Mariposa Life

It’s an empty nest kind of Christmas

This year, it’s just the two of us for the holidays. And it feels strange.

I had to remind myself, this is how it was when our family first started – all those years ago, when it was just the two of us. But it felt different then. Exciting. Adventurous. Hopeful.

Over the years, as our family grew from two to four, the anticipation of Christmas grew. Especially when our children were old enough to enjoy the giving as much as the receiving.

The Christmas tree no longer looks the way it did when they were home. Their ornaments now hang on their trees. (Which means I’ve been shopping for new ornaments and garlands for our Christmas tree makeover.)

As thrilled as I was this month to get the tree up and decorated, beneath the lowest branches the landscape was bare. Just one big, empty space full of nothing.

It was scary and depressing at the same time. Suddenly, this Christmas was different from all the other Christmases – and not so exciting.

Depression isn’t a good thing, even though it’s real at times. I understand. And this time of year can be especially hard. But I’m trying not to let it gain any ground in my thought-life.

There’s an irony I can’t explain – how I love receiving gift cards, but don’t enjoy giving them nearly as much. Shopping this year didn’t take as much time – or money.

I decided not to waste the extra time gained in feeling sorry for myself.

So I went back to the attic, opened all those plastic storage bins and pulled out every shiny red tin and decorative gift box I could find. I arranged those and the handmade fabric Nativity scene underneath the tree to fill that large, gaping empty space.

It doesn’t look so empty now.

As for the money saved, we’re putting that into the house.

“Mom, would you send me the recipe for Swiss porridge?” my girl asked last week.

It’s one of our favorite Christmas brunch menu items. Our old and cherished traditions will be shared at her new place this weekend.

No matter how many Christmases I’ve seen, this time of year I’m still a kid inside – loving Christmas just as much now as I did when December seemed to stretch for eternity. The wonder, the anticipation, the smiles and whispers, the glitter and shine … cold, clear starry nights, favorite songs and carols, yummy baked goods, church plays re-enacting the first Christmas. ... And of course the gifts and stockings.

As this season of life brings transitions, I’m reminded how all seasons are transitional. From my babies rolling over, to crawling to walking to running to jumping – and then 18 years later, leaving home to begin their adult lives.

Some of our families continue to grow, with the addition of new in-laws and grandkids. And some, this year, are missing a loved one who passed away.

Maybe every Christmas is a little different from the one before, but in the chaos and excitement we miss it.

Whatever changes have taken place, this Christmastime can still be memorable.

I can be a part of making the holiday brighter for others. I can welcome quiet hours and dive into the stack of books waiting to be read. I can tackle cleaning and organizing tasks that have been neglected too long.

No whining about who or what I’m missing. This is another season, another chapter, a new opportunity.

Just the two of us again. The resemblance is there from when we first began. And although the years have left their mark, the differences have made us better.

Christmas and its related holidays can be a time for reflection as we wrap up the ending of one year and prepare to open the next. We can view each day and each year as a gift for becoming wiser, stronger versions of who we once were.

Instead of singling out this year and giving in to the sadness, I’m looking at the culmination of years and finding reasons to rejoice in having made it this far – in our journey as individuals and as a family. And planning to make new memories for carrying into the future.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to you and yours!

Debbie Croft can be reached at