Well, Story’s first Christmas has come and gone. We had a lot of fun, saw both sets of grandparents, and I ate a metric ton of chocolate in various forms. In other words, a good Christmas.
This also means that my first Christmas as a mom is behind us. A family has a lot of parts, but its beating heart is the mother. She sets the tone. She has the most intimate relationship with each family member. And she does a lot of the little things that give texture to a family’s domestic life, like sussing out everyone’s favorite meals, planning and maintaining wardrobes, and organizing and scheduling activities.
For better or worse, I am The Mom to this particular family, in this particular stage of my life. So, how did I do on this, my first Christmas as Mom?
Eh… I did ok.
Here’s a list of the things I wanted to get done, and did:
- Get picture with Santa
- Wrap gifts as though by elves
- Make birthday cake and smash cake (not technically a Christmas activity, but took place two days later, and therefore I am counting it.)
Here’s a list of the things I wanted to get done, and didn’t:
- Send Christmas cards
- Make stocking
- Make commemorative ornament
That’s not, really, such a terrible accounting. The stocking is the only one I feel really bad about, and I’ll have it ready for next year. (I will!) But this is sort of a typical showing for me: some of the things I want to do I accomplish, and accomplish well. And the others, er, not so much.
It’s got me thinking about what is really important to me to do for Story, and what I can let sort of slide by the wayside. And I think it comes down to one thing: memories.
I want Story to remember eating an enormous slice of watermelon in the park on a summer afternoon. I want her to remember driving out to a tree farm to cut down our Christmas tree. I want these things for her, even though dealing with a watermelon on your own kitchen counter is much easier, and buying an artificial tree is much more cost effective. I want her to feel, when she grows up, as though she drank deeply of childhood, as though there is a long, magical expanse of time in her past.
Some of the physical things, like the Christmas stocking, are important, because they are the keepers of memory. Every Christmas, my grandmother used to give me a mouse of some kind: toys at first, and once I had gotten older, ornaments. I don’t remember a great number of these mice individually, and I remember receiving almost none of them. But still, when I see one of them now, I remember the tradition and the meaning behind it: that my grandmother had a special way of remembering me, a unique way of displaying her love.
But honestly, most of the physical stuff I would like to make for Story sort of falls into the unimportant category. Experiences are what I really want to give her. I remember reading that after he learned he was dying of pancreatic cancer, Randy Pausch (of Last Lecture fame) decided one of his chief responsibilities over his last months would be to provide memories for his kids. They were all young, and realistically he knew that they would have a hard time holding onto their memories of him. One of the things he did was take his older son on a dolphin encounter, the kind where you get in the water and pet a real live dolphin. Pausch hoped that this would be a big enough event to live in his son’s memory, to help him feel the memory of his father’s love even as his memory of the man himself faded.
This struck me as an excellent idea, and one that any parent would be well-served to emulate, even without dire circumstances as a motivator. I want a big life for my daughter, a full life, with all sorts of wonders in it. Large wonders, like dolphin encounters, and small wonders, like watermelon in the park.
So, moving forward, I think it’s going to be a matter of deciding where I can put my time to its best purpose. Making commemorative ornaments for each of Story’s Christmases might be nice, but it’s not going to be quite as meaningful, I think, as making hot cocoa and cuddling up with her to watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
But next Christmas, I am totally going to make that stocking.