Monday, December 20, 2010

Savouring the Gifts -- A Child Leads the Way

While I had originally thought today's post would feature, in its entirety, the piece I contributed to Tish's lovely compilation of Christmas Gifts that cost Nothing, I've since decided that Tish's judicious editing worked very well. So unless there are legions of disappointed fans clamouring to read those discarded words, I thought we could consider Christmas joys from a different perspective.

Instead of being overwhelmed with Christmas stresses, piling up gifts under the tree to be torn open in an avaricious half hour, or stirring and baking and frying and chopping and mixing all our favourite foods to be devoured over one or two big days, I'm a fan of stretching out the little joys. I take my lead from a two-year old who, when first discovering the joys of the wrapped gift, is delighted to tease off the paper small piece by small piece. "I did it, Nana. I ripped it all off!"

Similarly, instead of trying to include everyone at our Christmas table or visit everyone over that one day -- oh, those early years of attending my family's Christmas Eve, then after having "our" Christmas morning together opening gifts, driving out to his family's Christmas dinner -- we spent the day with my mom on Saturday, taking her for a lovely long walk by the river and then out to the IHOP for lunch. Then Sunday we treated Pater's parents to a delicious brunch at Stanley Park's wonderful Fish House Restaurant with our three daughters, two of the partners, and Nola. Since the older folks don't host family gatherings anymore and live a bit far out for the kids to get to easily, those generations don't get together often enough. A lovely meal together, dressed casual-festive, in a wonderful setting (heritage building with vistas of surrounding parkland) -- what gift could surpass this celebration of family well-being and good fortune?!

Grandparents kept saying "Oh, the grandchildren are so good-looking" "Their partners are really nice, aren't they!" but especially, "That Nola is so smart" and "Isn't that Nola cute!" -- in other words, a gift that unfolded slowly. . .
Today, I'm meeting my sisters for drinks and then dinner. Yes, there will be some nasty forays into too-busy shops before that, but I'm hoping to get in and out before the worst of it, and I am pretty focused on what matters. I'm going to savour choosing a book for each of our kids and partners, and hope that it can be opened with this much anticipation . . .

I'm also going to remember that the gift itself isn't the important element, although I will choose as carefully as I can. Rather, it's the company in which we will open it, the feelings of love that, if we're attentive to what really matters, will accrue to the season for little persons like Nola -- who can keep teaching the rest of us the joys and gifts of Christmas

For years, when people would ask if I were ready for Christmas, I would answer something like "It's coming whether I am or not" signalling that I would cope with the day whatever my level of readiness. Now, I think I'm more likely to say that it's already here and that I'm making the most of it. The religious significance of Christmas is an important part of my upbringing and cultural background, but the date itself, the one-day celebration of Christ's birth, is a fairly recent construction historically. I still love the treasures of that one focussed Eve and Day, but I'm already beginning to open the Gift. After all, learning from a very small child is part of the meaning of Christmas, no?

How about you? What Christmas gifts are you already opening?


  1. Seeing Nola's delight in her gift is a pointed reminder to take pleasure in each moment. Like you, I learned some years ago that focusing all of my expectations for celebration on one or two days was doomed to fail. Christmas is indeed here now.

    We've spent quite a bit of time with children and friends this past week. These gatherings that trail through December are sweet indeed.

  2. What a beautiful sentiment. Xmas really is already here - it's everywhere to experience in small and large ways. I'm totally going to take that message with me over the next week. Thanks F!

    PS my word verification is "grab"! :-)

  3. Yes, that Christmas is something to be unwrapped in happiness and the company of friends and family. This is slowly beautiful. Nola's beautiful too. I can imagine her sweet little voice.

  4. I think savoring and stretching out our enjoyment of the holidays is a wise and renewing way to enjoy. Despite my usual holiday "adrift-ness" (I'm sure I've coined a word here, though perhaps not) I have been enjoying the sprinkling of parties and gatherings, the gradual installation of lighted decorations (slower than usual in my neighborhood this year) and the last little rush of getting those last few gifts wrapped and delivered. Nola is such a delight! You can tell she's enjoying every moment.

  5. I know exactly what you mean...My celebration began with the first Christmas cards and photos. Now, we need a pic of you reading a fairy tale to Nola.

  6. Lorrie: Sweets to savour, that's what they are indeed.
    K: Well, grab/seize the moment? (instead of the grabbing that's happening at the malls right now!)
    LPC: I know! everything those little voices say is spirit-lifting.
    Pseu: Precisely. And if the lights take longer to go up, perhaps they can stay up longer, lighting us right into spring . . .
    Terri: That first Christmas card (not that I get many at all anymore) is always an awakening to the season.
    And yes, the picture of Nola and Nana. . . which requires someone else to wield the camera for a change. . .

  7. Hi Aunty, This is Grace. Nola is soooo cute. Did you give her the book yet? I wrapped it myself. I hope she likes it as much as this book. I like fairy tales. I hope I get to read her a book!!!!! one day!!!!
    love you

  8. Grace: Hey, sweetie, you're pretty cute too, y'know?! I've got the book waiting under the tree -- wonder how long it will take her to open. I'd love to have you over here for a visit, and for sure you should come see me at the Vanc'r apt. sometime when Nola's visiting . . . let's make some plans!

  9. This is such a beautiful post. I have to tell you that I so enjoyed watching Nola's focus. He intelligence is OBVIOUS. I see her grandma in that focused gaze.

  10. I feel very strange at the moment having packed so much into the first two weeks of December I have a weird lull in my diary and despite trying to paint or take photographs there is nothing but emptiness, like I am waiting for a train that I know will never arrive.
    I have always tried to spread Christmas out over many weekends as I find the concentration focused into two days of high expectation a recipe for gross letdown and disappointment, so heres to Nola's piece by piece philosophy.
    I amy drag Daisy to Midnight Mass at York Minster I may not do God but he does inspire beautiful music.

  11. That absorption, relaxed, confident, full of goodwill: there's the gift! Enjoy every second.

    My gift began the moment the "moved out" son came home and the four of us are together for a last Christmas in their childhood home.

  12. LBR: Thank you and big hugs. . .
    Alison: Midnight Mass in York Minster -- it's not the exotic sunshine you were aiming at, but it's a good way of getting at whatever might be the essence of Christmas. A very tough time to feel/be displaced -- I'll be thinking of you.
    Duchesse: Yes! It's the confident, centred, relaxed absorption that pleases me . . . I want to preserve that for her as long as possible!
    I'm so happy you're enjoying your gift.

  13. I unwrapped my big gift the moment my spouse came home from the nursing home, and then I had family too, and a chance to revel in the wonder of life with a 4 year old. It is good to be reminded of the magic.

    Beautiful post.

  14. Four is a magical, magical age -- perhaps one of my favourites. So wise already and yet so innocent.


I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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