On Surviving the Holidays and the Constancy of Wonder

Baby’s First Christmas has come and gone. I’m not sure what the big deal was supposed to be.

People say “Christmas is for children!” or “Watching children enjoy Christmas returns the “wonder” to our lives.” I don’t really get it. Christmas isn’t special to my little girl, everything she touches is a absolutely new and amazing. She approached the new baby bird at Day Care with the same amount of glee that she used for the Christmas tree.  She pointed, squealed, then crawled forward to grab it and try to lick it. Bemoaning the loss of wonder is something cynical people do. How do you can lose the wonder of Christmas? Or more importantly, how does having a child in your life not return the wonder to everything? A Sunday morning Farmer’s Market is a riot of excitement to her, how is that not like Christmas every weekend?

I admit, we used the excuse of now having a child to do the things adults aren’t allowed to do alone. We got a family picture done with Santa in adorable small-town Martinez. (I know the photographer there, Sweetness and Light Photography, and she does excellent work that captures kids as they are, not as you pose them.) We look happier than she does to be in the picture. My daughter, who greets new people with a grin and a finger up their nose, could have cared less about Santa. My husband and I are grinning like we’re about to go to the North Pole and be gifted with all the toys in the world. She looks bored.

We went to Zoo Lights in Oakland, which is a yearly event in which the Oakland Zoo decorates all the open spaces with Christmas lights and flashes them in time with Christmas songs. I wore the baby. We walked around, drank hot cider, and watched as an animatronic Rudolph, backed by light-up flamingos, sang the Tempations version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. (You know the one: “Hey Rudolph! Won’t you guide my sleigh!”) She seemed to enjoy the lizards in the reptile house more than anything else. And the music. But that wasn’t anything special. She dances equally well to Sinatra, Marley, or Mozart. Again with the wonder in everything.

My husband and I did all the same things we’ve done for 11 years of marriage: We got a small table-top tree decorated with things that do not belong in trees. (That’s my theme. I figured it was more interesting than some predictable color-coordinated look.) We covered the house in twinkly lights and lit candles on the first night of Hanukkah in honor of my husband’s family. We mulled wine any night we wanted it, so, you know, every night. Then on Christmas we gave each other one big gift each plus plenty of cute stocking stuffers and filled the day with all the Christmas songs I can stand. And I can stand a LOT of Christmas songs. My family is far away, and most of the people I know have other things to do on their Christmas, so the holiday has really become the smallest, most intimate of celebrations. I like it that way. Without making any political statement, we simply leave the madness sometime around Dec. 23 and retreat to our home for all of our favorite things, re-emerging sometime around Dec. 30 to say, “So, hey, do we want to do something for New Year’s?”

Having a new baby fits in well with all of that. Baby Girl spent a lot of time trying to pull the tree over or eat the nettles. We bought her one large gift, which she loves, and lots of little things, most of which I’ve now stored for later. She wasn’t aware that there was anything unusual going on except that she was home instead of at Day Care. She had no expectations or any particular expressions of wonder, beyond her usual expressions of wonder. Right now there are two of them: When she sees something new/that she likes, she points at it, screeches, and grins. When she’s cruising around doing her own thing, she hisses thru her four (two up, two down) front teeth.

She’s just happy. We’re just happy. And for us Christmas was just a long weekend to sit and enjoy that. I hope Christmas remains no big deal to her. I hope her life remains so full of the easy wonder of the everyday that Christmas is just another expression of what is already true for her. I hope she keeps that screech and that desire to grab life with both hands and lick it.

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Published in: on January 10, 2012 at 8:15 pm  Comments (1)  
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  1. For her sake, I actually hope she learns the correct order of operations for any trap: Look at it, listen to it, smell it, touch it, and then, if nothing else goes wrong, lick it.


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