The past couple of weeks have been very busy. Early morning departures from the home and late returns have been the norm. Yesterday I didn't see the kids at all, except for a couple of minutes in the morning. By the time I arrived home at 9:30 pm, they were fast asleep.
This morning as I was having breakfast, I noticed Chloe (almost four years old, my only girl and the middle child) looking at me from around the corner. I have seen this mischievious look on her face before, I thought to myself. I knew she was keeping something from me. I said, "Good morning, Chloe!," trying to draw her out, but she quickly disappeared behind the corner. Beyond my view I could hear a closet door opening, and a rustling of the closet clutter. I was just about to get up from the table to investigate when she reappeared.
"Supwise!" she said excitedly.
She was holding a paper bag that she had decorated herself, and it had my name on it. Inside was my Christmas present. I was glad when she insisted that I open it right now (or rather, that she open it for me). I reached inside the bag and took out a true Chloe original: a gray sweatshirt which she had decorated herself, her handprints making a Christmas tree. She had written her name on the shirt as best she could. She was as proud of the shirt as I am of her.
My wife told me that Chloe had wanted to give me the present last night, but of course I didn't get home early enough. Today I decided to do something special for Chloe. I picked her up from daycare and we had lunch at Hardees, her favorite restaurant. She had her usual: chicken fingers, french fries, hawaiian punch, and a bite of my burger. For dessert, a chocolate chip cookie and the prize gift from the kids meal bag. She loved the little prize that came with her meal, and wondered if she would get lots of "prizes" for Christmas. "I'm sure you will," I replied.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving in the U.S., the day we celebrate our abundance and good fortune with giant meals and time with loved ones. Americans "pig out" on Thursday, sleep it off, and then Friday morning we all rush to the stores to spend our money on Christmas presents. It's the "start of the Christmas season," I'm told, but I know better than that.
Each year, the Christmas season comes earlier and earlier. It was many years ago that Christmas broke through the Thanksgiving barrier. This year I finally noticed that Christmas is now butting right up against Halloween, threatening to overrun yet another holiday. I went to our local KMart the day after Halloween, hoping to buy next year's costumes for our kids at a deep discount. What I found was more Christmas stuff on the floor than Halloween stuff.
I used to joke that we should just cancel Thanksgiving and Christmas, and rename them both the "Thanks for Giving en masse" holiday. But its not a joke any more, is it?
Jane, my wife wants to talk to me about a book she is reading: Unplugging the Christmas Machine. It has something to do with putting the meaning back into Christmas, and avoiding the commercialization of the holiday. I've thought for years now that Christmas is becoming more of an inconvenience than a celebration. From stringing lights on the house, to dragging an expensive tree into the house, to picking pine needles out of the carpet, there are elements of Christmas that I could probably do without. I'm looking forward to Jane's review of this book.
This morning, my little girl embodied the best of the Christmas spirit: she gave willingly and enthusiastically, with no expectation of receiving something in return. Making me happy was all she wanted to do, and she did that grandly.
From my family to yours, have a happy Thanksgiving holiday. May you be surrounded by people who care about you.
Todays lesson: make time for what (and who) is important