One of the Mountain State blogs I really enjoy reading is The Charlestonian, written by a remarkably observant person identified only as Charles. In fact, I like this blog so much that my only complaint about The Charlestonian is that Charles writes too infrequently. His comments always make me think, even if I don't always agree with his point of view.
I've been thinking a lot these last few days about a post Charles wrote before Christmas, titled: Xmas Wishes. In the post, Charles points out the hypocrisy that is the Christmas season: a period of time in which we preach goodwill and giving while being controlled and manipulated by greed and expectation. The comments rang true with me when I first read them, and I was reminded of them often as I waded through the herd of last minute shoppers, bought gifts simply because I believed it was expected of me and felt the distress and worry that comes too easily for a season Charles scoffs at for being called "The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year."
By late Christmas Eve, I'd had enough. After the wrapping was over, I went to bed frustrated, anxious and slightly drunk. (Well, a couple beers did seem to help.)
Early morning came, and I was awakened by cheers from my youngest kids. I watched my daughter Griffyn by-pass the gifts in order to check the milk and cookies she left out for Santa the night before. She was thrilled to find the glass nearly empty, and only crumbs left on the cookie plate. I watched my son Jaden be as excited about the gifts others got as he was about those labeled with his name. I marveled at my daughter Maddisen's appreciation for Christmas, considering this was her first since she figured out that Mommy and Daddy have more to do with the day than does Santa and Rudolph. And I was in awe of my wife who--like all terrific mothers--worked the day harder than anyone else to make it magical and enjoyable for her kids.
That's when I remembered what I find so special about Christmas.
When it works right, Christmas morning can be filled with innocence and goodwill. Young children with wide-eyed enthusiasm for the season, and older kids who still appreciate the efforts of others even after some of that magic has rubbed off. Mothers (and I'm sure dads, but in my family it's "moms") who sacrifice to make sure the day becomes a life-long, special memory for the kids.
Contained within those small moments is the real meaning of Christmas, for me anyway.
By Thursday, life will be back to the normal day-to-day grind, so the joy that's experienced is fleeting, of course. But it's a powerful, addictive feeling; so powerful, in fact, that I'll brave the malls and put up with the hypocrisy next year.
Just for the hope of experiencing it again, for a short time.