Do You See What I See?

bulb‘Tis the season of sparkling ornaments, twinkling lights, brightly wrapped presents, and other festive joys too numerous to mention.

Ahhhh…the holidays.

I’ve got my Starbucks hot chocolate, Christmas carols on the car radio, cookies baking in the oven, and nightly Christmas classics on TV.

 What’s not to like?

Well…besides the traffic. And the shopping. And the shipping. And the fruitcake.

Oh and the ugly sweaters. There is that.

sweater

The tackier the better and deliberately kitschy-

but all in good fun, if not in good taste.

And since we’re on the subject of bad taste,

who could forget the old white elephant gift exchange?

Always good for a belly laugh or two.

And speaking of belly laughs…I recently received a gift that while not a white elephant,

certainly turned out to be the elephant in the room.

wrap

It started off well.  Square shirt box, jolly paper.

I tore open the wrap and gave the box a quick shake.

No rattles, only the crackle of tissue paper. Hmmm…something soft then.

I lifted the lid and folded back the paper.

 The boxes content took my breath away. Literally.

(Like the gals in those jewelry commercials at Christmas…well sort of…)

gift

What is it? What did you get?”

Too stunned to speak, I lifted the garment out of the box.

I looked at the faces of my daughters to see if I was on point or overreacting.

  Deer in the headlights is the only caption that comes to mind.

fireball

It was jaw-droppingly unattractive. Hideous even.

The color was known to be NOT my favorite, and certainly not flattering to me.

Not to mention the style. Woof!

Maybe for a granny.  Wait! I am a granny! Oh lordy.

Luckily, the sender of the gift was out of state so couldn’t witness the state I was in. Literally.

It took a polite minute or two before the laughter broke out. And the tears. From the laughter. (I’m not so shallow that I’d cry over a gift-but it was close!)

Chants of “try it on! try it on!” filled the room.

I shuffled off to my room so I could preview before humiliating myself in front of everyone.

It was even worse on-if that’s possible. I looked like a bag of doorknobs.

I twirled in front of the mirror. No improvement.

Ugh. As in Ug-ly. It could win an ugly sweater contest for sure.

Only it wasn’t supposed to be an ugly sweater.

Someone had actually gone to a store with ME in mind and picked out this monstrosity.

I was not feeling flattered at this point.

The nice side of me didn’t want to be ungrateful, but the naughty side of me was winning.

Luckily Santa had already come so it was too late for coal.

(Although that would be handy for the bonfire I planned on having later…

when I torched this highly flammable fabric.)

After I had dawdled as long as I dared,

I put on my big girl panties and went out to face the music.

ralphie

I entered the room and you could have heard a pin drop.

Eyes glazed over, and not just from the sugar-high.

My sweet toddler grandson was the first to break the silence…

“Wow, Maw Maw-Wow!”

His chubby little hand rubbed the fabric as he gazed at me

in just the same way I gaze at a panful of  holiday fudge!

fudge

Everybody did laugh out loud then-but thankfully not at me.

There were smiles all round for this sweet boy and his pure and sincere adoration for the abominable snow-sweater and his ungrateful granny.

So it’s true what they say then…

Beauty really is in the eye of the beholder.

As a little boy taught me,

 beholding is more than just looking at something.

To behold is to really see something-

not just with your eyes,

but with your whole heart.

This Christmas I plan on looking less and beholding more.

peanuts

Luke 2:10-15 ….For behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

A Christmas Snapshot…1992

anticipation-kid

Anticipation.

It’s the stuff of Christmas! Part excitement/part wonder- with a good dose of anxiety mixed in. (Naughty? Nice? Did Santa see that?)

Back in the day, (yeah, we’re going there again…) there used to be a ketchup commercial where the glass-bottled ketchup was tilted precariously above a tasty burger. During the duration of the commercial, everyone waited for the first drop of ketchup to slowly plop out, while Carly Simon sang her famous tune Anticipation. And I do mean s-l-o-w-l-y… If you’ve ever used ketchup from a glass bottle (which is way cooler than its more convenient cousin, ketchup in a plastic container) then you know the secret why they invented the plastic squeeze bottle in the first place!

Glass may be retro-cool, but that ketchup took forever! Anticipation, indeed. After that commercial, any time we had to wait-or make someone else wait, (always more fun!) we would sing “Anticipation,” as a joke.anticipation-7

Anticipation is more than just waiting, it is defined as “a feeling of excitement about something that is going to happen, or the act of looking forward.” Merriam Webster online also offers up a second definition, “the use of money before it is available.” I had never heard that particular definition before, but unfortunately, I have lived it!

