When I was growing up, we didn't celebrate Christmas - Oh the joys of being an ex-Jehovah's Witness. But every December till the year before she passed away, my Grandma Dee would pull out the Spiegel catalog and let my brother and I choose an "End of the Year" present. We would bookmark the page, dog-earring it and circling what we wanted, and she would order it and it would get shipped to her house, where we could open it after December 25th.
I remember being so overjoyed at the thought of getting a present for no other reason than no reason at all. But the feeling I remember best is just being excited to take part in a tradition that somehow related to something we never got to take part of - Christmas itself. At a time of the year when everyone else got to celebrate holidays, go to parties, get presents, and just revel in all the fun that Christmas is for kids, us JW kids were constantly sidelined. If there was a Christmas assembly at school, we'd have to go sit in the principals office till it was over. If there was a holiday party in class, same thing. When other kids gave presents, we felt cheap and stingy, because we weren't allowed to give anything, even to our best friends. Being left out like that felt like the biggest thing in the world, to my childish heart.
Looking back, my Grandma's generosity of wallet and spirit, and her willingness to be a little subversive, at least as much as my grandpa would allow, did more for making me feel included and slightly normal than years of knocking on people's doors ever did. There was no more patient, kind or giving woman than my Grandma Dee, and this year, 20 years after her death, I still miss her with an empty hole in my heart. I wish she was still around so I could finally buy her something from the Spiegel catalog.
It's funny, but as a kid, the things you want are so trivial and basic. This doll or that toy, or this book or cd. And when you don't get them, it feels like the world is coming to an end. As an adult, my Grown Up Christmas List is so very different from anything I ever wished for when I was a kid, or could even imagine wanting, and disappointment is a feeling I've become all too used to. How very much we change.
I'm not going to pretend that I'm as deep and meaningful as Amy Grant, wishing for "No more lives torn apart" or that "Wars would never start". Yes, I want those things, but the cynicism of adulthood has left me no longer wishing for them with blind hope, and sometimes barely able to comprehend that I could, as one person, exact such change and peace in the world. My Amy Grant list today would look more like "stronger community focus on reaching the marginalized of society" or "the ability to truly love my neighbors without resentment at our differences" or "contentment amidst the dullness of day-to-day life as a single woman with a cat". But then that doesn't work so hot in a song, now does it?
In all honesty my Grown Up Christmas List does contain some of those things, but it also contains such vain and unachievable intangibles as "A whole year of good hair days" and "the joyful desire to get up every morning at 5 to go work out" and "finally finding that perfect buffet/sideboard/console for my living room, at the right price with free up-the-stairs delivery". I wish I could say I was as selfless a woman as my Grandma Dee was, but sadly I'm nowhere near the saintlike status that time and memories have given her in my mind.
As the years passed, and I moved from childhood into adolescence, the time I got to spend with my grandma lessened. Instead of sleepovers at her house every Friday night, our time together looked more like brunch once a month, on a Saturday afternoon, at Nordstroms Cafe, and shopping at the mall, till she would get on the bus to head home. Grandma Dee never drove a day in her life. I remember her saying once that any fool could drive, but it took a real genius to get her husband to drive her everywhere.
If my grandma were alive today, I know it would bring her great joy to grant me a Christmas wish. But the one that I would want most of all couldn't be found in a Spiegel catalog, or any other website/catalog/mall-store that she would frequent. I just want my grandma back, and for her to be proud of the woman I've become. I want to sit with her, at Nordstroms Cafe, as an adult, and know that this was one family member who loved and supported me wholeheartedly and unconditionally. I want more time to appreciate her, for her her quirks and eccentricities and for her goodness of heart, rather than for the things she bought me growing up. I just want my Grandma Dee back.
But in case you, for a moment, thought I was really gonna let it end at that (*cue violin music and single sad tear*), here is the rest of my Grown Up Christmas List. I'm not gonna lie and say it's all wonderful and beautiful and deep. But I do know that it's definitely not the list of a kid anymore. And yes, my Grandma's at the top of it, and always will be. The rest of it, however.... well it's a Christmas Wish list. Let's just leave it at that. So without further ado ...
... My Grown Up Christmas List:
1. Grandma Dee - 'nuff said
2. Someone in my family to come out and visit me at Christmas (or any time of the year really), at least once.
3. A really good hair day every day for the next year.
4. The knowledge of how to practically apply all I know about loving people and living a life of selflessness, and the motivation to actually do so.
5. Better teeth.
6. My cat to always, always, always use the litter box.
7. A non-judgemental housekeeper.
8. To actually lose weight when I work out instead of always... being... at... the... same... weight... year... in... and... year... out. Bleeeehhhhh!!!!!!
9. A boyfriend that actually likes short, goofy brunettes, thinks I'm smart and pretty and kind, is the best man I've ever met, will let me cook for him, and likes me enough to be able to tell me exactly what shade of brown my eyes are without using the words "baby poop" or "mud".
10. Or the ability to not desire #9 whatsoever, and just live in complete contentment with my life as it is.
11. All my youth group and Sunday School kids to grow up and do great and wonderful things with their lives, without making any of the mistakes that I ever made.
12. A blogmakeover.
13. A dishwasher.
14. The house on the NE corner of 39th and Washburn.
15. To escape the fundamental punishments of growing old - aches and pains, the inability to sleep in past 6, hearing yourself sound like your mother.
16. Peace and joy and laughter and sunshiney sparkly double rainbows galore for all my friends and those that I love.
17. To be an instrument of blessing in the lives of people around me this year, in a tangible and meaningful way.
18. A brand new Volvo SUV with leather seats and seat warmers and an automatic car starter and a rockin' Bose sound system.
19. To achieve the perfect balance for time management of time spent alone, socially with others, and serving my community.
20. Peace on earth and goodwill to all humankind!