31 January 2005

Single...With Children: Christmas Lights - It's Never Too Late!

Teen-agers don't always expect pricey commercial gifts for Christmas

Single... with Children


Publication Date: 12/27/00

By the time you read this, Christmas 2000 will be history. The gifts, so painstakingly chosen and carefully wrapped, are now in the possession of the family and friends that you have worked so very hard to please. You now may be feeling a sense of relief and exhaustion or maybe even a little of the post-holiday letdown that is common after all the activity calms down.

No doubt some memories were made. Kodak Moments preserved for posterity. In the swirl of activity leading up to the big day, it's easy to get caught up in the buying frenzy. As parents, single or otherwise, the holidays can feel a little intimidating; the lists we try to fulfill can seem daunting. Because we're parents, we tend to go to great lengths to make certain we meet and exceed our children's expectations. It goes with the territory.

Probably like most parents, I try to pay verbal homage to what this season is really about: Love, miracles and peace. But I would be less than honest if I didn't admit to going to great lengths to make certain those Christmas wishes materialize under the Christmas tree. I can't even count how many times, in the days leading up to Christmas, I've mentally reconciled my bank account against my kids' wish lists. For a woman who normally cringes at the thought of reconciling her bank statement, I find myself scribbling sums over every available piece of paper, trying to find a way to procure that one last gift and still make the mortgage. Am I alone in this? Probably not. Am I proud of it? Not in the least.

A few days before Christmas I thought I had all of my bases covered. I had stretched my bank account just about as far as it could go. I was proud of the fact that I had acquired a couple of presents that my two teen-agers thought were impossible to expect. I was feeling fairly smug, thinking I had pretty much insured that this would be another Christmas for the record books in terms of exceeding expectations.

I walked into the kitchen to discover Katie and Justin sitting around the table engaged in what appeared to be serious conversation. The talk softened as I approached the table, thinking they were discussing what might be contained in the packages under the Christmas tree. Christmas was the topic, but it wasn't potential presents they were discussing. I soon realized that I had dropped the ball. In all the confusion and craziness, I discovered I had failed to do something significant that wouldn't have cost much at all.

It would seem that in the swirl of Christmas choir concerts, shopping and school parties, I had somehow forgotten to put out Christmas lights. I did intend to light up the outside of our home. I simply didn't set a specific time to do this, and these two teen-age kids of mine took notice.

No excuses. I had the lights from all the years past so it wasn't a matter of having to make yet another purchase. I had truly meant to put them out. I had even set the box in the foyer, thinking I would get around to it in a few days. I kept putting it off, and here it was a few days before Christmas and I discovered that I had single-handedly eliminated what had been a family tradition because I was too busy tracking down Playstations and Doc Martens.

What to do? Feeling chagrined and embarrassed at how easily I had let this ritual fall by the wayside, I did the only thing I could. After both kids went to bed, I donned my coat and gloves and, armed with my trusty staple gun and ladder, set out to make things right and bright! I think somewhere in my misguided thinking I had assumed they might be "too big" to really care if our house was festooned with twinkling icicle lights. I fell victim to the very commercialization of Christmas that I'd preached against all of these years. Most of all, I forgot that twinkling lights at Christmas bring smiles to kids of every age and that this tradition I had nearly forgotten was perhaps more important to our Christmas than a lot of the pretty packages under the tree.

I woke the kids up before dawn on the night after I learned my lesson. We stood outside in our front yard in a scene reminiscent of the movie "Christmas Vacation," and I felt for all the world just like Clark Griswold. I literally lit up Christmas and from the surprised expressions on my two kids faces, it was more than worth the numb fingers and stretched muscles. They were shocked that I had managed to affix all that glitter in the dark of night. I was grateful that I hadn't broken my neck climbing around on the ladder. Thank God for Christmas angels who protect single women on illuminating missions!

After we came back in the house for hot tea, and I collected my accolades for not totally dropping the ball, laughing at the thought of my neighbors wondering what this crazy woman was doing outside at 2 in the morning putting up Christmas lights, I reflected on the lessons I had learned.

Make no mistake about it, even teen-agers take pleasure and delight in all aspects of Christmas, not just the pricey commercial ones. Not all Christmas smiles come from finding that unexpected package under the tree, but in continuity of family traditions and activities that cost very little in terms of currency. And as I discovered a few days before Christmas, it's almost never too late to light up the night. Not all holiday memories come with a price tag attached. You can bet I will remember that next year.

Readers can e-mail Susie at Susiewrites@gmail.com or write to her c/o Amarillo Globe-News, Features Dept., P.O. Box 2091, Amarillo, TX 79166.

Click here to return to story:

© The Amarillo Globe-News Online

No comments: