Last year, I was that mom. You know, the one in a full panic because the toy of the season that every kid wants is out of stock, and, guess what, that’s the one toy yours wants for Christmas. The shame of participating in this has plagued me all year. But, before full judgment sets in, let me explain. I assure you, my motives were pure.
For the full picture, I should probably start at the beginning. I love Christmas. I unapologetically love Christmas. I balk at those who say it is all about American greed, a holiday kept alive by the big box stores and capitalism. To those I say, it is what you make it. For me, Christmas was made a time of traditions by my parents. Each year, we put up the live tree and we spent an evening early December with Dad murmuring swear words under the tree trying to get it perfectly straight and my mom carefully laying out the ornaments, some of which she still had from when she was a child. The mantle was full of garland and the house strewn in lights. It was beautiful and peaceful (when the swearing was done anyway).
We baked endless numbers of Christmas cookies and made plates for all of the neighbors. We displayed all of the Christmas cards we collected, and my mom produced her annual family Christmas newsletter to send to the extended family. The week of Christmas, my dad packed us all in the car and we drove around to all of the neighborhoods to see the lights others had put out. My sister and I grumbled each time, but, really, I loved it. Christmas Eve began with my dad taking my sister and me to a movie while my mom got everything ready. Each year we got older, the movies turned more and more into ones he enjoyed. Somehow the movie became some violent, plotless movie (i.e., James Bond) and was announced proudly by my father sometime early November. He’s lucky I love traditions. We’d return full of buttery popcorn, and I would prepare a Santa survival kit, which consisted of activities to keep myself occupied during my restless night of waiting for Santa to come.
I loved all of this, but none of it was better than Christmas morning. I woke up early. I mean early. Usually before 5 am, but I was instructed to wait until 5 to wake everyone else. Yes, I was annoying. I’d wake up my sister and then go wake up Mom and Dad. We’d all wait in my parents’ room as my mom tried to force smiles and Dad went down to make sure Santa wasn’t still there. He’d turn on all of the lights and candles and then would let us know it was all clear. We’d go downstairs in the darkness and turn the corner where all of the Christmas lights awaited us. Pure beauty. The day was spent lounging together with plenty of sweets and A Christmas Story on repeat. A day of family being together with no where else to go and nothing more important to do.
Some of these traditions morphed a little bit as we got older. As a teenager, I had to set an alarm to get up at 5 am, but I still did. The belief in Santa faded but the feeling of the traditions never did. My parents never let the traditions go, and when I had kids, I wanted them to have the same thing when they grew up. So last year when Riley was three and fully understood who Santa was, I became slightly obsessed with making sure she didn’t doubt him. And when she asked Santa for only one thing, I knew I had to get it. It was the week before Christmas when the request was made. All of the presents had been bought. The traditions had unfolded the way they should and all was right with the world. Until that request and the realization that no store in our town had the Paw Patrol Marshall truck that she wanted. Panic. Not because she needed any more toys or that she wouldn’t be happy with the other toys I had gotten her. Panic because I wanted the magic to be real for her.
So, the search began. I called all of the stores I thought were in a reasonable driving distance and planned which day I could take off of work to get it. No luck. Then brilliance struck! My mom was visiting her sister in Knoxville, TN. Surely the Volunteer State would come through for me. Knowing she was heading out on her return trip that morning, I grabbed my phone and dialed my mom. Again, no luck. It was only 8 am after all. I dialed my aunt. When she picked up the phone, I quickly explained that it wasn’t an emergency. Well, actually it was. It was a Santa emergency. She told me she’d have my mom call me right back. I jumped on Internet and called all the Targets, Walmarts, and Kmarts around the area. Shot down by all except one. The store was out of her way, but my mom agreed to make the trek. From two states away, Marshall arrived just in time.
Christmas morning came, and all traditions were followed. I woke up before 5 am and made sure all the lights were on before the girls got up. We stayed in bed a little while before going downstairs talking about whether or not the girls thought Santa had come. In excitement, Riley bounded downstairs and stopped a minute to gawk at the tree. The time came to open the present that contained Marshall and for all of the effort that went into to it, I have to say the result was a little lackluster. But, the sparkle in her eyes as she enjoyed each moment of our traditions had never been brighter. And so I learned, as I already had known, the magic of Christmas lies in magic of the feelings our traditions produce. It doesn’t lie in what presents are under the tree.