Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Season's Reason

by Tammy Bundy

Something was missing.
I was going through the motions. I was playing all the parts. And still something was missing.
I’m talking about my Christmas spirit, here. Or lack of it.
Now, usually I am among one of the biggest kids I know at holiday time. My oldest will not even go shopping with me during this time of year, because all the stores are playing Christmas music and I cannot always be held to my promise of not singing in the middle of a department store. I mean, who can resist the urge to sing along with “Jingle Bell Rock”---even if your daughter and four of her closet friends are watching?
But this year it hadn’t happened for me yet. Something was missing.
Maybe it was because the holiday displays hit the stores before my kids had even hit the streets for trick-or-treating.
Whatever the reason for my lack of cheer, I knew I had better put on a happy face and get moving. There were cookies to bake, presents to buy and a house to decorate.
And it was during this last stage of events that I discovered something---or something was discovered for me.
My youngest and I were sorting through the musty boxes of stored decorations, accomplishing little more than inventory.
“Oh, I remember this!” he would gush as he pulled out each and every item that had made it through another year. “Do you remember this one, Mommy?” he would ask.
Now, this is the point where I would usually turn into a seasonal sentimental fool, picking up each ornament and recalling when, where and why it was purchased.
Not this year, though. There was just something missing.
“I can’t find it,” my son’s words, all at once, seemed to echo my own thoughts. “Where is it?” he continued as he not very gently pulled from the box various items that were obviously not what he had in mind.
“Where is it?” he intently repeated his inquiry. Before I could even ask him what it was he was seeking, his next statement answered more than one question for me.
“I found Jesus!” my son triumphantly declared.
Now, this was not so much a spiritual revelation for him as much as it was an actual discovery. He had finally found the manger scene.
“Is that what you were looking for?” I asked even though the answer was obvious.
“Yeah, Mommy. Look.” His big brown eyes were dancing as he explained the rest. “He was right here the whole time. Only all this other stuff was covering him up.”
If our lives came equipped a soundtrack, at that very moment, the Christmas carols, for me, would have begun to fill the air.
“Thank you so much for finding Him for me,” I managed to say in spite of the cracking in my voice.
“Welcome, Mommy,” he answered, oblivious to the actual discovery he had made.
And that is my holiday wish for you.
Whatever this season means to you, may you celebrate it with more meaning than ever before. But if somehow, throughout the years, you start to forget what that reason really is, I have but one suggestion:
Let a little child lead you.

From The Book of Mom: What Parents Know by Heart published by St. Anthony Messenger Press

Christmas Countdown

by Tammy Bundy

Did you know that there are less than 600 hours left until Christmas? That statistic is compliments of my daughter who obviously has too much time on her hands.
How does this holiday constantly sneak up on me?
I’m smart enough to remember that every year it falls on the same day. But for some reason, it is always a shock to hear how close the big day really is.
This should not happen to me, due to the fact that I am always amply warned about it, because every year it is the same routine.
Before the taste of my Thanksgiving turkey is out of my mouth, these words come out of the mouth of my dear mom: “I have all my Christmas shopping done.”
And those words set off an alarm system in my mind that makes me think I am already falling behind on a season that just arrived.
I should have known. I received even earlier warning signs about the closeness of the season way back when I was back-to-school shopping and I spied a poster advertisement telling me to buy early for the holidays.
But I was too busy with new schedules and homework and extra-curricular activities to pay attention. But my mom started her shopping.
Then I was given another gentle reminder of the impending season by the fact that the day after Halloween, my grocery store took down their trick-or-treat candy display and in its place put up Christmas cards and decorations.
But I was too busy gathering up chocolate stained costumes and pumpkin splattered remains to worry. By now, my mom was more than half-way done checking things off her Christmas list.
And as soon as the calendar said it was November, the commercials said we had better start buying our Christmas presents before it was too late.
But I was too busy finding out whose coats, hats and mittens had survived the perils of life in the attic, to go shopping for Christmas. But, my mom was down to buying stocking-stuffers by now.
And now, Thanksgiving is a memory and I hear those words again grating on my nerves like ornament hooks on a chalkboard, “I have all my Christmas shopping done.”
Now, in the past, I have actually tried to shop early for presents. But I usually find this does not work at my house. And I have three categories of explanations as to why this doesn’t work:
First of all, there is the exploration explanation. For, many times when I actually have tried to buy early Christmas presents, the present is eventually found by an eager elf who had been snooping.
Then there is the expiration explanation. Oftentimes a present that was considered the most magnificent potential present for a child when it was purchased in August, is no longer desired or even recognized by the coveting child when Christmas finally arrives.
And lastly there is the inexplicable explanation. This is when the present, purchased particularly prematurely, gets lost in the black hole that I sometimes call my bedroom closet. I won’t remember it or find until the next July.
But last weekend, I decided it was time to push all excuses and explanations aside. I was determined to get started on my Christmas shopping. Humming a few Christmas carols to put me in the spirit, I joyfully grabbed my keys and began to walk out the door. Then the phone rang. It was my mom. She was calling to tell me all her presents were now wrapped.
Battling the duel feelings of both panic and resignation, I sat down at the bottom of my stair steps in a motion of surrender.
This was the exact time when my daughter came up to me with her latest discovery.
Did you know there are less than 36,000 minutes left until Christmas?

