Cheer a grumpy Christmas by stacking tiny bricks of gratitude

2020 hasn’t been a normal year. This won’t be an average Christmas.

Xmas tree - 1Many of us are heeding public health advice and avoiding travel. Some of us are still grieving lost loved ones whose presence defined* special holidays. Ignoring these very real sources of pain is neither healthy, nor possible in the long term.

But does acknowledging the bumps in life’s road mean choosing between being a humbug or a Grinch? I hope to prove otherwise.

I’m afraid I’m having a Very Grumpy Christmas. While I wish for better for every reader, I suspect my miseries enjoy plenty of company.

When I’m in this kind of snit—so easily degenerating into a full on funk—about the only remedy is the doing of good or the counting of blessings.

As I took advantage of an un-rushed school vacation week morning today by staying in bed for an extra hour with my book, I was grateful for not yet having reached the end of the last series of novels my mother will ever recommend to me.

She bugged me for months to pick up the first one. Why did I resist until after she was gone? I wish with every page that I could tell her how much I’m enjoying them…

Comforting myself with this small thing for which I could give thanks, I realized each little blessing is a brick. If I stack up enough of them, I’ll have built a sizable structure. One brick won’t do a person much good against an invading army, but enough humble chunks of masonry suffice for The Great Wall of China.

Thanksgiving give thanks - 1So perhaps I’m not playing so well with others, today. I’m hardly a Sugar Plum Fairy. I’ll be a builder, though, of my own Great Wall of Gratitude.

I think it will hold.

QC city walls

Here are a few more trivialities I’ve found to be thankful for today:

  • My husband went back to the too busy, too crowded day-before-holiday bakery when they forgot to include my favorite cinnamon buns in the pre-packed bag he went out for at dawn.
  • My teenager told me he loves me… without me prompting him by saying it first.
  • My younger one never hesitates to show me affection, not even when his friends can see him doing it.
  • My kids can collaborate on a project and produce something great without adult supervision.
  • My pantry is full; I’m not afraid for how I will feed my family.

Readers, please feel free to share in the comments what you can find to be grateful for this topsy-turvy holiday season. Your smallest joy would be a Really Wonderful gift to me.

* I can’t look at a Christmas decoration without being reminded of my mother, who died of cancer in 2019. On the other hand, to ignore her favorite holiday would be the most disrespectful possible thing as far as honoring her memory goes.

Today’s post is brought to you in memory of Mother Christmas.

Mom decorates Christmas tree with ornament

That would be the Chief Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny. Find them listed in order here; I’ve made it to book 13, Glass Houses. You definitely do want to read these in chronological order if you opt to give them a try. They’re decorous enough for readers of cozy mysteries (Mom), but complex enough for those of us who like to pretend we’re exercising our minds with our choice of literature.

Be warned, however: If you get into these mid-pandemic, you’ll be cross that you can’t make a visit to Quebec, which Penny paints as paradise… if you can get past the political intrigues and frequent murders!

5 thoughts on “Cheer a grumpy Christmas by stacking tiny bricks of gratitude

  1. Christmas is indeed not the same without [your mom], but I like to think our little red and gold decorated Christmas tree would make her smile. My wife’s family has a tradition of using (faux) cardinals as part of the Christmas decor, so she decorated the tree to go with the beautiful red plumage. I am also trying to count small blessings this year! I did not get to have my usual 8th night latke fest with my kiddos (R lives in Seattle now, and M with [their other parent]), and it definitely made me grumpy.

    I am thankful for my wife, my companion and saving grace during all the pandemic precautions this year. (I can’t imagine if I’d had to face all this alone!) I am also thankful for our furry companion, Spike. And thankful that we have a roof over our head and food on the table, even though my wife gave up doing hair due to the risk and expense of PPE and such (so also thankful for my job, and being able to dodge layoffs!). I am thankful that our household celebrates two holidays filled with light, especially in such a gloomy year. May the light of the season sustain you and your family as well! Virtual hugs!

    • Mom’s best friend got winter cardinal gifts from Mom for many years. (Still wondering how much of that was the friend’s love of cardinals vs. Mom’s love of “themed gifts.” LOL) But they are beautiful creatures, and we have a pair that brighten up our yard every winter here. Seeing the male’s brilliant red against the snow truly is a winter blessing for me every time he shows himself! Thanks for that reminder. 🙂

      Hope you two have a Merry Christmas together to make up for a sub-standard Hanukkah. I am SO GLAD my punks are not yet out of the house this year. Look, there’s another spot of joy!

  2. This Christmas we are thankful we have a houseful because it would be so lonely without them through this pandemic. We are thankful for [our little girl] because we get to experience the joy of Christmas through children’s eyes. Right now [she] wants to read a Richard Scary book every day that was given to [her big brother] back in 1998 from [your mom]. I’m not sure if a day goes by that I don’t think of her – especially during Christmas. 🎄

    • I love that!

      Mom always inscribed the books that she gave, too. It seemed silly (especially when she sometimes gave us two copies of the same book for each kid), but, now that she’s gone, finding bits of her distinctive, loopy handwriting in books and on gift tags on bags I’m about to re-use feels totally different.

      Sometimes it makes me cry, but I’m also glad to remember her generosity.

      Merry Christmas to you all. Hug everyone for me!

  3. Lots of things to be thankful for, but I’ll stick to something mundane and practical: cheese. Yes, having a fridge drawer full of bricks of cheddar cheese gives me an odd sense of security.

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