The Christmas Grudge…

Anyone reading my blog probably realizes over the years I’ve used my grudge app on occasion. I don’t really consider myself a spiteful person but the grudges I’ve accumulated over the years have been difficult for me to let go move on. As I age I’m more content with my life, thus more forgiving. My Christmas grudge only lasted 15 years which I view as a short term success story.

My Christmas tree skirt. Made by Elly, 1981…

Some of this Christmas skepticism is the result of my upbringing. I’m not exactly a Scrooge type character, just wasn’t raised very Christmasy. Growing up I don’t remember Christmas being a big deal. Doesn’t mean there weren’t festive times, I just don’t remember them. I do remember the Christmas following the death of my brother Larry in October, 1958. That one I recall vividly because there was nothing to celebrate (sorry about your birthday Jesus). No tree, no presents. I was 8.

Larry’s last school picture…

There are many things I’ve grown to love about Christmas over the years. My collection of stockings for each family member. You can easily see the changes in stocking patterns over the years. Our first 5 are smaller (except for Joshua’s which is way bigger than all the rest), patterns were simpler, not as sparkly with sequins or detailed (or as puffy, I started making the first one in 1984. When the pattern called for filling, I used dryer lint. I know-hopeless, so I convinced a bowling buddy, Mary Lou to finish the first 5). The last few are works of art. (Dread the day when they actually go to their rightful owners, but that too is part of life). But my tree is probably my favorite, or more specifically the ornaments on my tree (although actually putting the tree up is far more work than I remember when I was 40, 50, even 60). I caught the exotic Christmas tree ornament bug (there is no cure) from my sister-in-law Elly. She had the most beautiful, completely loaded tree with stunning, unique, gorgeous ornaments I’ve ever seen. Many from all over the world. After enjoying her tree every Christmas during our early years of marriage, I learned instead of buying a box of ornaments, I would purchase one of a kind ornaments. After decades of collecting, I don’t think I have any duplicates on my tree.

Two of our special stockings, made by Sue Nicholson…

Hubs and I were raised totally different. My parents were more somber and strict, John’s family was loosey-goosey. Hubs was the last of their 5 kids. He was as unspoiled as I was a total brat. His folks didn’t worry where he was or if he didn’t show up for supper without calling first. He could whip up fried egg sandwiches topped with ketchup when he was 6. I attempted boiling water the day after we eloped. (Epic fail). And the Van Berkum’s went all out for Christmas. Being the last of 5 kids, his sibs were older and had kids of their own already. Their large, boisterous family would have presents stacked up to the ceiling when they all came home to celebrate on Christmas Eve. The Gerritson’s didn’t celebrate Christmas. New territory for me when we were dating, newlyweds and new parents.

Joshua sitting by Elly’s tree, 1981..

I was befuddled how irked I was with someone who was fictitious! I’ve got some issues. I should have directed my resentment towards the Hubs. At least he was a living, breathing entity who could duck and find cover. This Christmas discord started in the mid ’70’s after a few years of marriage. We were now parents of 2, Shannon 7 and Joshua, 2. Hubs was an engineer at a toy company (don’t be mislead and think this was a hap-hap-happy place to work. It was run by 4 unruly brothers who tried to out crazy each other-and were highly successful in their endeavors) in eastern Iowa (350 miles from both sets of parents). He was working 60 hours a week for a pittance and I was home with 2 littles and no car. Good times. There just was not enough of anything to go around. Except bills.

Christmas at the Van Berkum’s. Cards always included. Jim, Mag, Eleanor & Elly…

Shannon and Josh had worn the pictures off the pages from the toy section of the Penney’s and Sears Christmas catalogs. They were normal kids and wanted it all. But we were seriously lacking the proper funding to make this happen year after year. Trying to make young children understand they couldn’t literally have every toy on multiple pages was impossible. But the Hubs was the worst offender! He’d come home from work and while I was making supper (yes I had learned to cook real meals) or cleaning up the kitchen and getting ready for the kids’ baths, Dad would eagerly help the kids peruse the Christmas catalogs.

Joshua and Shannon, Christmas 1978…

Instead of gently putting the brakes on their outrageous requests, Daddy would simply say, “why don’t you ask Santa for that?” (Are you out of your ever loving mind)? They both asked for twice as many gifts than what we could afford. After scrimping and saving, penny pinching, utilizing lay-away, giving up a couple dollars from the grocery money each week and using my birthday money so we could buy what they had their little hearts set on, we (I) never got one iota of credit or satisfaction for buying them any of the cool gifts. Every present that was a hot ticket item of the season, each new fangled toy on the market that was circled because they couldn’t live without it–was from Santa. The novelty, cheesey, mundane dollar toys/stocking stuffers were from us. Yay. The too expensive, hard to find toys were from Santa. Every. Time. Every. Single. Time.

He’s not as innocent and sweet as he looks…

So I’m being brutally honest in admitting from 1972 until 1987 (Adam was finally 8) I resented the ‘whole enchilada’ concerning Santa with his uncanny ability to bring my kids all the best presents. (Hubs didn’t do himself any favors by siding with Santa either. I think he still believes). Hubs would go so far as buy special gift wrap each year and kept it hidden from the kids (because Santa would never use the same wrapping paper as us mere mortal parents. Duh). Sounds petty as I’m writing about something so trivial but truthfully the whole Santa thing bothered me a lot. Guess I was selfish to want the credit for what I considered blood, sweat and tears shopping for Christmas because I doted on my kids when along comes the fat guy in red and steals all my thunder.

Shannon 9, Adam 4 months, Christmas 1979…

I see some similarities between how I responded to the silliness of being one-upped by Santa for a spell and Christianity, which is sort of odd. Instead of freely giving with a full heart of happiness to the glory of God, the grinch in Neese was not ready to give freely. It didn’t matter to Shannon, Josh or Adam where the presents came from. They received great gifts and for a few years believed in something magical (which caused me angst because I wanted the kids to appreciate the high cost of those gifts. Which was selfish and childish). Lesson learned. Maybe it’s time to tackle the rest of my grudge demons and see how exhilarating that might feel…

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