From The Book Of Mom: What Parents know by Heart published by St. Anthony Messenger Press

Christmas Wish

by Tammy Bundy

I remember when I was a little girl and I would always ask my dad what he wanted the most for Christmas. Every year it would be the same answer, “Peace on earth. Good will towards men”.
That seemed like a pretty tall order to fill for a kid. So I always bought him a package of handkerchiefs, instead.
It has only been recently, though, that I understand what my dad was getting at. The older I get the more I realize that “peace on earth and good will towards men” is not that outlandish of a request after all.
And we don’t even have to go to the Middle East to achieve it, either.
We could start with our very own family.
The other day my two youngest were at the store that sells everything for .99 cents. This is where they were doing their only Christmas shopping. After picking out most of their presents rather quickly, my boys asked me to hide my eyes while they searched for my gift. This proved to be a difficult task for the kid consumers. Finally, growing impatient with having to hide my eyes in public, I commented that I was sure they could find something I would like very much in the few minutes we had left, but could they please decide quickly. To that my little one announced, "But I don’t want to hurry, mommy---I want your gift to be the best one of them all.”
It will be many years before he will realize that the precious gift he did, indeed, give me this year did not come with a bar-code or price tag attached.
His words were wee steps towards peace on earth…good will towards men.
I had another reminder of my dad’s Christmas wish this holiday season when my kids and I went to visit our friend who is in a Retirement Center. We wanted to take her something special, but what could she possibly want or need?
We arrived with a Christmas sweatshirt that was gratefully accepted. But I didn’t feel that was quite it. Soon into our conversation, our elderly friend apologized for not being able to put up her decorations this year.
That was it.
That was all I needed.
Within fifteen minutes my kids and I had her room decorated from the meager two boxes of Christmas memories that we pulled from her closet.
Her tears of joy told us that this was the best present we could give her. We gave her ourselves.
Peace on earth. Good will towards men.
I think maybe my dad was on to something here.
Truthfully, this is something we all know but we push aside because it is actually easier for us to go to a store to find our presents than it is for us to go deep inside ourselves to find the gifts we possess within.
But let’s remember, after the sweatshirts and handkerchiefs are all opened, let’s decide to give a gift that only needs to be wrapped in our own arms.
Before the gifts of this special season give way to a memory once again, let us start giving gifts of the heart.
We can call it baby steps for peace on earth and good will towards men.
Let’s give each other the gift of our love.
It’s one size fits all.
And returns are not just allowed, they are absolutely encouraged.

