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November 26th, 2010

02:04 pm - Holy Daze

Driving home last from a day of sweetness and laughter spent with family, my son dozed in the backseat.  Something soft played on the raido with the volume low, traffic whizzed by too fast in the passing lane while my daughter and I tip-toed around the current fiscal realities of our household and the upcoming "gift buying" season.  This past summer we moved twice and are not recovering well from the financial blow.  We lost all our holiday decorations, mementos and heirlooms to invasive mold at the address located At the Mouth of Hell.  While our household is clearly pagan and my politics are left of left, I made clear choices not to "deprive" my kids of participating in Xmas . . . the tree, Santa and the gifts.  Granted, I've usually used Xmas as an excuse to get the kids things they needed anyway--shoes and winter coats, pajamas, art supplies and books.  Of course, I'd also get them some things they'd wanted which I'd put off as long as possible.  We've never been what I'd call, "financially comfortable."  Planning ahead, layaway, magic and miracles have always played a big role in pulling off the role of Santa.

Now, both kids understand Santa has always been me.  They grasp that things are tighter than ever.  And yet, the idea that there might well be no tree and that any gifts they receive will likely fit into a stocking (one we have to sew ourselves), isn't quite sinking in.  I don't want to panic them about money.  But I do want to get across, now they are old enough to understand, that buying for the sake of buying is not only impossible this year, it feels morally and spiritually unsound.  I've been tiptoeing around this.  Yesterday, as the kids spoke aloud thier long lists of Gratitude, I used it as an opportunity to remind them that they have everything they need. 

As my daughter and I talked in low tones so as not to wake my son, we were coming up on the malls visible from the highway.  It was 10pm and temperatures were in the low thirties with forecasts predicting twenty degrees and a chance of freezing rain over night.  I pulled into right hand lane and slowed way down, telling my daugher to look into the parking lots in front of Target, Best Buy and Dick's Sporting Goods.  The lots were full of cars, people standing around outside darkened storefronts in winter coats and even a few tents.

"What's going on Mom?  Why are people camping out in front of those places?  They're not even open!"

We talked about Black Friday and people being broke because of the economy and the sad hope that by spending a night (or two or three) in the cold waiting for the early opening of these major retailers that they could save some money and still have "stuff" under the xmas tree.

"I didn't think people actually did that, Mom.  I thought that was only on TV or the movies.  That's so sad.  It's kind of crazy."

We talked about consumption and addiction, fear, guilt and the drive for more and more and more.  We talked about Hunter Gatherer societies and how this camping out in the night to assure coming home with the goods was kind of like some old impulse to hunt for the health of the tribe.  I thought she'd come to some understanding and acceptance about it because she got very quiet as she does when she's processing something.

After a long silence, she said, "Aren't the real sales in January?  Maybe we could wait to celebrate Xmas in January?"

So, I repeated myself again, reminding her that we've "raised the bar" this year on how we live day to day.  She's going to a private school and, while we get a very generous financial aid package, it's still not free.  We made a commitment last winter to ski.  And, when we were flush, bought season passes for this year but there are still skis to rent and gas to get to the mountain and back.  She is working hard to raise money to get to Europe next spring/summer.  Meanwhile, I worry about how to buy oil to heat the house.  I'm working on wearing down her defenses.  I said, "We can have the kind of Xmas you want if you go back to public school and we don't ski."


"We can have the kind of Xmas you're used to if you close down FaeryGirl and we use the money you were saving to go to Europe to buy a bunch of stuff instead."


"We can have the kind of Xmas we used to have if I go back to working nights as a nurse."


"We can't do it all, sweetie.  Today, you couldn't stop when you were giving thanks!  You're list was so long!   So, I want us to really consider how we'll spend our holiday without spending money."

We drove on in silence, the darkenened highway disappearing under the tires, traffic thinning out as we headed away from the cities toward home.

Finally, she said, "I want to ski.  I love my school.  I want to travel and I'll keep working so I can do that."


"Can we go skiing on Xmas eve?"


"What else can we do?"

And suddenly, it was as though a great weight was lifted.  And the conversation became excited.

This year, we'll bring in bare branches from the outdoors and string them with lights and hand made ornaments.  We'll string fruit and nuts for the animals and hang them in the trees.  A fire in the firepit outside in the snow on Solstice eve with singing and cocoa and a Yule Log.  She wants us to sew our own stockings.  We want to wake before dawn to see sunrise on Solstice Morning.  We want to write our blessings and thanks on slips of paper hung from the indoor branches--reminding us of the abundance we have and the dreams we hold.  We'll make or buy, barter for or exchange for the things we need--but forgo wrapping them up as "gifts." 

It was a long drive home.  Now that we're on the same page, we have still to convince my son.

In re-reading this, I realize it might sound like I'm complaining.  I'm not.  I grateful that the push to purchase is off my shoulders.  I want my kids to have experiences--like skiing and travel, great schools and excellent friends, magic and community, meaningful ritual and traditions--more than I want them to have stuff.  My sister insists they need a Wi-i.  I insist she answer the question, "Why would I have them pretend to ski, play tennis, do yoga or anything else, alone in the living room in front of a screen, when for the same price, they can go (gasp) outside or join a class and actually do it?"  She thinks I am depriving them.  I think I am giving them more than anything I could purchase at Best Buy--even if I did camp out for three nights in the cold. 

Happy Holidays--however you choose to celebrate them.


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