So begins the tale of Christmas, anticipation, & me-or rather, us.

Once upon a time our little family of five moved from Chicago to Pennsylvania. Because we were young and crazy, we moved when I was nine months pregnant, and our fourth baby came a few weeks later on December 5th.  It was a busy time. We were financially strapped, my husband was learning his new job, we had one car, and cherry on top-Pennsylvania seemed to miss the snow day and slid right into a snow year! Oh, and Christmas was coming with all that entails, there is that. Plus we were on one side of the country, and our family was way out west.  We were feeling overwhelmed and wondering if we had made the right decision. Although joyful, those early years can be rough.

But help was on the horizon. That particular year, my mom surprised us by calling and telling us she was going to be making our Christmas “extra special” that year. She and my dad knew it had been a transitional time, and said not to count on other years being as special, but that this year’s gift was a one-time thing.

Oh, were we excited! And so, with visions of a big fat check with more than one zero, we anticipated the holiday with glee!

tis-the-season-of-giving-post

(& Receiving!)

Finally, after all the challenges of the past few months, we would be able to sit back, relax, and enjoy the holidays. We ticked off the days advent-style…stringing popcorn and cranberries, making ginger men, cutting down the tree, sipping hot cocoa, and sledding. We decorated, baked, wrapped, and anticipated Santa’s arrival and my parent’s generosity. I don’t know who was more excited for Christmas to come that year-the kiddos or us!

Oh yes, Christmas Cheer was alive and well in the Williamson household!elf

(Or you could skip the carols & give some Christmas Cash!

That spreads Christmas cheer too, I hear!)

 ‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all I could think was… Would it really be bad form to get up before the little people in our household? We concluded it would definitely be very Grinchy to do that, so we waited them out. Eventually, we heard them stirring.

grinch

Christmas morning had finally come!

We scrambled out of bed, shoved past our children on the stairs, rushed the Christmas tree, and tore into the colorful wrapping paper…knowing smiles on our faces. Imagine our surprise when out spilled a framed 8 x 10 of my folks, then a couple of 5 x 7’s and then…you guessed it…wallets! Wait!  What was this?  Photos? And more photos?  What about the Christmas “Special Surprise?” The “once in a blue moon” gifting? Maybe it’s in the card-but no…(This was turning out to be a jelly-of-the-month club kick-in-the-pants for sure).

jellyofthemonth

 After our initial shock and awe, we noticed that our kids saw something in those pictures that we in our greed had missed. They were busy oohing and ahhing over the pictures, “Look it’s Grandma and Grandpa!”  We noticed it was a “posed” picture, and my parents had never, ever taken a picture together like that. At least not since 1958…and that was for their wedding picture.  Their Christmas Eve wedding picture. Yup, they were married on Christmas Eve same as my grandparents. I felt awful, and it wasn’t just the fudge with hot chocolate chaser I’d downed that made my tummy lurch. I was glad Santa had already visited or I would have surely had enough coal to fuel my winter.

 They had gotten professional pictures done to commemorate a special anniversary, and to help the grandkids that lived so far away from them remember.

Arghh…I felt so selfish. What a scrooge I was!

 I’m ashamed to say it took us longer than it should have to share completely in the sweet enthusiasm our little children displayed over those pictures.

 Oh, and speaking of displays…after that Christmas we had framed pictures on our bookcases, askew on our end tables, 2 x 3’s by each kids bed, and showcased in our wallets. It felt some days as if their eyes were staring at us accusingly from the frames.

The funny thing was, it really was the best gift ever, because we really enjoyed the holiday season to it’s fullest that year.

 Since we perceived the financial pressure to be off, our focus leading up to Christmas was entirely on our little family, and celebrating each day.

We spent quality time doing and being and not hustling and bustling.

A Charlie Brown Christmas

 

We never did fess up our dashed expectations to our parents, (although we did ask the sibs what they got-just out of curiosity, of course), and I’m still ashamed to admit I was so mercenary about anticipating Christmas cash. That year we learned an important lesson; that “special” gifts aren’t about $$$, and that we had interpreted their idea of “extra special” to fit what we thought would be “special.”  We still laugh about that memory and call it the gift that keeps on giving.

And as for me?

I decided right then to  separate the expectation part from the something is going to happen part of anticipation.

My four young kiddos taught me a treasured lesson that year.

Christmas magic is indeed found in the little snapshots.

ivy-border

Wednesday Whimsy

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