the downside to good Christmas memories

Ever since I’ve become an adult, and even more so once I had children, Christmas has become a not-totally-joyful time of year for me.  Recently, a friend of mine from church was discussing this phenomenon with me.  We are similar in that we both grew up in the Midwest in close-knit families surrounded by close-knit extended families of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.  After we married and moved to California, Christmases have never been the same for us.  Both of us shared the thought that we always feel like something is missing from our Christmases here.  We were blessed with such family-filled celebrations when we were growing up, and those kinds of celebrations just aren’t possible living 2000 miles away from that family.  So, we end up feeling like something is lacking around the holidays.

I don’t know that there will ever be a real cure for this feeling as long as we live here in California.  My friend is almost a generation older than myself, and since she still struggles with this feeling, I suppose that as long as we live here, that feeling will always be present at the holidays.  My husband and children and I will never be “home” (meaning in WI) for Christmas, due to the nature of my husband’s calling as pastor.  I’d love to have my parents come out here for Christmas, but for many good reasons, it makes more sense for us to go back the Midwest, and to go back after Christmas.

I know that for my children, this is home, and they are content to be at home for Christmas.  But that’s because they don’t know any other way.  I can’t help be a little sad for my girls, because their idea of a normal Christmas is so very different than what I had as a child (and what my husband had, although his family wasn’t as close as mine).  It’s still fun, but there’s often not many people with whom to share it.  So far, it looks like we’ll be alone for Christmas Day again, just like we were for Thanksgiving.  I would dearly love to have people over, but everyone else has family or has their celebration plans already in place or is traveling.  Plus, my husband won’t be able to rest and relax much on Christmas, because this year Christmas falls on a Friday, which means that a mere two days later is another church service, and that service needs to be prepared for.  And, the day after that, we leave for our trip to Wisconsin.  It doesn’t leave a lot of downtime in there.

(And here’s where I make my plea that I devoutly wish that Christmas would always be on a Sunday, just like Easter is always on a Sunday.  Why, oh why, can’t Christmas always be on the fourth Sunday of December???  It would make pastor’s lives, and the lives of their families, SO much easier!  I’m excited for two years from now, when Christmas WILL be on a Sunday!  That will be a good year.)

I don’t mean to be all blue and sad.  Lyd is very excited for Christmas, and I’m sure Curious J will get into the spirit of things real quickly by following Lyd’s example.  I’m trying to keep up my cheerful game face for their sakes.  And I’m grateful to have a loving husband, to have darling children, to be comfortable and well-provided for, and to have the money and time for us to all travel to Wisconsin.  So, I guess I have to focus more on the blessings I have surrounding me here, and focus less on the blessings I don’t have.

Because, the truth of the matter is this: The kind of family Christmas celebrations I enjoyed growing up aren’t happening any more these days in my family.  My aunts and uncles get together with their children and grandchildren, and so far, I’m the only one who has provided my parents with grandchildren.  Frankly, it would be next to impossible to get all the cousins get together, which isn’t surprising considering how many there are.  Everyone (except me) showed up for Grandma’s funeral and my aunt’s funeral, but other than that we don’t all get together anymore.  So, even if I did live in Wisconsin again, Christmases still wouldn’t be the same as they were growing up.

I guess that’s the beauty – and the downside – of memories.  I have such wonderful memories of those Christmases, and no matter if I am surrounded by lots of family now or if it’s just my husband and our two daughters, I want to make it as memorable as I can for my girls.  I want them to have happy memories of their childhood Christmases, and I need to focus on their happiness more than on my own.  Seeing them happy will likely boost my happiness level, too. 🙂

All told, however, I’ll be glad when the holidays are over and I can go back to easily noticing and appreciating all the things I love about living in California, without noticing what California lacks.  The holidays really can be a difficult time of year.

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I read this blog post over and thought, “Good grief, Emily, what a maudlin post!”  I don’t mean to be a downer, truly, but I do mean to be honest about how I feel, because I’m sure there’s someone else out there who has similar feelings, and I know that part of my reason for reading blogs and writing my own blog is to know that I’m not alone – and to let others know that they’re not alone either.  So, I will post this.  But, to my children who might be reading this someday in the future, don’t you ever think that Momma wasn’t happy to be in California with you at Christmastime.  I would MUCH rather be in California with you than somewhere else without you.  And I can’t wait to open presents with you and see the expressions on your faces!  I love you children so much, and wherever we are together is home.

And to my husband, don’t think I ever regret marrying you and moving far away to California.  I don’t, and I never have.  I’d rather be with you here than be without you anywhere else.  I love you so much, too, and wherever we are together is home.

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