Saturday, December 16, 2017

More about fun, less about presents

I grew up in a time where Santa was THE MAN at Christmas. We asked -- for one thing -- and we usually received it under the tree. As an adult, I marvel at and appreciate what it took for my parents to be able to do that for the 10 children they raised.

But as much as I loved those Christmases, there are probably only one or two gifts I remember. What I remember are the moments decorating the tree, making cookies, making gifts for my brothers and sisters and the rituals like going to church or singing carols -- the experience of Christmas!

We kept the illusion of Santa up for our own children as they grew.

Fast forward to now, and I see the stress on my adult children's faces if they feel they can't give their own children everything they want for Christmas. I see the confusion in my grandchildren's face when they hear about Toys for Tots and other advertisements on television telling them that some families need help to get gifts.

"But what about Santa?" four-year-old Mady asks. I don't even remember how we responded, but it satisfied her.

Her question has stayed in my mind and in my heart. What about Santa?  Is it time to get real and quit lying to children?

I definitely think it's high time we quit going crazy about presents. Think how much more meaningful that gift for Aunt Edna would be if you gave it to her in August - for no reason other than to say you are thinking of her and love her. Think how your kiddos would respond to one gift under the tree, and more gifts during the year - just because.

No, I'm not forcing my family to do that - just pondering if we shouldn't all take a huge step back and focus on the fun of Christmas.

So this year, I'm going to put together a check list of fun things to do. Bake cookies, make a craft, play outside - whether there is snow or not, sing carols, and help my grand kids make gifts for their parents. We're going to read the Night Before Christmas, but we're also going to read the Bible versus talking about the birth of Jesus. And, more importantly teach the kiddos - and ourselves - a lesson in doing something for people we don't know.

It's easy. Dust off the cookbook, find out when advent services are, catch a matinee of The Nutcracker.  We can't use the excuse that we're not crafty. Pinterest exists! There are plenty of blogs to help us get creative.

Santa will still probably be the man for generations to come - I just hope one day, we'll all collectively decide that he should be a part of Christmas, not the only reason for Christmas.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Balance



My 6-year-old granddaughter was walking around with a book on her head recently. I laughed as she tip-toed across the room, struggling to keep if from falling.

"My sisters and I used to do that when we were little," I said. "It was supposed to improve our posture."

Her little nose crinkled up and she laughed, too. "What the heck is posture?" she asked.
"It's how you stand, not slumped over. You know, walk tall," I told her, pulling my shoulders back and plopping the book atop my head as I walked.

But of course, due to years of wear and tear and rheumatoid arthritis, I walk with a slight limp and off the book came onto the floor.We both laughed.  Inside, I was crying just a little.

Time is flying by way too fast. My children have teenagers. I am thinking about how many more years to put into my current career and thinking ahead to my next "career" move after retirement. There never seems to be enough time to spend with the grandchildren who are babies one year, and talking about college the next.

I feel as if I need to share some of our history and yet, they are not so ready to listen.  When my 15-year-old granddaughter groused about how boring her summer was, I told her about many of my summers spent working in the fields and how still summer was one of our favorite times.  I described our work day, and she looked at me with disinterested eyes.

"Yeah, well just because you had a bad childhood doesn't make my summer any better," she said.
And, just like that I became a relic. Because in my eyes, in my memory - I had a wonderful childhood.

I and my brothers and sisters -- there would be 10 of us in all by the time I was in high school -- were farm kids. And, like the rest of our neighbors that meant working and doing what was needed. When we were younger we would feed the pigs and the chickens and pull weeds out of flower beds.  One of my favorite things was to help Daddy with the irrigation tubes that were used in those days in West Texas.

When we were old enough we worked in the fields, chopping cotton - or soybeans - whatever field needed to be worked. For those of you who might have no clear idea what that means, cotton chopping is primarily weeding the rows of cotton. This is done with a hoe and you walk back and forth all day. We made it fun, concocting word games and singing songs along with the transistor radios we carried in our pockets. But it was hard backbreaking work in the dry, hot summers of West Texas. The money earned was set aside to paid for our school clothes and any fees for school activities. We received a weekly allowance to spend on anything we wanted, which was usually Teen Beat magazines and 45's of whatever top-40 song we were most obsessed with at the time.   My mother frowned on us working and insisted we cover ourselves with bonnets and hats and gloves and lightweight, long sleeve cotton shirts to protect ourselves against the sun.

When we got older, we would take off the coverings and work all day in our bikinis, slathered in baby oil and iodine to get a golden tan.  Because by then we were aware that not everyone spent the summer working, and we wanted to look as if we had spent the summer at the pool.  Though none of us had ever been to a pool. My parents packed a lot of fun into our weekends, and we took off for vacations and attended summer church camp, and summers flew by way too fast.

I wanted my granddaughter to understand how hard we had worked to get to where we are today. I wanted to share with her what our lives were like growing up, and how we all worked to ensure that one day she would get to have that boring summer where she had nothing to do.
Well, maybe that was not our goal. But our goal was that our children would have a better life.
Now, I feel this compulsion to share lessons and download all I've learned and all I've experienced. To share it so that they have this knowledge too.  Sort of like a file share, right?

Life is never that easy. They will learn their own lessons in their own time. My experiences are mine alone. They made me who I am, and I'll keep trying to share where I can like the old sage village elder.  And one day, they'll listen.