My husband is not an enthusiastic Christmas participant. For him Christmas is messy, a lot of work and we can’t afford the grandeur of his childhood traditions, so there’s not the luster that many of us find in Christmas surprises. Every year, just around Thanksgiving his mood darkens; the synchronicity with the darkening days is not lost on us and we attribute some of his plight with SAD, or seasonal affective disorder. But it runs deeper.
Our first Christmas, I put up a tree and my husband looked at it with heavy disdain, muttering, “There’s nothing on that tree that is mine.” Easy to fix, right? Call his parents and dig some of those childhood ornaments out. Divorce and his mother’s youthful death at 42, when my husband was just 18, made that impossible. Most of everything had been lost, broken or thrown away. A handful survived. Undaunted, I called his close high school friends to see if they had anything in their Christmas boxes to recreate some nostalgia.
I have to pause this story to properly describe my husband’s dearest friends. Most of all my high school relationships fell away before I left college. Most of my college relationships fell away shortly after graduation too. Many of my relationships are from work and my close friends are scattered across the nation, my oldest being from my 20s and 30s. To be fair, I’ve been reacquainted with several high school and college mates through the magic of Facebook, but these are not the people in my everyday life. For my husband, this group of half a dozen people have stuck together despite going to different colleges and moving to work in different cities. In fact these people stood up at our wedding, are godparents to my daughter and vacation with us every year. I now count these high school friends of my husband’s among my dearest and closest.
These friends answered my calls by reproducing childhood-like ornaments. And as one friend put it, “those tacky homemade ornaments from grade school.” They include a tiny stocking with his name in glitter glue. And then some rather nice glass globes filled with golden ribbons.
The gesture was magnanimous. The enormity of it strikes me every year when we unpack them, as it does now remembering it. That is the magic of Christmas as an adult. This warmth escapes my husband or is not hot enough to undo the hurt of discovering that Santa needs help.
I’m lucky. I’m overwhelmed by the magic of Christmas every year. I feel it when my daughter sees the loot under the tree on Christmas morning. Or my mom tells me she’s making plum puddings. When my brother brings over a Christmas unicorn made of birch logs. Or we contribute presents to families that can’t afford the roast beast. The Christmas pageant at church every year is a miracle (and if you saw the dress rehearsals, you’d know what I mean.) I’m moved to tears when the congregation sings What Child is This or I see soldiers coming home in time for Christmas on the news.
My daughter wishes she were a wizard. And I tell her there is magic all around; you just have to recognize it. I do my best to point out the magic and engage her in creating it, like my husband’s friends did with the ornaments. We dropped off a baby bunting outfit at the Baby Pantry in Suttons Bay yesterday. I’ve saved it for 8 years, hoping for another miracle and only now letting go of it. It’s silly really to hold onto it. In doing so, I’ve deprived someone of its use, keeping the magic hidden. The baby bunting set the ladies at the Pantry to cooing. Despite the loss that baby bunting represents, I can feel the Christmas magic.
And so, my Christmas wish is that this year Christmas will somehow hide my husband’s losses with Christmas spirit. My daughter and I have made him some special ornaments, just for him. And I think they might be magic.