My husband and I went to the mall yesterday. Those of you who know me well may have just gasped. I hate shopping. Actually, I more than hate shopping. Going to the mall or entering into tiny shops over stuffed with products and people makes me panic. I normally send Mr. Macchiato to do the Christmas shopping armed with a list and his cell phone. The day after Christmas shopping trips with the kids have been taken care of by Mr. Macchiato... except for the few occasions he insisted I join in... none of which ended pleasantly.
I had only bought the gifts I have yet to mail and ordered something for the girls that was supposed to be in before Christmas but is not going to be. We decided to save those items for their birthdays which meant we had to do it all yesterday. Four. Days. Before. Christmas. It actually went very well. There were only two stores that I had to leave to wait for Mr. Macchiato outside and there were just a few very congested areas outside of the shops. It is a good thing that, at 5'11" tall, I am above the majority of the population. I would fall on the floor hyperventilating if I could not see over the people around me!
I happened to snag a seat on a bench during one of my waits and got to indulge in some people watching, something I quite enjoy. I was surprised to see more happy people than I expected. I did see some very stressed individuals, the most of which happened to be men on their own. I saw a lot of parents doing the tag team thing with their kids. One parent would stay outside while the other ran into a shop or two. Sometimes a kid or two would be squalling and I saw two kids in strollers missing one of their shoes. A darling boy missing his two front teeth was on the bench behind me singing Christmas carols. I also saw quite a few couples arguing.
Over the years we've had some memorable... ummm... fights.
One time we were in the parking lot of Target and it was days before Christmas and we could not find an Easy Bake Oven for Frappy or a kid keyboard for Chai Tea. I had a meltdown right there in front of God and everybody complete with jumping up and down and crying. We eventually found a Mrs. Field's Oven and a keyboard. It was pretty ugly until we did though.
Another year Mr. Macchiato took us out to dinner on Christmas Eve. Only... all the restaurants we drove to were closed. We eventually found one that was open but when we learned that there was over an hour wait, Mr. Macchiato turned around and walked out leaving me with all three kids who instantly started crying. We were on our way back home when we spotted a hole in the wall Mexican restaurant. The food was excellent! We were the only customers until another couple came in halfway through our meal. They started smoking and Double Shot, who was 5 at the time, got very angry. He started saying, "They are SMOKING! Don't they know SMOKING CAUSES CANCER!" We ended up leaving rather quickly because Double Shot's asthma is very reactive to cigarette smoke. We ended up yelling at the kids before they would stay in bed that night... our beagle defecated in her crate after Mr. Macchiato had just taken her out... Mr. Macchiato chucked her crate and all out into the 20 degree and icy night... then tromped around the front of the house looking for the hose in his underwear... settled down and gave Maggie Mae a bath (inside) and cleaned the crate (outside)... my eardrum ruptured during the night... and we woke up to the kids hollering that Maggie Mae had taken another dump in her crate at 6 am Christmas morning.
The mother of all bad Christmas Eves was here in Colorado. It was four or five years ago. We always go to see a new movie at the theater either on Christmas Eve or on Christmas Day. We have not lived near our families in over 18 years so it is a tradition we took from Mr. Macchiato's family. This particular year we went to see some Lemony Snickett movie starring Jim Carey. I felt it was rather dark and not very uplifting. This may come as a shock but... I am not a good communicator in person. I can be upset about something for months before I say anything. Well... I told Mr. Macchiato that I wanted to go to church on Christmas Eve, like we usually do. He said he didn't want to because all the people that don't go to church except on Christmas were going to make it too crowded. I stated, again, that that is what I wanted to do. He totally missed the cues that it was going to be a problem if we didn't. There was an explosion. I even left the house and sat, freezing, in my car in the parking lot of a Walgreens. We had a new bike for our son stored in the garage of some friends that we needed to pick up. I called them on my cell phone and talked to the wife as, unknown to me, Mr. Macchiato was on the phone with the husband. Their version of this story is quite comical... but it sure was not to us at the time! When I told her we did not go to church, she gasped and said, "Even I went to church tonight!" (They were not going to church at that time). I saw Mr. Macchiato driving toward their house and headed home. I thought... if Mr. Macchiato wants to celebrate Christmas like a heathen then we will. He had been given a bottle of Crown Royal for Christmas and I decided I was going to get drunk. I am not really a drinker, although I crack jokes about drinking all the time. I mixed a bunch of that stuff with some 7 up in a large glass. I could smell it and it didn't smell nice. Mr. Macchiato walked in at that point and asked me what the heck I was doing. I told him I was going to get drunk and took a big giant gulp. All my nose hairs, my throat, my esophagus, my belly... erupted into a flaming ball of fire. I started coughing and he started laughing. I then threw the glass down on the floor shattering it while I cried about not even being able to get drunk because it tastes too awful.
