Over the years, what I thought of as the perfect Christmas has changed. When I was a child, it was what I found under the tree on Christmas morning that mattered most. Did Santa bring the bicycle I wanted? The doll I’d set my heart on?
When my own children came along, my focus shifted to making magic for them. The house sparkled and the stockings were always full. I measured my success in their delight with the hard-to-find toy they’d ask for and received.
Of course, as they grew up, and as I grew older, our traditions took on more importance and the gifts became less important than the structure of the day. The food we ate, the familiar decorations on the tree, the routine we’ve developed after decades of holidays together was what mattered most to all of us.
I’ve been thinking about that this year because in many ways it feels like this was one of the best Christmases I’ve ever known. And in many ways it has been the simplest.
Just a few weeks ago, all of my children gathered, making their way home to be together for Thanksgiving. In early December, I was able to spend precious time with my sister and my brother, the two people in the world I’ve loved the longest, and we were grateful for the chance to be together again. We picked up lost threads and talked about the people and places that make up our shared history. We said goodbye with tears in our eyes.
My children all came back home for Christmas and the house has been full of laughter and love, the happy chaos all the better for the presence of a clumsy puppy and the grandchild that delights us all.
My son and daughters cooked and wrapped gifts and teased one another, laughing over the photos in old albums, remembering the best of the years.
As Christmas holidays go, this has been the simplest. The tree was smaller and there were fewer gifts under it--we all wanted little and needed even less--and yet it has been one of the most wonderful I’ve ever known.
I have no idea what the new year will bring. None of us ever does. But I do know that as this year ends and the new year dawns, I’ve already been given more than I could have hoped for.
Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a travel writer whose audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the U.S. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” (available at Auntie’s Bookstore in Spokane) and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org