There’s something about Christmas that can put me in a very nostalgic mood. It might be the family Christmas traditions, or how I decorate my house with so many old ornaments and nick-knacks from my childhood. It could even be that most of my favorite Christmas songs are the old ones and that I listen to them a lot as I’m driving around town. All I know is that this is the time of year when my memories of past Christmases are strongest, and I sometimes feel a real sense of loss. It’s as if an important and precious part of the holiday is gone, and I know I’ll never get it back again.
Thankfully, I don’t feel that way all of the time. In between my bouts of Christmas nostalgia, I have moments when I’m downright thankful for the changes that the passing years have wrought.
Last Sunday afternoon, I headed to the mall to get in a little Christmas shopping. When I got there, I saw a line of families waiting to have their children’s photos taken with Santa that stretched almost from one end of the mall to the other. And as far as I could tell, it wasn’t moving. I can’t tell you how good it felt to breeze right by all those people, duck into the little boutique jewelry store, buy a gift for my daughter-in-law and waltz back out again. At that moment in time, it felt great to know that my kids are too old to want to see Santa.
And speaking of Santa Claus, I like being at the stage where his only role in Christmas at my house is as (an occasionally tacky) decoration. I remember the Christmas when my son was four all too well. I had finished my shopping early that year, or so I thought until the afternoon of December 23, when my son casually mentioned that what he wanted most from Santa this year was a toy Bat-mobile. This was news to me, so I asked why he hadn’t mentioned this before. Apparently, he saw a commercial for it just that morning. (Yet another reason children shouldn’t be allowed to watch TV.) I told him it was awfully late to be changing his mind, and he said he understood. But he was still “really, really, hoping that Santa brings me a Bat-mobile.” So guess who got to go fight the crowds for the last remaining Bat-mobile at Target?
As long as I’m being honest, and a bit Grinch-like, I’ll admit that I’m also glad I no longer have to be responsible for games and craft projects my kids’ holiday class parties. Or spend two hours sitting on a cold metal folding chair during the school’s winter concert. The concerts were only about an hour long, but if you didn’t come an hour early, you didn’t even get the privilege of an uncomfortable chair. Instead, you ended up standing in a crowd around the perimeter of the gym, trying to peek over the shoulder of the tall guy in front of you, hoping to catch a glimpse of your kid on stage. Good times, indeed.
I think nostalgia is remembering only the good times, and of course there were plenty of those. I’ll always miss the excitement of the Christmas mornings of my own childhood, and the fun we had at Christmas when my own children were young. But these days I’m getting better at recognizing that those long-ago Christmases were far from perfect, and that the present Christmas has a lot going for it, too.