From The Book of Mom: What Parents know by heart published by St. Anthony Messenger Press

Christmas Lights

by Tammy Bundy

When it comes to Christmas, my husband and I are in a mixed marriage.
Now, the difference is not in the way we celebrate Christmas. The difference is in the way we decorate Christmas.
And as with everything, this difference is rooted in our childhoods.
During our first Christmas, shortly after my husband and I were engaged, we went to visit my future in-laws. As we pulled up to their house, I stared into the darkness and asked, “When are your folks decorating for Christmas?”
“What do you mean?” my husband blankly asked. “They already did decorate.”
Upon closer inspection---much closer inspection---I noticed there was, indeed, a single lit candle in each of their windows. And a green wreath on their front door.
My husband did not have to wait long to understand my confusion as to his parent’s understated decorated house. He only had to wait until our first Christmas visit with my parents.
Upon turning the corner that leads to their house, my husband-to-be had to shield his eyes from the glare. There were lights in the trees, lights on the bushes, lights on the rooftop. You name it and if it did not move, my parents hung a string of lights on it. My fiancee commented that he had seen less lights on the Vegas strip.
And so you can easily see that we came by our mixed marriage quite naturally.
But we have tried to deal with this Christmas quandary from the beginning of our marriage. We compromised. I decorated the inside of the house however I wanted and he decorated the outside however he pleased.
For the first few years my spouse went all out. He hung a wreath on the front door. Of course, I must mention there was a flood light shining on this wreath for effect.
This worked up until the kids were born and developed their own opinions---which was approximately fifteen minutes after birth.
“Our house looks boring.” They would complain. “ Santa won’t even be able to find it. Please can we put up some lights?”
And so, little by little---one year at a time---I have been sneaking in a few decorative touches to our outside Yule tide decorations. One year it was simply a few red bows for the bushes. The next year, it was a few white lights for the bushes. My husband, of course, did notice the additions, but, wise man that he is, he knew he was outnumbered, and reluctantly gave in to this mutiny. But still the kids wanted more.
“Everyone else has those pretty icicle lights,” They noticed this year. “Can we please get those?”
And so it was that I could recently be found precariously perched on a ladder next to a tree in our front yard, trying to hang a tangled tier of icicle lights. One hour later I had learned something important. You can’t hang icicle lights from a tree.
And so, after another half-hour of untangling them from the tree, I decided to try to hang them from my house. I soon discovered another important point to remember. I have a two-story house, but only a one-story ladder. So, ever the diligent little elf, I thought I would simply drape the icicle lights across the middle of the house for a dramatic effect. Once more, I spent the better part of an hour attempting this. And after almost three hours total decorating time, it was finally done.
And as I stood in the yard, staring at my accomplishment, panting and yet proud of my new strand of lights---my youngest son came out to inspect my work. After looking quizzically at the new display for a minute, he honestly responded, “It looks like our house has a mustache.”
The worst part was---he was right. The windows were the eyes---the front door was an open mouth---and my attempt at icicle lights had created an elaborate handlebar mustache for the Bundy abode.
I ripped the icicle lights down and put a wreath on the door. That took about five minutes.
Now, where do I find those darn candles?

From The Book of Mom: What Parents Know by Heart published by St. Anthony Messenger Press

