This past weekend was the first full weekend that Brian, Athena and I had spent together in almost two months. Between Brian's taking classes one weekend a month for the past four months, and working extra hours on a Christmas tree farm, family time has been scarce. Valued. But scarce. So we just hung out. Our little family. For the whole weekend.
It was wonderful.
I love this man so much. I am so grateful to have such a strong-working, kind, loving and thoughtful man as my partner through this wacky, wonderful journey that is life, parenthood, learning to love deeper and growing older.
I have often heard people say "having kids ruins your marriage". I agree. The marriage that we had before Little Owl came along is no more.
It is better.
The transition from a young, care-free couple to full-time parents happened over about a five hour period. It's is only now, six months later, that I am looking back and really impressed with how well we have both coped with such a sudden upheaval to our former lives and our former selves. There is only one word.
The holidays have been a blur for me this year so far. I can't believe Christmas is only two weekends away. I barely had time to realize it was Thanksgiving before it past. Forget Halloween. I don't even remember what I was doing.
I remember this time of year as a kid. Things were so different. The gap between Halloween and Christmas felt like an eternity. The Turkey Eating Day was just a weird thing we did between the two real holidays-- the Candy Day and the Present Day. I would sit around in anticipation staring at our family's advent calendar once it finally hung on the wall December 1st and count down the number of days left until the Present Day--every day-- multiple times a day. What can I say? I was a kid.
I am no longer that same kid. In so many ways I still feel so childish. But, in others I really don't. I feel very grown up. I have a kid of my own. A kid who I wish one thing for. To grow up to be an adult who is
Part of what I did over the week was sort through a large (huge!) box of hand-me-down clothes that I have been given from numerous families in our community for Little Owl. Wonderful clothes. So many clothes. I sorted through them and put together a large bagful that I didn't want. Why? Because they had stains on them. No holes, no tears, just stains. I couldn't help but think, "what a luxury." There are a lot of people around the world who would take those clothes in a heart beat.
I am not claiming I am some sort of ascetic, nor do I want to be. Nor do I want my child to be. But, what I do want is to be aware of what I have and not just expect to be given more, more, more or buy more, more, more like TV, magazines, radio, snail mail ads, internet ads, etc. all tell us we should.
One of Brian's and my favorite things to do together is go to thrift store hunting. We've done this since we were dating. It's a mutual love we came into our relationship with. Pretty funny in a lot of ways. But it's one of those things where we when we have free time and we don't know what to do one of us suggests "We could go to Goodwill...?" and we usually do. Typically, we don't buy anything. Occasionally we will score a sweet deal that we purchase and take home. But mostly, we just browse.
True to form, on Sunday as we were out running other errands we stopped at Goodwill. I don't think I had ever been to a thrift store this time of year. If you want an eye-opener about what this Christmas Holiday is about to most Americans, go to a thrift store. There were rows and rows and rows and rows of unopened toys-- dolls, monster trucks, mini kitchens, nerf guns, stuffed animals, barbies, doll clothes, legos, and more, more, more. All unused. All unopened. Unwanted gifts. Gifts that money had been wasted on--not just by the person who bought them, but by the people who make them, the people who assemble them, the people who ship them, the people who advertise them....
Later that day I was at a department store where I stood in line behind a family who was unloading their cart full of toys. Hundreds of dollars of toys. Toys that make noise, toys that are shiny and pink, toys that are fluffy, toys that you don't need any imagination to play with. And, of course, I couldn't help but think of those rows and rows of toys at Goodwill.
Have you ever seen the stop/motion animated Rudolph the Red-Nosed reindeer by Rankin/Bass? The one with the Island of Misfit Toys that Rudolph and Santa visit? The island where all the toys that no boys or girls wanted end up. Lonely, dejected, gloomy dolls, stuffed animals, trains and other sad toys. As a kid watching Rudolph interact with these sad "people" I felt sorry for them. I wanted to comfort them, and tell them that I liked them. That they could come live with me and I would love them. We were supposed to feel sorry for them. That's what the director wanted. That way, Rudolph could be a hero in the eyes of every little boy and girl under the age of eight.
That's what I thought of when I saw those rows of unopened boxed toys at Goodwill and those toys at the check out stand at the department store (most likely all of whom would one day or another inevitably end up at a place like Goodwill...), but instead of feeling sorry for those toys, I felt sorry for us.
Look how far we have come. From a Holiday who's tradition stems back to the story of one woman's unattended home birth of her baby boy in an unimportant town after she had taken a long trip on a small donkey only to stay the night in a dirty stall that was used for feeding animals because all the hotel rooms had already been taken by other travelers....
I feel sorry for all of us this time of year. There is so much pressure to spend money. To want gifts, buy gifts, sell gifts, make gifts, give gifts. More, more, more.
I am not opposed to gift-giving or gift-getting. I love giving and making gifts for those I love and value dearly. I think it is a wonderful way of showing you care. There is a lot I like about the Present Day, but I think from now on I am going to make sure that I go to Goodwill every year this time of year. And, I will take my family with me.
I wish you all a blessed and gratitude-filled holiday season.