This blog post is going to be quite different than my other ones and a lot longer, too. I've gotten serious from time to time, but I feel the need to get a number of things out of my head and "out there". I truly hope I don't offend or upset anyone. These are thoughts I've had for quite some time, and I feel if I don't make sense of them I will burst. Don't worry – I'll intersperse pictures of jewelry I've made so you'll have something nice to look at. Here's one now:
I'm not "feeling" Christmas this year, and it has bothered me tremendously. Thinking back, I don't think I've really felt in the Christmas spirit for quite some time. It seems surreal to me. I would say, "All of a sudden everything changes," but it starts creeping up on you around Halloween. First one store puts out a few Christmas decorations, then you hear "Jingle Bells" or "Winter Wonderland", then Christmas is in full bloom.
For a brief time every year we wear different jewelry and different clothes, we rearrange the décor of our houses, we listen to different music (which I'm doing right now, actually, to keep my thoughts focused and to try to get myself into the spirit), we watch different TV shows and movies, and we eat different foods. Then all of a sudden, on December 26th, it's gone.
It begins like a season, slow and steady, but it ends like the closing of a book. True, there are some leftovers of food and snatches of music that people hum, and you can get away with wearing wintery clothes and jewelry, like this pin:
But, this is just like when you close a book – you still have thoughts about the story after you're finished, and you may talk about it to your friends. The after-Christmas talk is usually about presents and meals, and maybe about how pretty someone's house is.
For the moment we'll ignore the Christmas lights that stay up until March.
Like I said, it just all feels surreal to me, and I've been trying to figure out why.
Christmas is a time of giving and spending time with family and friends. Well, that's not something that's reserved for one time of year only. I spend time with family and friends a lot, and I know others do, too. I give when I can, and I've been known to declare "Just ‘Cuz" days with my mom and stepfather, hiding little things in their garden for them to find.
Christmas is also a time of tradition. In my youth (oh, goodness… that sounds like I'm 80 years old!), we spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with my mother's family. Sometimes we spent some time with my father's family, but not much. Over the years the players changed somewhat. When John married my mother, we included his parents quite a bit. After I moved out, there was frequently a boyfriend or husband in attendance.
On Christmas Eve we would have traditional German food (right now "Kling, Glockchen" is playing, and I'm tearing up): German potato salad (Kartoffelsalat), wieners, sauerkraut, and cucumber salad, among other things:
Presents within the family are exchanged. I remember in 1996 we were at my Uncle Werner's and Aunt Senta's house, and Omi, who always gave money later in her life, asked my husband at the time (Chris) to bring her the little bag full of the envelopes. Each envelope had a name and a bow, with a card and money inside. She stood up and called out, "Come and get it!" while holding the bag upside down over the floor.
Later in the evening my grandmother (Omi) would heat up the Spechkuchen (I don't know if that's how it's spelled) that she made earlier in the day. It's a kind of sweet dough with bacon and onions inside, because that's what Germans love to eat – bacon and onions. (I can still taste it in my mind whenever I cook bacon and onions together). The kuchen are baked golden brown, and the smell is tremendous.
Christmas morning found me at my mother's for more present opening and for breakfast. It was frequently done in pajamas, and after I moved out I'd go over there in my pajamas then go home to get ready for Christmas lunch. We usually went out for lunch, mostly at the Country Squire, the former Sears estate, which is always beautifully decorated. The food is outstanding, too.
Over time our traditions have dramatically changed. Our family has dwindled. Uncle Werner and Aunt Senta have moved up to Eagle River, Wisconsin, which is much too far to come for the day. We've lost a number of family as well: Oma and Opa Koffler (Aunt Senta's parents), Mom's Aunt Tillie, John's mom and stepfather, Hap (my stepgrandfather), my Omi.
For a few years, it was just Mom, John, and me, but now I have Steve, and it's the four of us for most holidays. The first Christmas we lived in Milwaukee we hosted three parties: One for Mom and John, one for Dad and Barb, and one for Steve's family who live in Illinois. Last year Steve and I spent Christmas Eve alone and went to Mom's for Christmas Day. We'll be doing the same this year. Unfortunately we don't have the energy to host any parties.
