Making Time to Enjoy the Christmas Presence |

Making Time to Enjoy the Christmas Presence

by Lorie Smith Schaefer

Well, it’s started — that temporary insanity know as “the holidays.” And like most people, I go a little nuts, a little overboard. I make lists in my

planner, on my refrigerator, and while lying awake at three in the morning. Trying to get all the details right for a perfect holiday sure can take the edge off all the fun.

I keep at it because of the misguided notion that by some act of organization or will I can create a perfect Christmas. Let me tell you, those perfect Christmases don’t exist anywhere but at Martha Stewart’s house and in our dreams.

Come to think of it, even at the first Christmas — when God himself was in charge of arrangements — folks had to sleep in a barn. And the gifts didn’t arrive until January 6th.

And those memorable Christmases of our childhood? I’m not convinced that they were perfect either. I think they exist as a composite, like “Christmas’s Greatest Hits” in our memory. A great meal. Snow on Christmas morning. The biggest tree. The best surprise. Everyone together. Laughing ’til your face hurts. All those things didn’t happen in one year, and yet we can be easily overwhelmed by our efforts to re-create the fantasy.

So this year I’m giving myself a gift that I’ll share with you.

I’m making time for a few little celebrations, a few rituals that speak to the magic of a Christmas presence and rekindle my spirit. In addition to the shopping and cooking and decorating, I’ve made myself a special to-do list. Here are 10 things I can do to insure that the last Christmas of the century is a merry one:

1. Load the CD changer with an eclectic mix of my favorite Christmas music:

Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Mannheim Steamroller, John Denver, Eartha

Kitt, Peter Paul and Mary, The Muppets. Turn up the volume. Repeat.

2. Drink eggnog. After all, it is loaded with calcium.

3. Pull out the familiar-but-tacky felt and Velcro Advent calendar. The Santa

made from a Pringles can. The lace-and-ribbon-bedecked canning lid encircling a photograph of a little girl who used to live here. Each of these small treasures has a story attached and this yearly ritual of unpacking allows for a retelling and a reminder of how precious each moment is.

4. Look through photo albums and watch old home movies. My husband’s

family watches the silent 8mm home movies from the ’50s, ’60s, and

’70s. Even though they’ve been converted to videotape now, there is still no

sound. We have to add it ourselves, like Mystery Science Theatre. The unwritten script and oft-repeated jokes still cause tears of laughter to run down our faces as we watch five children with goofy hair and flannel pajamas open year after year of presents. Some of those kids are

grandparents now.

5. Call my parents and my brother several times, not just on Christmas Day. If we can’t be together, at least we can keep in touch.

6. Play cards or Monopoly or Trivial Pursuit and make at least

one batch of cookies or peanut brittle or chicken tacos with everyone in the

kitchen. And laugh.

7. Share what I have with others.

8. Watch two movies — “White Christmas” and “Meet Me in St.

Louis” — with a bowl of popcorn and a box of Kleenex.

9. Go to church on Christmas Eve. Sing the songs, light the candles, remember a birthday.

10. Read Christmas stories to a child or to myself. My favorites are “The

Polar Express” by Chris Van Allsburg, “A Wish for Wings That Work” by

Berkeley Breathed, “The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree” by Gloria

Houston, and “Santa’s Book of Names” by David MacPhail. These are good

for all ages.

Berkeley Breathed’s “Red Ranger Came Calling” and Patricia

Polacco’s “Welcome Comfort” are perfect for the slightly older, skeptical set who may have begun to disbelieve. “Red Ranger” comes complete with photographic evidence of a “guaranteed true” Christmas miracle.

As a child, the boundaries between my imagination and reality

were always a bit blurry. I’m sure I heard sleigh bells on the roof even when my age went into double digits. I’m nearly 50 now and I still believe. I believe in the power of faith. I believe in the capacity of the human heart. I believe in a Christmas presence.

I believe I’ll hit the repeat button on the CD changer and pour

that cup of eggnog.

At least I can check two things off my list today. Just eight to go and

it’s only December 1st. I’ve got plenty of time.

Lorie Smith Schaefer and her husband have celebrated twenty-two

Christmases in Carson City. They have raised two daughters who are now in college, but who will be home for the holidays.