“’The We People. They never say I. They say, “We’re going to Hawaii after Christmas” or “We’re taking the dog to get his shots.” They wallow in the first person plural, because they remember how shitty it was to be a first person singular.” Michael Tolliver in Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin
I became one of the We People seven years ago during the Halloween season. Perhaps that is why Halloween, for all its commercial and sugary elements, has become a big holiday in our house. True, there isn’t a decoration on our porch or in our front yard. But I start planning my costume in July, based on M’s choice for the year. I’m proud of our mother-daughter bond and I enjoy celebrating in this way.
I often tell people that it’s hard for me to remember life before M. I have memories, some vivid, others fuzzy.
Halloween 2007, two nights before I met Rambo
There were moments of adventure and fun but also of loneliness and confusion. My little girl really did change my life, our lives, for the better. First person singular was formative; family is foundation. Who I have become, as the result of being a parent, makes me proud.
To all of you who did couple or family costumes, I wish you more happy memories.
Seven. That is how many gifts I will be purchasing, not the thousands of dollars to be spent or the number of miles of lights to be strung up around my house. As usual, my holiday is being “downsized” in the eyes of consumerism but upgraded and reinvigorated in my opinion. I would like to continue to move away from the practice of spending money to the tradition of spending time sharing faith with my family.
In my house, the crèche is the centerpiece. Inspired by the crèches I saw in Peru and in Italy, I began to see the Nativity manger differently. It is and continues to the best decoration for the season.
We put up a Jesse Tree for the first time. Inspired by years of catechism, I had always fondly remembered this tradition and began to incorporate into our own celebration. I hope to revisit this tradition more purposefully. M is attending parochial school so she has a better sense of Bible stories and how they connect to our own family. I want to make the Jesse Tree feel like less of an “extra” activity.
Last year, I also began keeping an Advent calendar for M. True, each day featured some little trinket: a sticker, a toy ring, a small candy. But it was more about anticipation and excitement, about looking forward to daily surprises. This year, I’ll be revisiting the daily treats. How might I make them more meaningful, less “little” in terms of substance?
So I will likely be cleaning or writing or exercising on Black Friday morning. After all, my family is here at home, not in a mall or a parking lot.
I have been drumming my Grinch fingers and trying to figure out a way to keep Valentine’s Day from coming ever since I was a teenage college kid blowing up heart-shaped balloons at the UC Berkeley Student Store candy and card department. Back then, the dreaded holiday was our Black Friday (or Black which ever day of the week) and all of us dressed to head to toe in black in protest. Even today, I was telling my trusty teaching assistant that I still disdain the material things associated with Valentine’s Day.
But all that longtime Grinchiness was set aside when I gave M a card and Tinkerbell bracelet early this morning. Her expression was one of genuine surprise, gratitude, and joy.
In Southern California, approximately twenty people are recovering from being pepper sprayed by a woman intent on getting her hands on sale items. Here in the Bay Area, a man is recovering from a gunshot wound sustained in a botched robbery at the Wal-Mart a mile and a half from my house. It is definitely a black Friday.
The commercialization of holidays has been steadily increasing year to year. I ordered my daughter’s Halloween costume in July. Costco had stocked Christmas decorations well before I bought Halloween candy. Stores began opening on Thanksgiving night in an effort to lure shoppers. With this emphasis on buying, there is a heightened sense of desperation, the pressure to purchase things that will somehow make the holidays special during these difficult times. But things never did give much comfort.
I won’t argue that things are not necessities and that they don’t bring us pleasure. The sight of my daughter in her footed pajamas makes me smile. I also love to watch her serve me tea from her toy kitchen. I went against my own commitment to buy nothing today and purchased an Advent calendar online so we can begin a new family tradition. But things add to our sense of comfort and celebration. They are not the reason or the cause.
Today is a good day to rediscover the holiness that originated holidays. My own faith life has been tested by a hectic schedule and low morale about my work/career. I have a wonderful opportunity to rediscover the strength and joy my faith has given me and to teach my daughter about what I love. Money and material goods come in and out of our lives while faith prevails.