neighborhoods of brightly lit houses. For days and weeks there was a wonderful anticipation and, from that perspective, everyone felt it and longed for what was coming. All of it culminated in a day or two of sheer bliss, wrapping paper strewn everywhere, time to play with cousins, treats always at hand, and ending the day exhausted but falling asleep with a smile on my face.
I’m incredibly grateful for that experience. I know that’s not how everyone grew up. I wish it was because everyone deserves to share in that goodness.
It’s different now. There isn’t really a ‘holiday season’ anymore. I’m sure others would disagree but that’s how it feels to me. The only thing prior to Christmas is trying to figure out what to buy for others (and then actually remember and find the time to buy the gifts). Then I leave home to return to a place I used to call home. Then that day or two that used to be bliss is still filled with family, but it’s not the same. The love is still very much real and treats are still always at hand, but I tire quickly of being surrounded by people and dread the drive back. Now, I can see the cynicism on people’s faces and feel the underlying tension. The cousin I used to look up to now actually doesn’t like me, so we avoid each other. Now, instead of playing with toys, we sit and chat or play a game of cards, trying to ignore the questions about if I’m with anyone yet or not. Now, some cousins aren’t even there to celebrate because they live far away or are with their partner’s families.
It’s not that the holidays are bad now. Like I said, the love is still there, which is all that matters. I guess the point is that… the love isn’t perfect. Most of it is well intended of course, but it’s no where near perfect. And the day isn’t perfect. And the weather is never perfect. The presents aren’t perfect. The meals aren’t perfect (though the desserts usually are, I’ll be honest). And the people. Yes, the people definitely aren’t perfect.
What’s fascinating to me is the concept of family. You’re not supposed to get annoyed by them. When you only see your aunt a couple times a year, you’re not supposed to get tired of her. When you have this amazing, huge group of people who love you endlessly, you’re not supposed to miss the quiet of your one person apartment. And yet, so many of us feel all the things I don’t think we’re supposed to feel during the holidays. I mean, no one wants to feel anxiety or depression hitting them square in the chest during the ‘most wonderful time of the year.’ But we do. And going back to the place we grew up to visit all of our cousins and uncles and grandparents and aunts is more difficult than we ever knew it would be when we were kids.
The magic and the children who felt it during the holidays is gone. And you know? I don’t think that’s a bad thing. It’s just a grown up thing. I can accept that.
It’s not that the holidays are bad now. Like I said, the love is still there. And that is all that matters.