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