Saturday, January 9, 2016

A Paley Family Christmas

Today is Christmas Day.

A special day that, no matter my age, always brings an extra level of excitement, joy and sense of connection with loved ones that other regular days just don't have. Not that the other days aren't trying. Nice try days! Yep, Christmas is that one day when all grievances and disagreements and arguments over "whose pillow is that?" or "where are my cashews?" or "who is that guy standing in the corner measuring things?" are dropped and we all join hands and envelop each other in a warm, glowing hug.

At our house, the clock hit midnight. Bam! And with Christmas freshly upon us, I sat there on the couch as I had sat there many times before. If I allowed myself a moment to reflect, I'd be impressed with...something. My wife was finishing arranging presents under our tree and seemed slightly too enamored with the tree. My 44th Christmas Day. Wow. And while I don't remember each and everyone of them - especially the first few which I have to take my parents' word even happened - I was hit with pleasant feelings of déjà vu from many Christmases past. And I don't even need a convenient and timely visit from any ghosts, or at least not now.

Looking at the lights on the tree, listening to carols on the TV, and eating freshly baked cookies for "Santa" I was reminded by all that I have to be thankful for, with the ability to well-light a tree being only one on that list. It's easy to forget. or take things for granted sometimes, especially with my life being so busy and lacking enough time to sit back and reflect, just how good we have it. It's just so easy to focus on what you don't have or what you've lost or periods of time from the past or people you miss. 

Instead, as I sit here this morning with my wife, watching our kids take turns ripping open the thin layers of wrapping paper standing between them and their gifts, I feel such pleasure that it's hard to completely describe without sounding cliched. Not that I usually let that stop me, but, it is Christmas and I'm trying to keep myself grounded and have imposed a word count. Stop nodding your head so enthusiastically! As each present is unveiled and the kids screech with excitement, I'm grateful for the ability to provide such safe and insulated opportunities to screech for my young ones.

Looking back at all of the Christmases behind me, it hasn't always been this good, or cliched for that matter. Not that other years haven't been great too, but it really feels like the pieces of the puzzle are really fitting together so well. Life is pretty great right now, with the pretty part being up to the observer. Good, stable satisfying work. Funny, creative bright kids. Solid, and exceptionally well-typed bills of health. Married. Me. Married. My prince(ss) did come - all of those voice lessons finally paid off! 

Up until  2004, I would never have believed it possible. I was confident in myself and who I was and what I did and said as well as how I smelled. I was attempting to be happy and positive and to keep it all together in public, but I was single, achingly so. And not by choice, as was the common perception. My singledom was a constant reminder that no matter how happy I and successful I felt, something huge was missing. And I knew what it was, but was so stuck. It was almost like there was a huge, gaping hole in the ceiling during a rainstorm and, even though I was getting soaked and my carpet was being damaged and I had the tools and materials in my possession as well as the skills to patch up the hold, I just wasn't able to do anything about it. 

And then, as I have written about before, and will absolutely continue to write obsessively about as life goes on, I met Lori and am so so fortunate that I did. And not just meet her once - no, we entered a pact to meet almost continuously. Was it fate that our paths crossed, like so many romantic Christmas movies seem to indicate? Sure, why not? What do I know of paths to disagree? I know how it sounds to say she completes me, so I won't say that (but you can't stop me from thinking it - or can you? Please don't).

And now look at these crazy, energetic, silly, beautiful and smart kids we have. How did that happen? Twice! Amazing. It really is. And thank you doctor for the amazing wall-sized pictorial diagrams reminding me how. Life would be like an empty, windowless, doorless room without them. Who put you in this room and how do you enter a room like that and how do you leave, you are wondering? All good questions, but those answers are for a different day. Next Tuesday good? The point being that having a family has been, and always will be, so incredible. Like a really great tan. As I've told so many others in the past it is easily the best thing I've ever done, with second place, being getting glasses due to my poor eyesight. Third is owning a fridge. 

This day just really takes me back (would it be so hard to ask first?) and I remember being a kid myself. Damn, was I cute? Oops, I meant to say - damn, was I cute! I still recall the sheer level of anticipation that built throughout the fall and only grew some more as the calendar flipped to December and then was almost out of control requiring a padded room by the 25th. As a pre-teen, Christmas was all about getting things. Then, as I grew a little older, and started recognizing my parents as actual human beings who were not just placed on Earth to satisfy my needs - I mean they were, just not only for that purpose - the holiday shifted slightly towards saying thanks to those around me or using mime if saddled with a sore throat. 

Once all of the kids in my family were adults, to varying degrees of success, Christmas became a day with very few "presents" and it was more about eating a great meal, playing games and all being under the same roof again, as some of us had moved to live under different roofs, at least partially due to Same Roof Boredom Syndrome (I may have made that up - I'll check and get back to you). As the years ticked by, and friends of mine started having kids - not attempting to show off, but the result being similar anyways - life, and the holidays, felt like the were missing something and no number of consumed individually-wrapped chocolates were completely helping.

And now, today, as I sit here and watch my kids gleefully prancing around the room like elves or exceptionally happy and tame reindeer post-carrot feast or just more gleeful versions of themselves (should have led with that one), I too, am just so happy. I'm attempting, and failing, to literally smile ear to ear and the middle of my lower lip is starting to crack and bleed, so I must stop. If one is to spend time comparing and contrasting how one feels from year to year, then they should at least be dressed warmly in case of snow. 

I can't help but be thankful for central heating as well as the ability to freeze leftovers as well as having such an amazing family who often lounge around in our well-heated house not eating provided leftovers. As my kids always tell me "you couldn't be a father without us" which always sounds a least partially like a threat. Yes, Christmases will come and go and before we know it, our "little" kids will be teenagers themselves and the holidays will evolve and change as it did for me before.

One could be tempted to live in the future or at least want to visit occasionally, but for now, I'm just basking in the warm intensity of the present. If I had more time, I'd edit that previous sentence, but would it be any better? Stop shaking your head! For now, I am off to play a game, do some colouring and roll back and forth on the new rug with my family just longing for some static until it arrives and then wondering why I wanted static so badly in the first place.

Until next year.