Thursday, December 13, 2018

Christmas Magic

“You seem so excited about getting the Christmas tree this year,” one of my girls said to me last week as we sorted through our box of ornaments and contemplated where to hang each one. While some Decembers the tree trimming can seem as much holiday chore as happy tradition, it’s true that this year I was eager to get the tree up, to insert that key symbol of the season into the living room.

I figure this is because I can feel the shift of this season in my children, from pure magic to – well, whatever comes after the magic fades. And because I ran into a mom of older kids, the day we got our tree, who said her offspring don’t even want to help decorate the tree anymore. And because I remember getting there myself – reaching the age, somewhere in teenage-dom, where I didn’t really want to help with the tree anymore either, when hanging ornaments onto needled branches felt more tedious routine than joyful ritual.

My kids aren’t there. Yet. But I can see the writing on the packaging of Christmas future. So I am embracing this season as much as I can – and trying not to let the bittersweet-ness of growing-too-fast children seep too deeply.

Instead of dwelling (for long) on the photo from five short years ago that popped up on my computer screen recently – the one of my now-non-believing son writing his annual missive to Santa in large, uneven, red and green letters – I focus instead on his sister’s excitement of getting the Christmas decorations out and strewing them about the house.

Rather than worrying (too much) about the littlest exclaiming incredulously that so-and-so doesn’t believe in Santa OR elves, I focus on her sleepy-eyed fascination each morning with finding our own magical elf, Jingle. And try to ignore the fact that she’s already let go of the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny, so Jolly Old Saint Nick is the only one left.

Although this season is busier than busy, I try (with occasional success) to step back, take a breath, and focus on the joy – and the goodness of that busyness. How lucky to be busy with things that I love – writing and coaching and being Mama – even if many dark winter mornings I long for a few more cozy minutes snug in bed.

Beyond the deadlines and shoveling and bills I wish I could ignore, there is skiing and cookie-making and finding and wrapping gifts and eating good food with people I love. My house smells like Christmas trees and ski wax – two of the happiest smells I know. And it sounds of children, sometimes fighting – with me or each other – but also sometimes, often, laughing and sharing stories and discussing which decoration should go where.

Shining lights fill the season – on the tree in my living room, from the glint of sunlight off snow, and shimmering in the so-dark winter sky. The other night, as we were driving through that darkness, my daughter looked out the window at the countless stars twinkling from an unimaginable distance away from our car, our town, our planet.

“There are so many,” she said, her voice filled with wonder. “They look like Christmas tree lights sparkling all around us.”

Perhaps, then, the magic of this most wonderful time of the year doesn’t fade so much as it shifts. Maybe it’s there to be found, no matter what form of magic we believe in, if only we look the right way, in the right places.

Original content by Meghan McCarthy McPhaul, posted to her blog, Writings From a Full Life. This essay also appears as Meghan's Close to Home column in the December 14, 2018 issue of the Littleton Record.

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