Boxing Christmas

Although I am not fond of gift-wrapping, I adore the end result: all those pretty presents under the tree. So yesterday afternoon I gathered tissue, tags, and ribbon and set to work. Hours later, I only had four wrapped presents under the tree and two of those had been hastily plunked into gift bags. Everything else had gone into the box.

This year, California Son is coming home to Detroit for Christmas, but Texas Son is not. Hence the box. Instead of being efficient and sending money or smart and shopping online, I chose the Texas gifts my usual way, by strolling stores, leafing through catalogs, and quizzing other family members for ideas. Then I bought the stuff from actual stores in my neighborhood, hoping to help our battered Motor City economy.

Without the usual payoff of a pretty pile of beribboned gifts under the tree, I felt a little out of sorts. I was not hungry or thirsty. I was not tired or energized. I was feeling a little low and feeling silly for feeling that way. So what if all those carefully wrapped presents had been swallowed by a big bad box? They would eventually end up where they needed to be. So what if my tree skirt looked a little unembellished? I still had lots of shopping to do. And more wrapping. The naked skirt could be my incentive.

Despite giving myself this pep talk, I couldn’t shake my blues. Then it occurred to me that I wasn’t sad about the tree or the gifts, I was sad because I wouldn’t be with Tim during the holidays. I haven’t seen him since May, when I visited Dallas for a week. That’s a really long time without an actual hug by any mom’s calculation. My sadness was an emotional landscape familiar to mothers all over the world who have children living long distances away. So I wallowed for awhile. Then I did the one thing guaranteed to snap me out of it. I made my gratitude list.

I started with the cat curled in my lap and the cup of tea at my side, then moved outward. The twinkling lights on the tree. The childishly crafted ornaments full of glitter and sequins hanging on conspicuous branches that proved Tim had spent many wonderful Christmases by my side. I was able to acknowledge that I was grateful for Tim’s good Texas job, the one where he actually uses his college degree, unlike his former job here in Detroit selling tires. Also, I’m grateful he’s in excellent health. He has a generous, loving wife, a great big affectionate dog, a happy home.

As I added up the things I was grateful for, I started to realize something else. A part of me had moved to Texas with Tim. He’d packed up a bit of the me that loves Christmas. He’d taken me with him in every holiday tradition we’d once celebrated. And will celebrate again.

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