Christmas 2006 was a special one for me. It was the first Christmas that I was celebrating in my own apartment, with my own family, the first dinner party I was going to host by myself, the first Christmas with a salary of my own to expend in presents, and the first one that I really I took in my charge to make very special, for several good reasons.
You see, my brother moved to the US just a few months ago, and this Christmas was the first he would be without Mom and Dad; then, on the other hand, my boyfriend and I have been away from home for so many years that the feeling of having an actual family member present to share an special occasion with has an enormous significance; and then, there is my friend, Ana, whom I met when I was in kindergarten and in spite of the years and the distance, is still here with all the memories, the good times, and all the fun - what can be more valuable than that?
So today at work, listening to NPR, this essay by Melinda Shoaf comes to my ears and in just a few minutes summarizes what I felt all the way through the holiday season: to make Christmas just right for the people I love.
I don't know if it was as perfect as I hoped it would be, but I did the best I could: We had bags of goodies to share with the friends, we had a nice Christmas tree that we put up early in December (and as of today, is still up!), we had well thought and elaborated presents for one another, we had Christmas songs (that three weeks later, we are still singing), we had Christmas stories and Christmas movies, we made cookies, suspiros, and pot roast chicken, and now that I look back, I know that I have some very unforgettable memories - and for what I've heard from my brother and boyfriend, they do too! - for which, I am very happy.
I know there were some imperfections, but who cares? I know that we'll always have next Christmas to make it even better, and hopefully the loved ones will often come back to keep sharing the good food, the good wine, and the good times.
And now, just so you know where all this Christmas remembrance came from, I leave you to Melinda Shoaf and her essay, Designated Celebrator.
The Designated Celebrator
by Melinda Shoaf
I believe that if you're the person in your family who arranged for and executed the celebration this past holiday season, well, you're probably still tired. You may be wondering why you spent so much on presents, why you had to have your house just right, why you had friends over for drinks when you were already weary and worn out. You may be thinking that you're getting too old for all of this or you may be thinking you're too young.
If you know what I'm talking about, you're probably your family's Designated Celebrator -- that is, the one who sees to it that a holiday actually happens in the lives of your loved ones.
After New Year's, I was sitting at the breakfast table in a stupor. My husband asked if I was all right.
"I'm exhausted," I answered. "I'm totally exhausted."
He looked puzzled. "Why do you do this to yourself every year?"
I have to admit that part of what I do around the winter holidays seems almost involuntary, innate. It's as if I'm driven by the ancient need to mark the darkness of winter with my little bit of light.
My answer to my husband's question is that I believe one of the most important things I can do while I'm on this planet is honor those I love through celebrations, and the older I get, the more I believe it.
When my children were small, their father lost his job. It took a decade to recover emotionally and financially. Hot water and electricity were luxuries that weren't always available; meals were a challenge. I tried to hide it from them, but I was constantly afraid of losing our home. Those celebrations were so sparse, the future so uncertain, that the ground seemed to be shifting beneath us.
So now, celebrations mean that much more to me. This year, I polished the silver, lit the candles, made sure a sprig of holly was carefully tacked above every window; I served a $12 bottle of wine instead of a $7 one; I bought lamb chops instead of a roast -- little things, just so we'd remember this day, this night.
I believe that in this world there is and always has been so much sadness and sorrow, so much uncertainty, that if we didn't set aside time for merriment, gifts, music and laughter with family and friends, we might just forget to celebrate all together. We'd just plod along in life.
I believe in the importance of celebrations. As my family's Designated Celebrator I may be tired and I may not have done all that I set out to do, but I believe that this year, I celebrated the ones I love, and I hope with all my heart that I celebrated them well.