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.