Friday, December 30, 2016

Redefining Christmas

When we were raising our kids, I openly admit that we fell victim to the holiday guilt trip. We were shamed into spending money we didn't have on things we didn't need, most of which would be discarded within a few short weeks of Christmas, and all of which would get the axe when we downsized after the kids moved out. We were part of the corporate culture, good spenders trained well. But as keeper of the Christmas List, I was miserable, tired, stressed.

As we began to reassess "stuff" prior to moving onto Kintala full time to go cruising, holidays were one of those things that endured careful scrutiny. In order to assure that we had enough money to care for ourselves and not burden the girls at the end of our retirement, spending was going to have to be curtailed to an extreme measure. By that time we had seven grandchildren and, between birthdays and Christmas, we would have spent our entire monthly cruising budget on gifts and cards. I struggled with guilt and feelings of inferiority for a long time. We had a lifetime history of holiday giving and had succumbed to the propaganda that if you didn't spend a few thousand dollars on your kids and grandkids every Christmas, that you didn't love them.

As we began to log the cruising miles, it became apparent that we might have something to give after all. The experiences we were living, the stories resulting, and the future possibility of having the kids on board to share in them, all became a growing reality. We might not be able to buy the multiples of hundred dollar Lego sets, but we could share in the laughter at the antics of the dolphins.

On December 10th we left St. Louis in Daughter Eldest's van headed for the boat where they intended to spend a month as a trial for a summer with us in 2017. That month, which spanned Christmas, is rapidly drawing to a close (much to my daughter's dismay), and it has left me with a renewed appreciation of the benefits of the cruising life and the way it has changed our outlook.

It all started with Christmas morning. The kids had gone to Mass at the local Catholic church in Palmetto and, while they were gone, I placed a few small Lego minifigures wrapped in tiny packages on the back of the settee. They were met with delight, smiles, and a bunch of giggles. I had worried that they were too small, too insignificant, too inexpensive, to impress them, but my fears were unfounded. They were thrilled and spent the next couple hours assembling them and playing with them. Later that afternoon we went for a hike in the local part, Emerson Point Preserve, followed by Christmas dinner of roast chicken on the boat. It was a perfect day. There were no hours of opening mounds of presents, no boxes of leftover wrapping paper and ribbons to store, and no credit card bill to pay in January. There was only a sleepy, "This was the best Christmas ever!" heard from the aft cabin. The Legos will never be remembered when the kids are 40 and having their own Christmas with their kids, but the memories of Christmas on the boat will endure.

I recently heard of someone who made an Advent calendar that had little cards tucked into each pocket. On Thanksgiving afternoon, they filled out the cards, selecting someone for whom they would do something special, or to whom they would give a small gift or write a letter. It culminated for this family in delivering a basket of gifts to their local fire station on Christmas day. It takes unbelievable courage to step from the Lemming Stream, but there's probably never been a more important time in history to do so. Next Christmas, try to give the gift of experiences rather than gifts. Hug rather than buy. Dare to define your love through some other means than money.

I promise you it will be the most rewarding thing you do

1 comment:

Sarah said...

Very well put. I wish you success in continuing this tradition.