It is a year of lower expectations.
Every year, there is a chorus of folks urging us to lower our expectations for the holidays—buy less, consume less, worry less about having a picture-perfect holiday, and spend more time reflecting on what the holiday means to us. This year, it seems, we will finally get a chance to do that.
I was recently asked what my childhood memories of the holidays were, and I had a couple of vivid ones.
I saw myself sitting on the wooden stairway of the farmhouse where my mother grew up. There were far too many people to sit at a table, too many to get any kind of chair, even after all the folding chairs were called into service and the couch filled to capacity.
The seating was distributed on a strict seniority basis and, as I was very young, all the cousins my age would line up and sit on the stairs leading to the second floor of the farmhouse, one above the other, with our plates on our laps.
This was a fine arrangement, except that the farmhouse had only one bathroom and this stairway led to it. The stairway was narrow and some of my relatives were not. And so, we would lean over as far as we could (still with our plates on our laps) to allow the elderly relatives to make their way up to the bathroom at the top of the stairs.
That is a good memory.
The year I turned 5, I had chicken pox at Christmas. I spoke to my mother recently about that year. “Oh! That was a miserable Christmas,” she said. And I’m sure, for her, it was. But my memory is not of the festivities I missed.
My mother stayed at home with me on Christmas Eve and all I remember was the small Christmas tree my parents put in my bedroom. My memory is not of being terribly sick, but of seeing those shining Christmas lights every time I opened my eyes and feeling loved and special enough to have my very own tree.
That is another good memory.
I’ve been telling my husband, Peter, that we are making good memories now. Of course, Peter and I are not working in a hospital or trying to teach school or dealing with grumpy retail customers. We are at home all the time except for our once every other week trip to the grocery store which is beginning to feel more like an exotic adventure every time we do it.
We are seeing no one so we can continue to visit Lori, who continues to fight cancer, and Peter cooks something for her every week and I read a bit more from my book (although by this time I have finished the first book and am reading a new one) and I know we will remember this time.
We won’t have memories of a foreign landscape or a breathtaking performance or a fancy gathering. Instead, we’ll remember the excitement of hearing the doorbell ring and getting to chat with a neighbor on our front stoop. Our memories from this year will be of the same homecooked meal, the same routine, the same clothes worn, the same neighbors greeted from across the lawn, the same dogs on my walk — as the days turned into weeks and the weeks turned into months. We will remember.
I might miss the excitement of a different kind of life. But I know I will remember the small, good things in this year of lower expectations.
Till next time,
Carrie Carrie Classon’s memoir is called, “Blue Yarn.” Learn more at CarrieClasson.com.