Found Friday #15: The Perfect Present

It seems like every Christmas, my husband and I end up stressing about presents.

To be fair, the two of us approach the act of gift-giving in fundamentally different ways. Though we both love giving presents, I tend to be more impulsive. I’ll see something I think someone would like, and buy it, and then find a few other items that just seem to fit with it, and consider my job done. My husband is thoughtful and cautious, and can spend hours looking around for THE perfect present. And whatever he gets, he often feels it isn’t enough.

And don’t even get me started on wrapping gifts. I’m really, really bad at it. I suspect it’s genetic.

(Okay, that was a joke. Sort of. I am terrible at wrapping gifts, but the beautiful, handmade blanket wrapped up in that picture was absolutely too large and unwieldy for any kind of real wrapping paper, so my parents improvised. Necessity is, as they say, the mother of invention.)

Here’s the truth: presents are my least favorite part of Christmas.

There, I said it.

I love making people happy – love, love, love the way a friend’s face lights up when I’ve given them something they truly need or want – but I think at Christmas, the best way to be happy is just to be in the moment. The holiday season gives us all a chance to slow down and enjoy decorations, music (my actual favorite part of Christmas), good food, and time with the people we care about (my other actual favorite part of Christmas). I hate getting lost in the anxiety of buying stuff.

So, I suppose this post is more about something I haven’t found than something I have, but I’m genuinely curious: What’s your favorite part of the holiday season? And if it’s gift-giving, please tell me your secret! How do you do it? I have to know!

Found Friday #14: My Grandmother’s Christmas Heirlooms

I know y’all are probably tired of hearing about my Christmas decorations, and, honestly, I don’t blame you. But, ‘tis the season! So, one more post about them, and then I promise I’ll be done.

I wrote a post back in January about my grandmother. She died at the beginning of the year, and I had a hard time processing it. (I had no idea how much harder the year would get.)

After the funeral and once everyone had some time to grieve, her children – my mother and aunts and uncles – set about going through her things, passing them down and making sure everyone got a memory or two. I didn’t ask for much. I’m an admitted packrat, and I catch myself all the time attaching sentimental value to things other people would probably consider clutter, but I felt like there was no one item that could really help me mourn her and remember her. So, I didn’t ask for…anything, actually, and until last week, didn’t get anything.

Boy, did that change. When my parents came to visit for Thanksgiving (after we’d taken some major precautions), my mom brought a packing tub full of dishware, a few very old baking dishes, and, in the kind of perfect timing only a super-mom can pull off, a large collection of Christmas decorations and ornaments.

I quite like this little boot. You’re supposed to fill it with candy canes or other goodies, but there’s a pandemic, and I haven’t been to the store in…a while.

In 2002, I sang in a national choir in San Antonio. We bought my grandmother a little souvenir while we were there. My mom and I couldn’t tell if it had ever been taken out of its packaging, but now, it’s hanging on my tree.

My grandmother also had quite a few Normal Rockwell-themed bobbles. I’m not sure how old they are, and like the Texas souvenir, I can’t tell that she ever even took them out of their boxes.

And, to go with my snowflakes, I now have some lovely, handmade, crocheted bells in both red and white. The red stands out so well against evergreen branches.

So, my tree has a few new pretty decorations, and I’ve got some physical reminders of my grandmother. I didn’t think I needed them, but I confess, I’m glad to have them. Grief’s a funny thing, isn’t it?

Found Friday #13: Christmas Treasures

I mentioned in Wednesday’s post that I’ve already decorated for Christmas.

Normally, I’d wait until after Thanksgiving, but the holidays just feel different this year, and I figure in 2020, we need all the joy we can get.

So, I’m cheating a little bit this week and writing about the things I “find” every year when we unpack the Christmas boxes and haul out the holly. I love decorating for Christmas, and so I always like to take a little extra time to look through my collection of Christmas-y things and appreciate them.

The first items I always unpack? My Christmas bears.

I’m not really sure where they came from, but I’ve had them forever. My mom says she thinks she bought them for me, but let’s face it, 1987 was a long time ago.

Not so long ago, when I moved into my first place, my mom gave me some of the ornaments she’d collected for me over the years. I have lots of favorites, but I particularly love this one.

It’s my first Christmas ornament.

I’ve also got a number of handmade snowflakes that she and my grandmother crocheted over the years.

And a few that I made for her when I was in primary school. This one?

Not sure when I made it, or how old that candy cane is…

Even the garland peeking out here and there in these pictures is an heirloom. My mom made it for me the first year I put up my own Christmas tree.

When my husband and I got married, I felt so honored and happy to be able to include his special ornaments. I love this one, which looks like his first dog, a little Sheltie called Daisy.

And we’ve also started our own collection. We get a new ornament engraved every year. This is the one we got in 2016, our first Christmas in the new old house.

It felt appropriate.

I love that every year at Christmas, I get the opportunity to showcase all of these little treasures. The memories they carry are precious.

*A quick note – I’ll be taking a break next week for the holiday. Check back on Monday, November 30th, for this month’s short story. In the meantime, I wish each of my readers a lovely weekend and week, and, to my American crew, a wonderful (and safe) Thanksgiving!*

Some Thoughts on 2020 Thanksgiving (and Why I’ve Already Decorated for Christmas)

This time last year, we were prepping for a big Thanksgiving with my husband’s family, and a quick trip right after to Las Vegas.

We stayed busy. We saw EVERYONE. Hugs all around.

And I got to see the Grand Canyon for the first time.

We came home exhausted.

This year? Well, we’re exhausted. We’re in the middle of self-quarantining for fourteen days, so that, if we’re still healthy and they’re still healthy and none of us has had any known COVID exposures or symptoms, we can see my parents over the holiday next week.

Just my parents. No large gatherings. I don’t even know if we’ll make the traditional dinner.

Yes, so far, the holidays feel very different this year. But, as I look forward to next week, whatever we end up doing with ourselves, I am thankful.

I’m thankful that my family is healthy, and that I’m healthy. I’m thankful to have money coming in, and food on my table, and a roof over my head, and books. I’m thankful for books, always. I’m thankful to have time to write and to rest. I’m thankful for the sun in the morning and the moon at night and for a world that just keeps turning even in the midst of chaos and crisis.

2020 hasn’t been the year I anticipated, but it’s the year I got, and I’ve tried to be as grateful and happy as possible for every little thing that’s good. And where I can, I’ve tried to make good things happen.

Which is why it’s November 18th and I’ve already put up Christmas decorations.

No regrets. It was the right choice. What can I say? This year’s been all about finding joy even in the darkest of times.

It’s been hard. It will likely continue to be hard. But I’m here and I’m healthy and my loved ones are, too. And in 2020, that’s plenty to give thanks for.