A Christmas Bunk House (and other ideal holiday scenarios)

My brother and sisters slept under one roof, together as one family, once a year. It was Christmas! And I LOVED it. It was the ultimate slumber party. I was little and so was our family. My sisters each had a one little boy and my brother had a blonde haired girlfriend that sat on his lap. This was years ago, I now have 11 nephews & nieces, 1 great niece and 2 on the way. I swear I spend every year hoping to recreate the happiness and wholeness that I felt during those years. Maybe I just wanted to be like the other kids and have my siblings wake up with me, even if they were 15-20 years older. It felt right.

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I dream of someday owning a farmhouse with an attached barn. The barn would house a u shape of bunkbeds. I’m thinking 5 bunks on each side for a total of 30 beds. Yes, my family would need 30 beds. Then when the youngest kid wakes us all up, we crawl out of our wholesome little twin beds in the morning and into the center of the heated, cozy barn, with layered Turkish rugs under foot. The barn also has bathrooms, an event size kitchen and a center living room where the tree would be. Yes, this is how my brain functions.

This year I’m stoked to bring my husband home with me for the Holidays and sit on his lap. I get to be a married sibling, which is weirdly exciting to me. Then we are coming back here to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas alone together. I have big plans of sitting by the fire with a lit tree, drinking cocoa or bourbon and watching Home Alone 2. Maybe I’ll make cookies or soup. I’m excited. It may be out last little Christmas “just us”. Who knows.

So, anyway, I know what it is to idealize the Holiday season. We all know who Normal Rockwell is and we’ve all seen at least one show or movie that they would play on the Hallmark Channel. Oh man, sidebar, nothing annoys me more than the Hallmark Channel at Christmas time and I swear, my mother lives for it. I can’t seem to get passed the fact that some pretty but lonely girl (usually in her 30s) always ends up dating the skinny guy dressed as Santa or maybe Santa’s actual son. Or someone has a chronic illness…just cause. Ugh.

We are constantly exposed to what an ideal Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve looks like. We all know. I see the ideal pictures coming through on facebook and instagram. The perfectly browned turkey, the fork poked pie, the outdoor football picture, the Christmas tree up the day after Thanksgiving. We all know what our life should look like this time of year. What it’s supposed to look like. How very “merry” we should feel. No pressure.

Ha. Seriously though, holy crap. Is there any other time of year where we are so informed about what our life is supposed to be like, where we are forced to objectively stand back and look at our family, our traditions and evaluate them. Or try our darndest to recreate the happiness holiday memory we’ve ever had? Again, no pressure.

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I guess I’d like for all of us to collectively exhale together and remind ourselves that even the people that pull off the “Norman Rockwell” holiday are exhausted. We expect too much from ourselves and our families this time of year. And that memory you have of the most wonderful, holiday season… it likely didn’t become your favorite because you willed it to be “perfect”. You let it be what it was and appreciated the small moments. You savored the moment itself, the feeling. Not the whole big picture.

I think we need to be more realistic about holidays. I’ve had a broken heart at Christmas before and I literally thought to myself, there is no place for my sadness here. My broken spirit is not at all festive. I wanted to crawl under a rock (or rather fly to Thailand) because I didn’t want to be the toxic family member who brought everyone down or worse, broke tradition. I definitely brought down the spirit, without a doubt, which was awful but to my surprise, I felt a deeper, more sincere kind of love than the years where we carried on without my honest sadness. In other words, it was a terrible Christmas and yet I felt closer to every single person in my family. So maybe, that’s better. Right?

I’ve started noticing that loved ones allow themselves to pass away during holiday times. They take the last bit of comfort they can from their family, they say their good byes, they make their peace and then, they pass away. It’s always so sad and of course a yearly reminder, but that yearly reminder comes at a time when you are surrounded by people that love you and those you love. Kind of interesting. It’s like they know, the dying know that it’s not about perfect but the realness and comfort that can be found if we look for it.

It’s not to say that we shouldn’t try. We should make our holiday cut out cookies even if we burn them, but we should laugh when we burn them. We should spend an hour detangling the lights while talking with our dad or sister. We should get into our annual holiday fights, cry and hug it out. After all it’s tradition! We should make some room for authentic everyday realness within our holiday season.

I think the greetings of “happy holidays” and  “merry christmas” makes us feel like our sad hearts, tired spirits, empty bank accounts or work stress don’t have a place. What if you gave yourself permission to be real first and tried for “merry” second? We could carry on together, imperfectly authentic.

Maybe… if you have one incredibly delicious thing to eat, a really great conversation with a family member and hear a Christmas song that reminds you of being a little kid, that’s enough. Bonus if you get everyone in one room to watch an old movie you’ve seen a zillion times or play a board game.

Do the holiday things you want to do, because you want to. If you’re too tired to make food, get something premaid from the store and dump it on your own platter. If you don’t have enough money to buy everyone presents, then don’t! Buy your kids something small and explain “money” to them. If you hate shopping, don’t be the guy at the mall, go online for goodness sake. However, if you LOVE decorating for Christmas, baking pies, shopping black Friday, wrapping gifts etc. Knock yourself out. Have the time of your life!

I leave you with… awkward family photos at Christmas Time.

Love to you,

A

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