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Question

The sight of the horse and buggy on the country road awakened the interests of my kids that the ninety-minute car ride had deadened.
"What is that?" my (then) six-year-old was the first to notice and question.
I smiled at the sight that I had seen many times before when visiting my grandparents in Belle Center, Ohio. "There are Amish people who live up here and that is the way they travel."
"Cool!" came the response from the backseat.
The closer we got to the slow moving mode of transportation, the more the questions arose about the Amish life style. To kids who had just been complaining about not having a cell phone, the idea of such a simple lack of modern day conveniences seemed not only unheard of, but downright antiquated.
"Do they know what they're missing?" my son questioned as we slowly made our way past the buggy. The plainly dressed gentleman smiled as he nodded and waved while holding onto the reigns.
We returned his courteousness and waved, continuing on our way to Grandma's house.
I couldn't help but to think of that scene when I was awakened to the news of another school shooting last week. This time the shooting took place in the humble dwelling of a one room Amish school house in Pennsylvania .
It breaks our hearts anytime we hear of a school shooting ---and there have been more times lately than we can wrap our broken hearts around. But there was something even more sinister in this choice of victims: a community that is known for such simple-God fearing ways; a people that remind us of a time so long ago. Hostage situations and multiple murders here seem even more of a deplorable violation to the rest of the world.
But now the rest of the world is sitting back with a sense of awe in what happened next in the community.
The afternoon of the murder, the families involved led a walk to the house of the murderer to show forgiveness to the family he left behind.
When asked about this, an Amish gentleman answered, "It's just our way of life."
One mother who lost her daughter was overheard saying it was a horrible tragedy that should never happen. But if it had to happen, "...it was probably best that it happened in our community, where we are prepared to leave this world for the next."
The simple people with the plain clothes have spoken so profoundly.
We do tend to look at their way of life as being antiquated, almost backward in thought. It appears, though, they are better futuristic thinkers than most.
To answer my son's question, they indeed, appear to know what it is they are missing in their chosen lifestyle.
The better question, though, just might be: Do we?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Halloween fright

Walking through the creepy isles of the Halloween store, I had to stifle the urge to let out a blood-curdling scream. No, it was not the disembodied head hanging from one of the displays that frightened me; it was actually the costume selections my 16-year-old daughter was considering.
We had entered the store in search of a costume for her to wear to a big Halloween party on Saturday night. Having gone a few years since her last trick-or-treat trek, we hadn’t had the need to look for costumes for her in awhile. Thus, I was unprepared for what I found.
My daughter had informed me of some of her friends’ selections: Little Red Riding Hood, Dorothy, and a policewoman.
So far so good, right?
What she had forgotten to mention was the adjective used to describe each of these outfits: Sexy Little Red Riding Hood, Naughty Dorothy, and Arresting Policewoman. Each costume was built around one foundation garment: a bustier. If I hadn’t known better, I would have thought we were all picking out costumes for a Victoria Secret fashion show, and not a teenager’s Halloween Party.
My teenager tried her best to “shush” my vocal objections, but I could not stay muted for long. Corsets, and garters, and stockings--- oh my! The only thing missing seemed to be edible underwear.
I understand that Halloween took on a whole new slant after the movie Mean Girls came out a few years ago. In this film, the main character, arrives at a Halloween party in—of all things –a ghoulish Halloween costume. She is mortified to find all the other girls dressed in little more than lingerie. And faster than one can say, “peer pressure,” teenage girls across America ditched all potential Halloween costumes that actually covered skin and once again, allowed themselves to be treated as sex objects by Hollywood and everyone else.
Somewhere, years ago, in the ancient civilization known as my youth, I, too, attended Halloween parties. One year, I went as Miss Piggy—wearing a bed sheet and a nose I cut out of a toilet paper role. Yet another year, I went as a bag of trash. Each of those costumes showed off my ample creativity, not cleavage.
Is it simply that we parents today are too willing to buy these overpriced costumes—which range from $49-$129? And by affording these costumes, are we affording our daughters a lesson we really don’t want them to learn?
I know my teenager would love any of those costumes –they are a great fantasy. But, a fantasy for whom?
When I wore my self made costumes all those years ago, I had an entire night of people affirming my creativity. That helped me grow into who I am today. But just what grows and develops in you from the basic affirmation that at 16, you nicely fill out a bustier?
My daughter is used to her “old fashioned” mom. She knew the compromise would end up being a home-made costume that is similar to the coveted ones, but slightly more modest ---and, yes, way more grown-up than her mom would like it to be.
But still, the backwards double-standard that society puts on our daughters bothers me. While I know without a doubt what the boys at that party will be seeing, I have to wonder what they will be wearing. I fully doubt that any of the boys will be buying any costumes that show off their bodies and sexuality. And still, we all buy into the sexing up of our daughters --- allowing, and thereby encouraging them to be defined by their bodies—all in the name of Halloween.
And frankly, that scares me most of all.