Christmas, as a kid, is filled with happy interruptions. When I was little, I loved the way the Christmas season disrupted life—the rehearsals for church and school musicals; the frequent class parties, special field trips to sing at the governor’s mansion, or live performances of The Christmas Carol. The Mississippi humidity and heat would be swept out by a blast of winter—generally a mild winter of 40 degrees—and we’d get a two-week break from school. And the presents! I enjoyed planning surprises as much as I liked receiving them, and I’d stay up late making sure my presents would be wrapped perfectly.
The night before Christmas break, I’d sing in our school program, a verse of “O Holy Night” or “Go Tell It On The Mountain,” which I had been practicing for months. Men from the local Lions Club would dress up as Santa and elves, and interrupt our last song, “Santa Clause Is Coming to Town,” carrying in gifts for all of us. The room would erupt with squeals of excitement.
My parents divorced when I was in elementary school, but during Christmas we’d all be together to celebrate for at least one event, which was the happiest interruption of all. Christmas Eve was spent with Dad’s parents. My brother, JD, and I barely ate our dinner before digging into the array of Southern desserts my Nana had prepared for us. Pecan pies, cheese straws, pralines, fudge, and eggnog (nonalcoholic, of course). Then we would run to the living room to exchange gifts. Nana and Pappaw always chose the best presents, generously giving us exactly what we had hoped for.
On Christmas morning, my mom, brother, and I had a large Christmas breakfast, read the Christmas story from Luke, and opened more presents. Then we’d drive five hours to my mom’s parents’ house in Montgomery, Alabama. Grandpa would make up Christmas stories in his booming preacher voice, Grandma would usually have a cake for Jesus’ birthday (she was a pastor’s wife, after all) and we’d unwrap even more gifts. (The day after Christmas was quite a let-down for my kid heart.)
Christmas memories get hazy during middle school. Grandma and Grandpa moved to Miami. Dad moved to Atlanta. Soon enough, I moved to Nashville and my brother joined the Marines. We continued our Christmas Eve parties with Nana and Pappaw until both had passed away. And Dad and I would go Christmas shopping and end up at Krystal celebrating with small square, greasy burgers. (An interruption that should only happen once a year.)
Most of my childhood Christmas traditions have faded away, and now Christmas sometimes feels more like an unfriendly interruption. Who will I visit? How do I navigate family without upsetting anyone? Christmas also interrupts my busy, goal-oriented, single-life noise. Everyone else stops working to make time for family, friends, and Jesus, so I do too. But the silence feels heavy. Lonely. And nagging thoughts remind me all I’ve failed to accomplish over the past year and produce anxiety over what I want to get done next year with “Why am I single?” lurking beneath the doubt.
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