Now, I love Mom and John very much, and we spend a lot of time with them. Maybe that's why Christmas seems odd – apart from the clothes and music and some fancy food, it's just like a normal Sunday dinner. We cannot afford to visit Steve's parents in Florida, not to mention visiting our relatives in Germany. Although I've only seen them less than a handful of times, I miss them terribly and wish I could get to know them better (both my in-laws and my German relatives). E-mail and Facebook is helping with that, though, even if my cousin Olaf wants me to write in German!
Maybe it's the passage of time that's bothering me, like it does every Mother's Day I go without being a mother. Christmas is the end of the year, and you tend to reflect on what's happened. I have a husband, cats, and a house I love very much (Even though my feet are rather chilly from being too close to an outside wall. Yes, Steve, I'm wearing my slippers.). I have wonderful in-laws and parents who consistently go above and beyond. I am by no means ungrateful for what I have.
Last Christmas I had a job I hated with a horrible commute. When it snowed, my ride home took 2 hours.
This Christmas I don't have a job. I quit in March due to the commute and a whole host of other reasons that I'm working to get over. With the job market as it is with the skill set I have (or don't have), it's been very difficult finding anything to apply for, let alone getting an interview. Financially we've been doing okay, due to the extreme generosity of those who know who they are, but it's starting to get tight. Mom got sick this summer, and I've been helping by taking her to her doctors' appointments and chemotherapy treatments. We decided to skip another of our traditions this year – giving little Advent presents. Each year Mom and I switch off, and this was my year to give to her. I asked what kinds of things she'd like, and she said, "Why don't we skip it this year?" It broke my heart to do so, but she truly doesn't want anything. She's not getting off so easy for Christmas, though – she IS getting presents!
My web design company isn't going too well, mainly due to my not having time to market properly. I am going to expand my business to include my jewelry sales. I had a fairly successful craft sale at the beginning of December, and I'm setting up a table at my bank on Friday with my jewelry and my web design information. I'm hopeful that I'll soon be able to "hold my own" and take the pressure off of Steve.
A lot of people say that Christmas is for the children. Many aspects of it are: Santa Claus, Rudolph, Frosty, candy canes, presents… Every year that goes by, the more I feel the absence of a child. It's just not possible right now. I'm getting old (yes, 39 is getting old to consider having a baby), I need to lose weight, we need to be more secure financially, and… what kind of a mother would I be? There are many insecurities and many non-insecurity reasons to consider. We're comfortable how we are right now, and a baby would disrupt all of that. Oh, but what a disruption!
And, yes, I realize there is a religious reason for Christmas. I'm not up for discussing religion in this blog – too many people have very strong opinions, and I don't want to entice anyone into a flame war. All of the other stuff I talked about (food, presents, decorations, etc…) doesn't really have anything to do with the religious reason anyway.
So, what have I learned in the last 2 hours and over 2 pages of straight typing? I don't like change (that's not a big shocker), but there are some changes I long for. That's not horribly profound, is it? After all these years, I miss my grandmother more and more. I can hardly think of her lately without tears welling up. Maybe that's because Mom's been so sick, and I'm afraid I'm going to lose her, too. Her prognosis is very good, but she feels so awful sometimes that I worry. You know, typing that out actually helped. I think that is why I'm so upset about Omi. I know it will happen sooner or later, but I'd rather it be later. Much, much later.
You hope that every day, every month, every year will be better than the last, or at least not terribly worse. Although there are a number of good things in my life (I keep using the disclaimer so you know I do not take Steve or anything for granted), I do feel that in some ways each year is worse than the one before. I am working to make it better, but I get tired of the struggle sometimes. I know it could get a lot worse, and I fear that if I can barely handle what's going on now, how could I handle things if they got worse?
That's what has been swirling around my head this December. Steve has been wanting to decorate for Christmas, and I have been resisting. It's important to him, though, and after getting all of these thoughts out, I think I'm ready.
At the very least, I'm on the right track to be in the Christmas spirit. There will be tears for those we miss, hugs and kisses for those we can reach, and love and light sent to those we can't.
If I hear Feliz Navidad one more time, though… all bets are off. :D