I love making so-called holiday magic. I love stringing up popcorn and cutting out cinnamon stars and lighting candles. Give me all the fir clippings! If it’s cold enough I’ll make ice lanterns and ornaments! Roll me some beeswax and pour me hot chocolate! I want Christmas trees and twinkly lights and sharing and getting ideas from creative people about how to go about making a long, dark month a little more tolerable.
I would make my little paper chains and salt stars whether or not I had a blog, but there’s no mistaking that creating the magic and sharing it here is also part of a job I’m paid to do: to make something worthy of inspiring others and tying it up in a great big bow, or an understated bit of cotton string, as the case might be. This is the task before media makers the world over in the month of December and I’m no exception. But it’s personal, too, and I think it can get confusing.
Last week I shared a list of ideas for tiny gifts for kids. I wanted to showcase easy, manageable, ideas for mostly waste-free bits of delight that might be offered in lieu of a lot of little plastic things that tend to get tossed around this time of year and end up directly in landfill. I wanted the gifts to be free or very close and I didn’t want making them to require huge input of energy or resources. Because all of the gifts were tiny and adorable and fit perfectly into the pockets in the calendar Rose made last year, that’s how we decided to photograph and film them. Rose doesn’t even celebrate Christmas, so for her, the exercise was entirely editorial, and for me, I filmed the video knowing that the envelopes were blank and boxes empty and when it came time to put together the actual calendar my kids will use, the contents might be decidedly simpler and would probably also involve chocolate.
Reasonably, this distinction between what happens in real life and what’s created as editorial inspiration is blurry. In response to that tiny gifts post I received questions back from folks asking for more specifics about the calendar and the gifts. How do my kids decide who gets what tiny present on what day? Don’t they fight over the puppets? Do I make all of those tiny gifts times three?! How much time does this all take? I had folks telling me I was the mom they wished they could be and wondering how I had the time for this kind of thing in the first place with so many kids underfoot.
Last night I picked my kids up from their afterschool program after dark. We stopped at a bodega for a chocolate bar and we walked and ran and also stomped our way the mile back home. Once here, backpacks and lunchboxes and used tissues landed on the floor and then began a twenty-minute long entreaty to get my kids to pick them back up again and put them away. Homework was cried over. A game of pickup sticks started well and ended badly. The nightly glass of water was spilled in the middle of the dinner table and mopped up off the floor. The dishwasher stopped working in the middle of its cycle and hasn’t started up again. James stayed up way too late making lesson plans for a new job that we’re all still getting used to. We’re very lucky and also life with little kids, and no doubt bigger ones, is not always merry and bright. Tomorrow evening will likely go more or less the same, with the addition of my kids each getting to move a cardboard shadow puppet stuck to the end of a broken-off skewer. A Christmas tree, a snowman, and a star vaguely resembling the fabled star of Bethlehem will advance a pocket and the kids will find foil-wrapped chocolate of the kind called kisses and procured while picking up prescriptions at the pharmacy. We’ll read a story. When there’s an inevitable hiccup, we’ll do our best to remember that the holidays are like the other days.
I hope my work shines a bit of light in dark places and I hope it offers some inspiration and some joy, and I hope it’s always grounded in a bit of reality. Here’s to making a bit of magic where and when we’re able. Here’s to opting out of the traditions that don’t suit us. There are no supermoms here (or anywhere).
**And because a few people have requested where they might buy a many-pocketed cloth advent calendar instead of making one, here are a few favorites I’ve spotted from Magic Linen, Pi’lo, and Confetti Mill.
PS. Now your turn: If you celebrate, what’s your favorite holiday magic making and what’s something you wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole?