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Where Is My Christmas?

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She comes out of nowhere and almost always in public: the child within tugging at my sleeve wanting to know when the work of holiday preparation ends and the happiness begins.

Just about all the work is done by adults, and most of those adults are women. I’m not sure what the women of yesteryear were thinking when they passed on this particular legacy, but here it is.

Commercialism is said to be the hands choking the life out of the holidays, but the older I get and the more preparation this season seems to require, I wonder if it wasn’t the ideals of women gone by who were the first hands around the throat that has come to eke out a little less joy each year. Those women baked from scratch, shared with neighbors in what was secretly a great deal of competition, and filled stockings with fruit and nuts. I know a lot of women who can bake, but I’m not one of them. As have so many families, we’ve moved yet again and don’t know many of our neighbors. I’m on board with the fruits and nuts, though, and they share precious real estate on my list of stuff to buy and do.

About the same time I’m weighing the contents of my grocery cart and gift list against my checking account balance, the sleeve-tugging child within bellows with all her might for her turn. She wants to build a gingerbread house, not buy the supplies so everyone else can. She doesn’t want to help a grown man hang twinkling lights between bouts of cursing and burnt out bulbs. She wants to look at them in all their splendor. She doesn’t care if the air inside is a little chilly because she has the warmth of family, and she doesn’t want to know it’s not warmer to keep the heating bill in check.

She isn’t entirely selfish. She is the driving force behind the volunteer work I do throughout the year, but come this month she remembers being on the receiving end of soup kitchens and toy drives. She longs to give back as much as she can the wonderment she was given, and she won’t stop harrumphing until we’ve made sure every child within sight has a reason to smile.

I am about 30 days late with the gratitude, but I am more thankful to the small child that comes barreling to life this time of year than for the unwritten rules and regulations passed down to me from generations of women who put Martha Stewart to shame. Yes I’ll bake the sugar cookies as best I can, but no matter how they turn out the real joy is in the sprinkles.

When my children come home from college that small child jumps up and down with so much glee that I can’t help but accommodate her by doing the same. She is the reason I remember to slow down, sit, listen, watch, share, give, and show my love for others through deed and not just the number of packages to be opened. Make no mistake, she loves to open presents, but she also poured herself into the gifts she made and gave great thought to the stuff she picked out to give and she can’t wait to see the looks on others’ faces when those gifts are finally revealed.

She dispels her rival, my inner Grinch, and comes to the rescue just in time, every time. It’s true what they say, and I’m glad of it: Christmas is for children – especially the ones who live inside us all.

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About Diana Hartman

Diana is a USMC (ret.) spouse, mother of three and a Wichita, Kansas native. She is back in the United States after 10 years in Germany. She is a contributing author to Holiday Writes. She hates liver & motivational speakers. She loves science & naps.
  • As was yours.


  • Thank you everyone. Baritone, that was a nice story.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Such a beautiful piece of work, as usual, and a poignant reminder to keep those among us who are on the “receiving end of soup kitchens and toy drives” at the centre of our attention not only at the holidays but year round.

    Happy holidays to you and yours.

  • As it happens, I DO bake. Comes from having been an army cook and, for a brief while, a baker. Ever make 300 pies?

    While I was never very good at it while in service, over the years I have been able to use some of that basic knowledge and whip out some good scratch cookies and some killer pies among other things.

    I don’t do it so much as I used to owing to bad knees that make standing and working in the kitchen a painful affair. But I still generally manage to get a few things done for the holidays and other occasions.

    But I agree with you heartily, Diana. For me, Christmas is a kids game. My kids are long grown, but they still get a kick out of opening presents.

    A couple of years ago my younger son was attending UF at Gainesville. There is a pizza joint there that has at the rear of the restaurant, for whatever reason, a toy store. Virtually all of the toys are junk – cheap tinny stuff. And it’s great! You won’t find any of this stuff at Toys R Us or Walmart. These toys are probably Dollar General rejects. We poured through the place one December evening and managed to buy maybe a dozen different things (all costing a total of maybe $15.) that we ultimately boxed up and sent off to my older son in Germany as part of his gifts from us. He loved them. As the various things fell apart or otherwise died, he made a great collage out of them that he hauls around wherever he goes. He maintains that that was his best Christmas ever excepting the fact that we couldn’t be together.

    I have a couple of packages of some really good hot chocolate mix from Vienna stowed away for my wife and I come Christmas eve.


  • Slice and bake cookies work just fine. So does a donation in someone’s name in lieu of a present.

  • Nice article and I can’t bake either (in fact I can’t stand cooking). Merry Christmas to you and your inner child!!!

    PS: Charlie Brown always puts me in the Christmas spirit.