As we drove home in our vehicle I debated if I should even voice the question aloud. But I had to know and I inwardly cringed as I found my voice and turned to the rear of the car.
“So, um, if family ask me what you guys want for Christmas; what should I tell them?”
The boys noisily climbed out of the SUV and settled upon our kitchen table as the aromas of our breakfast settled around us. I thought they hadn’t heard me but between bites the eldest said the words I thought I’d never hear.
I have everything I want, Mom. I’m good.
Shocked I glanced to the hubs on the opposite side of the table as the youngest son echoed the same sentiments. The middle one ate quietly; nodding his head. Thinking I had heard incorrectly, I rephrased my question. It was then that the middle one finally answered.
I guess if people need to get us something, we can always use clothes.
That was on Sunday. Black Friday had passed without a second thought. There had been nothing I felt the need to buy; a vast departure from years prior. When Cyber Monday arrived I told the hubs to search online for deals; for anything he felt we needed. Most times these two days arrive and we buy in flurried frenzy. We tell ourselves we are buying for others; but really we are looking for deals for just ourselves.
Did I finally arrive? Have I finally reached my holiday destination of simplicity?
I know that the above thought probably will be tested and eventually, the consumer, materialistic me will emerge. The holiday shopping season helps drive our economy. As small business owners we know this; need this for our survival. If people don’t buy product then we have no business to manufacture. Nada. We definitely need a robust season to bring our economy’s financials into the black.
After Sunday breakfast the boys debated various consoles; valiantly trying to think of something to want. They argued the pros between XBox One and PlayStation 4; neither of which they’d use since they are online PC gamers. Tablets or toys, Nah! I listened to the nine year old; the son that is more adult than any of his older brothers were at that age. When they had been nine there were lists of things they wanted. With googly eyes he brazenly asked if he could have a phone; an answer he already knew would be no. With a hug and a smile he loped away with the words hanging in the air.
I’m just happy to have you. Oh, and daddy too.
The present is the gift. The gift of presence.
After recovering from a very full fall, I spent the Friday after Thanksgiving digging amongst the boxes. Yes, we are that annoying home that is fully decorated the day after Thanksgiving; the first one on our lane. This also is a first for us. In years past the kids were asked to help decorate; to create the Rockwell moment of family merrily decorating for the season. This year my Christmas elf, aka my youngest, sadly looked up at me as I began to dig through the boxes.
Is it okay if I don’t help you this year, Mom? I usually help you every year.
Weirder still, I was okay with that. I don’t want to force joy and cheer upon my family when it is not sincere. I want them to do the things they do because they want to. Decorating should not be a chore. Gifts should not be a requirement. I’m done with buying, just to buy. I want things to have meaning, for people to be authentic. I’m tired of being blinded by the glitter of grand expectations.
I appreciated the youngest’s honesty. It allowed me to appreciate it more when the middle one decided to join me; the one that rapidly grows. For three hours he teased my short stature as he placed ornaments high upon our tree and hung lights above my reach. When the hubs ventured outdoors to put the lights up; the eldest chose to help him without prompting. Much later, the youngest willingly assisted as I struggled with branches; his two hands steadying the base. These are the gifts I gladly receive. Presence. Without the distractions of buying and completing lists I could truly enjoy some time, here and now, with my sons.
As we replaced the boxes in the storage shelves in the garage; the hubs noted they were not empty. I decided not to put all of the ornaments out; paring down. The de-cluttering mentality has permeated my life in ways I had not imagined. No longer do I wish to accumulate things to show that I have. These days, what I have is just enough. There are still things that I want versus the things that I need. I am learning to let things go, slowly but surely.
Have I arrived? Hardly. I’ve only just begun.
Sunday evening, amidst the twinkling of lights, I finally finished reading Katrina Kenison’s memoir as she traverses middle age. I’m not far behind as her written words foreshadow what is yet to come. I began to realize all that I currently take for granted. I can still count all of my family of five within my four walls. Someday soon these sons will emerge into life; leaving the hubs and I behind. I have continued health and mobility. Eventually age will physically mark us; teaching us to rely on others. Pride and self-sufficiency were values of youth; compassion, humility and the ability to ask for help will be harbingers of our future. We must cultivate relationships. It is these bonds that define us.
From our building front door I gazed at the gray landscape; the leaves of autumn strewn upon the wet ground. I contemplated the thoughts above in the quiet moment. Usually this busy street is lined with cars rushing to and fro. It is rare to hear nothing but silence as I quickly snapped the shot. A season in my life is changing like the fading leaves on the grass. I tenaciously kept hold of the branches of the tree; fighting the winds of change. For a year or two now I’ve felt as if I’ve floated slowly, trying to catch shifts in the current; to sail above and away. But now I humbly stand on the ground and get my bearings; finally understanding that what I’ve been searching for has really been within me this whole entire time. I just needed to peel away the layers, to de-clutter, to find it.
Fastener. noun. “A” Def. 2. Dictionary.com, n.d. Web. 2 Dec. 2014.
I work on holding together the merging edges of my work life with motherhood. Presently, I continue to custom manufacture fasteners for my mental needs; nuts and bolts to hold the ties that bind.
May you fasten your attention, this season, with quality moments.