Yes, that is how this fine Christian woman acted because her husband did not take her and her family to church one Christmas Eve. When anyone asks Mr. Macchiato what we are doing on Christmas Eve he always states emphatically that he is taking his wife to church! We all laugh about it now... but not with a true from the heart laughter. At least, not from me. A lot of families have unpleasant scenes around the holidays that leave a permanent mark. This was one of those for me. Because I did not have Christmas Eve go the way I wanted... I ruined it for everyone. I especially ruined it for my kids.
When I was growing up we did not go to church. Christmas was a magical time to me. My mom made many of the Christmas gifts and decorations. Her love language is definitely gifts! She has always spent a lot of time throughout the year squirreling away birthday and Christmas gifts. (She loves to shop!) Our house was always clean and decorated nicely. We decorated the tree together while Christmas music played and we ate Christmas cookies and drank egg nog. My mom always appeared to be happy. We always got to open a new outfit on Christmas Eve to wear that night to the big celebration at my grandma's on my dad's side of the family. When we got home late that night we all got to open our new Christmas pajamas, robes and slippers. Once we were dressed in them we gathered in front of the tree and got to open one small present before watching our parents open all of their gifts to each other. Nearly every Christmas I've felt I've fallen short. I never could live up to my memories of my mom at Christmas.
I once told my mom this and she was shocked! Her memories of our Christmases were not the same. She told me about the stress of staying up half the night on Christmas Eve finishing some of our gifts. One year she even wrapped up the material and pattern for a robe for my Dad... and then gave it to him for Christmas the next year. There was unpleasantness around the holidays that I do remember but... overall, my memories of that time of year are very happy.
Jesus was not born on December 25. That is just the day that the powers that be at that time decided to make it. I don't want to get into all the paganism that surrounds Christmas or start a debate on whether we should celebrate it or not. Christmas is what you make it. It is a time that families get together... people reconnect with old friends... and a time of looking forward to a new year full of new possibilities. For me and other Christians, it is also a time to remember the humble birth of our Savior. It also happens to be the time of year with the highest suicide rate... and the time of year that is the most painful for some. Christmas time can bring forth all that someone has lost... relationships, loved ones, jobs... Christmas also brings about a lot of stress with the expense of buying gifts that you may not be able to afford.
One of my favorite Christmas stories is The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. When the Grinch took away all of the decorations, gifts, and even the food... Christmas came anyway. Our best Christmas as a family was the year we were really strapped financially. We only had $40 to spend on each child. To some, that may still seem like a lot. For me, coming from a history of Christmas including new outfits for Christmas Eve and Christmas day, new pj's, robes and slippers, many gifts and a stocking filled to overflowing... it was very difficult. We took our time. Even though we didn't have fancy food we all sat down together and had candles burning. Mr. Macchiato read to us all on Christmas Eve and then read the Christmas story from the bible on Christmas morning. I will never forget the way the light streamed through the windows on that morning and glowed around my children as they opened the few gifts they had. Every single one of my kids says that was their favorite Christmas. It was mine too.
Whatever your circumstances, I pray that the love of Jesus Christ finds you this year!