Thursday, December 18, 2008

Lost & Found: The Christmas Spirit

Although I don't look it and I certainly don't act it, I'm quickly approaching my 28th birthday (it's March 23rd, in case you want to start looking around for the perfect diamond or pony named Cupcake now...). This is depressing to me for many reasons (that's a whole other blog post right there), not the least of which is that there is so little whimsy left in my adult life.

So often my money woes, my life goal woes, my single-ladies-put-a-ring-on-it woes, and my I-still-live-in-a-basement-apartment-and-have-hand-me-down-furniture woes clutter my brain and don't leave much room for surprises. As an adult, I always seem to get caught up in realities; when you're a kid, you have the luxury of time to imagine and wonder and believe.

So it's probably no surprise that the hardest part of being an adult for me has been the slow erosion of my Christmas Spirit. When I was little, Christmas was all I lived and breathed from November 25th until Boxing Day. I carefully planned my wish list, meticulously hung every ornament, and basked in the glow of the twinkling lights nightly until the Big Day. There was always snow on the ground, cookies in my belly, presents under the tree, and joy in my heart.

It wasn't just about the gifts either. I loved the thought of seeing all of my extended family at once, eating dinner all together around a big table, and watching cheesy movies with my cousins. I never felt more at ease, more comfortable, more content then I did on Christmas surrounded by those that knew and loved me more than any other people in the world. And when they left at the end of it, they took part of my Christmas Spirit away with them, which even my presents couldn't replace.

I remember the first signs of the slow decline of my Christmas Spirit. I was fairly old, all things considered - probably about 23? My parents sold our house and moved us into an aparment off of Regent street in Sudbury. While it was a lovely place, we were quite cramped (fitting in a house full of furniture into an apartment half the size will do that...) and there wasn't even really room to put up a Christmas tree. Besides, we were spending Christmas at my grandparents' house in Parry Sound so we just felt like there was no point in decorating when we weren't even going to be home. It was the first time that we were well into December and yet I couldn't find even a trace of the joy of the season.

As the years went on, the changes kept coming and kept driving a wedge between me and the Spirit: we lost an uncle to cancer, a grandfather to old age, and a brother's ex-girlfriend to awkwardness (again, that's a whole other blog post...), I stopped getting a stocking (truly, if we're being honest, this was the present that broke Santa's back), moved out on my own, and started showing up Christmas Eve and leaving Christmas night.

In other words, I was becoming an adult and my family was getting older. Gone were the sleepovers and Nan and Pop's basement on Christmas Eve, waking up at 6am and tearing open my stocking with my cousins. Gone were the big presents from Santa that were put out in the middle of the night. Gone was my insomnia keeping me awake all night in fervent anticipation of the mornings' delights. Instead the day became pragmatic - drive, sleep, get up. Unwrap, pile up, put away. Eat, drive, sleep. Just another couple of days.

In some ways, the distance is comforting - with the joy of family also came the overwhelming family dynamics, with the eating also came the pants-not-fitting. Now I can get in and get out and don't have to be the last to leave the party. It's also nice to be an adult at Christmas because I can afford (or rather in theory can afford) to give better presents, which has become my favourite part of the day (after the Eating of the Bacon).

But like a drug addict chasing her first high, I've never stopped looking to find the Christmas Spirit again. To feel again that intense joy and internal satisfaction of the season, the sense that all is right and all is good with all I know. And last night, at the kids' Christmas party at work, I think I might have come as close as I ever have to finding it again.

There were 30 coworkers' kids running around the office (and violating my Hunk Tree, might I add. What's a Hunk Tree, you might ask? Well sit tight, because I have a blog post a-brewin' about it. You'll be impressed, trust me!), hopped up on sugar and pizza and anxiously awaiting Santa's (ie my other coworker Paolo dressed up in a red suit and fake beard) arrival. As one of Santa's elves, I was lucky enough to have a front row seat for one of the most touching exchanges between child and adult that I've seen in my life.

Santa: (packing up his stuff after distributing presents and getting ready to leave) Well kids, see you in a week! Ho! Ho! Ho! Be good little boys and girls!

Coworker's son: (runs up to santa with the MOST joyful smile on his face, tugs his sleeve and hands him a christmas card he just made) Here santa, this is for you! I made it!

Santa: Why thank you, son! It's lovely. I'll be sure to put an extra present under the tree for you!

Son: (flabbergasted by his good fortune, staring up at santa in awe, pauses dramatically before saying) MERRY CHRISTMAS SANTA!!!!!

He meant it with all of his heart and soul, and it was so sincere and innocent and sweet. And it wasn't even about the present, it was the fact that Santa - the coolest guy on earth to this kid - thought that something he did was cool, too.

In that moment, I was reminded what it was like to be a little kid at Christmas again. Even if it only lasted a minute before I had to start rushing around being an adult again, the pure connection and heartfelt sincerity that happened between that little boy and Santa will be enough to last me a few Christmases yet, I think.

And in the spirit of the season, dear blog-reading friends, I've got a few presents up my sleeves for you. Tonight I see an advanced screening of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and will be happily bringing you my review tomorrow. I'm also about half way through my write up about my Michael Cera airport adventures, which is sure to be a crowd pleaser and excrutiatingly hilarious.

So carve out some time in your busy shopping-wrapping-drinking-merrying-caroling-eating schedules and stop by the blog between now and next week week to have a laugh.


PS - for the only other "serious" blog post I've written in the year and a bit I've been at this thing, click here. It's about kissing, if that makes it any more enticing for you...

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