26 December, 2010

See, he IS real!

I haven't been around to blog lately because I've been crazy busy. Soon I'll blog about hectic December with its myriad of emergency vet visits, school-related demands and other various activities. And on top of that, I'm feeling really stretched across three cultures: the variety makes life rich and interesting, but it can also leave one rootless; floating.

December always seems hellish to me-- I've only just cleaned up after Thanksgiving and need to start scrambling to organize Dutch Sinterklaas. Right along with Sinterklaas comes German Advent, and with that we race headlong into the Christmas season, which is celebrated in different ways depending on which culture we happen to find ourselves in.

This year was a little topsy-turvy: we celebrated Sinterklaas with my parents and Christmas with Michiel's parents. It was so nice to be able to spend time with family, but as a result of celebrating each holiday outside of its specific cultural context a lot of tradition fell through the cracks.

And I have no one to blame but myself. Without the cornerstone of religion or childhood Sinterklaas memories to give the holidays meaning, December has devolved for me into a series of obligations in the middle of an already busy time.

I bought all the gifts, grudgingly baked for a myriad of holiday parties and sent heartfelt Season's Greetings to faraway friends. Somehow it all got done, but the magic has definitely been lost along the way.

This year we celebrated Christmas in Holland, where it isn't as big holiday as it is in the States. We were supposed to have opened presents with Michiel's brother's family, but their kids were sick, so their visit got postponed. Making a purely pragmatic decision, M and I decided to wait and open presents when we can finally all get together at New Year's eve.

We had a really nice day-- we took the S and B out for a long romp in the snow in the Biesbosch and my MIL prepared a beautiful dinner which we shared with M's 100 year old Oma. By sheer coincidence the kids saw a version of A Christmas Carol and we talked about Scrooge and Dickens.

Last night I was tucking S into bed when he gave me a sleepy hug and said: "Merry Christmas, Mom." And suddenly it hit me: I'd wished everyone else a Merry Christmas but hadn't even said it to my own sweet son. This is the kid who stoically accepted the fact that presents wouldn't be opened for another week and didn't complain about the half-assed way we celebrated Sinterklaas or the fact that this year we didn't even put out stockings for Santa!

That swift, hard realization shattered my heart into a thousand pieces. Christmas is supposed to be special, and it's my duty to uphold that magic for my kids, regardless of how old they are or how loudly they declare that they don't believe in Santa. I am supposed to be the keeper of tradition and in that area I have failed miserably.

Obviously being with loved ones during the holiday season is important, and we're definitely enjoying that. Clearly the gifts aren't central in our house, so I feel like we're doing something right there as well. But there's also an element of anticipation, childlike wonder and timeworn tradition which are vital, and in that respect I've completely dropped the ball.

But you know what? Something magical happened last night! Sometime after we'd all gone to bed, probably while I lay crying into my pillow, a note arrived. It appears that Santa has been delayed by the snowstorms that have paralyzed Europe, but a trusty elf managed to get through with a handwritten message.

He hasn't forgotten us after all! Somehow he knew that S and B have been kind and honest and sweet to each other this year. His letter instructed us all to put out our stockings on Monday night. (And he said they should be BIG!) (He also asked that we not forget to leave him cookies.)

Santa may be finished with all of your houses but he still has one last stop to make, and I'm so grateful that he's decided to visit us this year after all despite my lack of faith and general Bah Humbug attitude! And this might be one the most precious Christmas gifts I receive this year!


Goofball said...

wow, they get visited by Sinterklaas and Santa? lucky kids ;) . So do they still believe in both? If not they surely understand the circumstances . Don't be hard on yourself, even for them these holidays are surely not about the presents.

Africakid said...

Aww, that elf intervened at just the right moment!

Sometimes mothers need a shot of Christmas magic along with everyone else (especially since they end up doing a lot of the work!).

You strike me as a wonderful mom, and I'm sure your children would agree.

Happy Dreikönigstag

Betsy said...

Thanks guys, I needed that. You know, I think it's just harder lately because the kids have stopped believing in Santa Claus. And I still want to make the day special but it's lost that crackle of excitement that it used to have...