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Digging for Meaning

I dreamed that I forgot Christmas.

Since it’s historically been my favorite all-time season in the entire universe, forgetting Christmas would be a bit far-fetched even for me. But in my dream, I did. It was Christmas Eve and I realized we didn’t have any presents. Panicked, I went shopping and there was nothing left. Oh, sure, there might have been a stray picture frame or block hanging around, but nothing I could use.

The next day, in my dream, was Christmas, and I realized that in addition to having no presents, we had no tree. I looked at the spot in my family room where our Christmas tree usually stands, sometimes scraping the ceiling paint and sometimes not, depending on who measured it that year (*cough*HUSBAND*cough*), and it was bare. Well, it wasn’t bare, because in the off-season we keep a chair there. So the chair was there. But no tree.

We at least needed a tree. I thought for sure we’d be able to find one even on Christmas Day, and the first place we stopped had many lovely trees . . . for $95. I don’t know why, but that was the price. It was a dream, people.

“I guess I thought you’d mark them down a bit on Christmas Day,” I said to the man.

“Why? If someone doesn’t have a tree by Christmas Day, they’re desperate. They’ll pay anything,” he said. “Tomorrow I’ll mark ’em down.”

My husband, who in real life wouldn’t bat an eye at the price, said, “Nope,” and walked away. That’s when I woke up, with an elbow to my sleeping husband’s stomach. You know how you wake up with a kind of a hangover from a dream? That’s all it was. Really.

I mulled over this dream all day long, attempting to analyze its roots and moral—although it could be suggested that since I didn’t put all of this energy into the roots and moral of my dream about, for instance, being chased by a deer (which I’ve had THREE TIMES, no less), then maybe I was overreacting. But I needed to have meaning.

I wondered if I had too much going on and I was projecting that stress onto the holiday season, although I have a wonderful, healthy family and no visible stress-inducing activities in my life. I wondered if I was worried about my deteriorating memory and that’s why I forgot something I love so much, although I forgot my daughter once too, and I really love her.

And then it hit me. Maybe I forgot Christmas in my dream because I’ve been forgetting Christmas in real life. And maybe I’ve been forgetting in real life because lately I remember being a kid. I remember the confusion I felt when I was a really good girl and didn’t get very much and my best friend, who was sometimes kind of a brat, got so many presents she opened them in shifts. It’s hard for a kid to understand, and even harder for a parent to explain. Knowing that confusion still exists in so many children, I get caught up in what I can’t do and lose sight of what I can. I lose sight of the meaning of the holiday.

This year I need to bring the focus of Christmas back to where it should have been all along. My kids need to know—really know—that Christmas is, among other things, about giving. Maybe I can kill two birds with one stone (and I’m sure there are less graphic holiday metaphors), and get Christmas back by teaching my children about the joy inherent in giving to others, especially others less fortunate. Maybe each time we walk by a toy collection box, we’ll stop and put something in it.

With newfound conviction and not a little fear—great kids, yes, but used to getting most things that they want—I asked my kids a simple question: What if we get a little less this year, and give a little more? When they stopped rolling on the ground laughing and realized I was serious, they thought for a moment and said, “Sure, Mom. That’s a good idea. Let’s do it.” And, bless their little hearts, they meant it.

And that’s all it took to start remembering Christmas.

Maggie Lamond Simone is a book author, award-winning writer and mother of two living in Baldwins

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