As a kid, I’d treat my holiday wish lists like homework assignments, studiously researching what gifts I hoped to receive that year. When I was little, I eagerly flipped through the Toys R Us catalog, noting which Cabbage Patch Kid or Barbie needed to be added to my collection. Eventually, the contents of the J.Crew catalog (back when it was less trendy and more conservative) replaced my desire for dolls and games.
I’d daydream about running downstairs on a snowy morning, dressed in a plush bathrobe and satin ballet-style slippers, to tear into presents piled under a glowing tree. Gathered in the living room, I imagined my family would sip hot chocolate from oversized mugs and delight in one another opening the gifts we chose especially for that person. Then we’d spend the rest of the day in our pajamas, enjoying our new toys, clothing, and electronics.
Obviously, my holidays never played out exactly like my fantasies.
My family is Jewish and celebrates Hanukkah, not Christmas. So we had plenty of menorahs to light but never a tree to decorate. Instead, wrapped presents were placed behind the living room sofa in stacks according to the recipients and opened after dinner.
I still crafted extensive gift lists, although I knew it was my mom — not Santa or Hanukkah Harry — fulfilling some, but not all, of my wishes. Over the eight nights of Hanukkah, my sister and I typically received six small gifts and one biggie.
The eighth night was always a scavenger hunt around the house, our Hanukkah tradition. As the older child, I’d frustrate my sister by deciphering our dad’s rhyming clues and reaching the appropriate destinations faster than she could read or run.
Our presents on Scavenger Hunt Night were the equivalent of stocking stuffers. When we were in elementary school, we probably received little things like crayons and stickers. I mostly remember the “gifts” we found when we were in high school, mostly sundries like deodorant and batteries and eye makeup remover.
For the first time, the scavenger hunt this year was for Levi and his younger cousin, Max. Even though they didn’t quite understand what was going on, there was still a lot of running around the house and screaming in excitement. The clues were easy (“This is where Levi washes his hands after he goes potty.”), and the gifts included small items like books, personalized plates, and — of course — crayons.
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Life has been hectic ever since we left Omaha and moved in with my parents. While everybody has been so supportive during this transition, it’s still been extremely challenging.
I don’t know about you, but when I’m stressed, I’m less creative, less motivated, and less productive. Needless to say, I wasn’t able to meet all of my goals for 2014, which has also been adding to my stress.
I’ll be back later this week to post Asa’s latest monthly baby photos, but then I’m going to take some time off to relax and enjoy the holidays. I hope you’ll do the same. We could all use a break.