The Sweet Inevitability Of It All
As a child, the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas crawled. Kids perceive time a lot slower than adults, and those few weeks were full of anticipation and seemed to take forever. Activities would help fill some of the time: school holiday concerts, visits to Santa, the occasional party at friends’ houses or the annual holiday party at your father’s work back when companies still invited the whole family. Still, the days would creep by as school wound down before finally letting out for a 2-week break a few days before Christmas. Checking a TV Guide to see when your favorite holiday specials would be on one of the 3 tv networks.
Most years your family would stay home, with other family members traveling to you: cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents. Other years, it was your family’s turn to travel. Sometimes there was a party on Christmas Eve, with someone dressed as Santa being eyed suspiciously by a 6 year-old until they got their present. “That’s not the real Santa. He sounds too much like Uncle.”
The big day would arrive and presents were eagerly unwrapped. Toys and games were always appreciated, clothes less so even if you needed them. Breakfast, church, and then preparation for Christmas Dinner. More family would arrive, the kind you only see on holidays and birthdays. Cousins your age would follow you to your room to play with your new stuff while the adults laughed away in the living room. You would fall asleep that night tired and content. The day had finally come and was now done.
Forward a few years as you are now a high school or college student. You have a part-time job in retail that provides money for gas and movies the rest of the year, but requires long hours during the holiday shopping season. This time of year has now become a chore, something to be endured between occasional moments of happiness. Family gatherings are now more of an obligation rather than a thrill. You’d rather be with your friends. Some traditions you still hang on to and try to share with your friends, like showing them that neighborhood full of light displays you went to as a child. Christmas comes, but it is more of a day off before having to go back to work and deal with the after-Christmas sales rush.
A few years later, you’re no longer a child. In fact you have children of your own. You smile as you watch their excitement at seeing Santa or looking at Christmas lights. You’re smart enough to start buying a present here and there in September and October. Time moves very fast. Work occupies the week, and every weekend has some sort of event you have to attend. You realize that annual parties with friends who have children of their own have now become traditions. They have to start somewhere. Some of your family members have passed on, others have moved far away to start lives of their own. Technology helps ease the distance, but still they are missed. Suddenly the big day arrives, and the family still gathers. Parents have now turned into grandparents, spoiling their beloved grandchildren with more presents than you remember getting at their age. Soon it is dinner, and you all sit down. Someone says grace, and plates are passed around, the kids first, then the adults. Wine is poured, toasts are made, and at one point during the meal, you pause to look around and savor the sweet inevitability of it all.