Saturday, January 31, 2009
For the first 10 years of our married life, Christmas was always the least favorite time of the year for me. I would usually have a “crisis” at the beginning of December. This was because we have very little tradition to carry on for our family. Due to the physical distance, we rarely are with our immediate families. Usually, we would get an invitation or two to spend Christmas dinner with some friends, different people every year. I was always grateful for the invite, however, I always felt out of place and lonely in the middle of crowd and the chaos that comes with it.
Every year, in an attempt to bring some cheer, I would try various recipes and decorating ideas out of Martha Stewart Magazines, only to get stressed out or disappointed. The tension continues to rise as Christmas approaches and I would have one of those juvenile temper tantrum, crying fit, feeling sorry for myself session and no one loves me day.
Things started to change about two years ago. Maya was old enough to remember and expected certain things to happen at certain time of the year. She would remind us that we should make our Santa bread. She wanted me to make those “peppermint bark” from last year. ”Are we going on a sleigh ride this year?” ”Are we going to our cousins for Thanksgiving to have Chinese food?” ”Is daddy going to make me the chocolate cake for my birthday?” I have now collected several paper plate Christmas ornaments with kids’ hand prints, photographs and glitter glue. It made me smile. It made me tear up, overwhelmed by the smallness of their hands and how much time has passed already.
Tradition…I yearn and crave to have recipes that were passed down from my great great grandmother. Cousins and grandparents, siblings gathering for holidays. Packed house, board games, skating on a pond with cousins and grandpa reading Christmas stories.
When I heard Maya asking for the peppermint bark, and hearing the squeal of delight when she saw the ornaments she made for me, I realized that we are already making history and building tradition. Tradition is not something I should try to create, but rather I have to let it happen. Listen to the kids. They will remind you what’s important to them. And one day, they will be calling me and asking me to send them the recipe that makes them think of home.
Last year, after 12 years of marriage, I was finally at peace with being alone (as in just us and kids) for Christmas. Kids and I had great time decorating the tree as we looked at each ornament and talked about where we got it. Doing some bakings and sharing them with our widowed neighbors, going on sleigh ride, baking cookies for Santa. No hissy fit. No more feeling sorry for myself. Peace.
I started to think maybe I have it easier. I am not stuck with some tradition I don’t get or I don’t appreciate. I am free to do whatever I want. We have salmon for Christmas dinner, Chinese take-out for thanksgiving. That’s 2 turkeys I don’t have to cook. Really, I have nothing to whine about.