It’s that time of year when some of my friends and family start stressing out about Christmas and I’m reminded of the days when I did too. It’s been quite awhile since then.
Growing up my mother made a big deal out of every holiday whether it was Valentine’s Day, Saint Patrick’s Day or Thanksgiving. Christmas was by far the most important and taxing of the holidays for her and she’d start preparing well in advance. Too many presents were bought for too many people using credit cards that would take months to pay off. She was also a hostess extraordinaire offering delicious appetizers, meals and desserts within our beautifully decorated home.
Providing all of that brought her some enjoyment, but her obsession with trying to achieve perfection took it’s toll on her energy and spirit, resulting in her feeling anxious, then joyous, then volatile and then depressed. In later years we realized she suffered from an undiagnosed mental illness that had her wound so tight that something as random as finding a tissue in one of our “just-for-show” trash baskets could cause her to fly off the handle.
Less manic but similar to my mother in some of her obsessive and people-pleasing ways, I also went overboard at Christmas for many years. My list of folks to buy for was ridiculously long and I hand made a lot of the presents myself. The pressures of shopping, crafting, mailing out cards, decorating, socializing and later having to deal with my overspending had me dreading December 25th more than looking forward to it. I actually got to the point where I wanted to stop celebrating it all together and would have if I wasn’t married to such a Christmas fan.
Since having children my strategy has become more lax as years pass. I no longer buy gifts for all our friends and relatives – only the children we see over the holidays. I’ll also buy for an adult if they raised us or raised the people that raised us; if they’re hosting an event we’re attending; or if it’s a picking-names-out-of-a-hat scenario. Gone are the days when everyone I cared about got a present. I will revisit that practice if I ever strike it rich.
Christmas cards are a thing of the past too. I never went as far as writing an annual letter, but I used to make cards and mail them out with pictures of my kids to a large list of people. I stopped doing that out of necessity one year when my computer crashed and I lost my whole contact list. It was such a relief not having to do it I never did it again and not one person ever complained. Not to me anyway.
I’ve never been into cooking but I used to bake for the holidays until I discovered how much easier and faster it is to buy from a store. I will only bake now if my kids are into doing it as an activity together. Making and decorating sugar cookies or gingerbread houses can be tons of fun.
My Christmas decor is low key as well. A tree adorned with sentimental ornaments is displayed and we put out whatever festive knick knacks are in the big bin stored under the stairs. Since minimizing my efforts I don’t dread the holidays like I used to. It certainly helps we usually travel out of town to visit our families at their houses and don’t have to do all the hard work.
Spending time with people I love is all that concerns me at Christmas now and I wish my mother was still alive so we could visit her too. Our relationship was so toxic and abusive we hardly saw each other the last 20 years before her death in 2013.
My brother and I sure miss her though, and think of her often – especially during all the holidays that she tried to make special when we were young. The love in her heart was pure and our love for her is everlasting.
Lori Welbourne is a syndicated columnist. She can be contacted at LoriWelbourne.com