The Holidays Crept Up Like a Thief In the Night

I only recently began to love the sound of Christmas Carols again.  But, first, let’s begin this story at the beginning…

I was born into a world of retail.  My father came up swiftly through the ranks of a large department store chain in the Northeast.  He scraped and clawed his way to the top, and once he got there – he didn’t want to come down.  By the time I was three, he was wooed by a hot chain of men’s clothing stores to come onboard as their VP – this move brought us from the snowy hills of Ohio to the red clay of Georgia.  The man had to eat, sleep and breathe retail in order to survive in this cutthroat world – which meant his family sometimes watched from the sidelines.  He travelled to distant shores to make sure the clothing line was being manufactured properly, and worked seven days a week at times to keep a firm grasp on his title and to grow his company’s business.  It wouldn’t be long before he realized, if he was going to be working this hard, he should own his own company.  In partnership with my mother, my dad opened a chain of women’s clothing stores.  With Dad at the helm and Mom right beside him, the company thrived and survived for twenty years – it was as much a needy sibling as it was our family business.  This, of course, meant that now Mom had to eat, sleep and breathe retail, as well.  Every single conversation around the dinner table – if we managed a family meal – was about this customer, or that order.  There was no such thing as church on Sunday – retail is open seven days a week.  I learned most of what I know about religion from epic films about the Bible shown on TV – but I could tell you the make-up and care of just about any fabric on the market.  By the time I hit high school, I was working in one of the family stores – not an easy task for a shy and uncertain young teen.  I quickly learned to treat the sales floor as a stage, and in time, became a fairly good shopgirl.  When I went off to college, I got a job at the big department store in town – retail, after all, was what I knew.  Summers and winter breaks at home meant work in the family biz.  I began to loathe it, and no time did I hate more than the holiday rush.  From Black Friday right on through January (when all the holiday returns came back), I despised the press of humanity, the gaudy Christmas sweaters and the cheesy Christmas carols playing in a continuous loop from the speakers overhead.  Still, I did it.  For more than 15 years, I muddled my way through the holidays in retail.  Sure, I loved the food that the holidays bring, and I loved the giving and receiving of gifts in my own home.  But those were a handful of days in an endless siege stretching from November to January – hardly enough to brighten these darks days.  People can be cruel and rude – even while wearing a smiling snowman on their chest and humming “Silent Night”.  I tried to escape – I entered the world of advertising, marketing and public relations just outside of college, but after a few years – Daddy came along with his own needs for marketing his company and I was sucked back in.  My second daughter (and my husband’s desire to have a parent home with our girls) was my saving grace.

After nearly two decades, I was free.  In the beginning, I would shy away from malls.  Too many bad memories.  I recalled some of my favorite things about the holidays from my childhood and tried to repackage them for my young family.  I took pride in my decorations – something I hadn’t done in years – it had been too much like “merchandising” the store for the holidays.  I worked my way up from instrumental Christmas Carols to the traditional songs of my youth – I even began to sing along.  And when I went shopping, I made a point to be as sweet as possible to the folks behind the counter.  My husband set me free in another way – we started going to church.  He was raised Catholic, and to miss a Sunday at church was a rare thing when he was growing up.  We met in the middle, between nothing and the Holy Roman Catholic Church, and found the United Methodist Church.  Suddenly, I was learning – along with my little girls – the TRUE meaning of Christmas.  I began to feel joy – joy like I hadn’t felt since I was a child.

And yet… life happens.  The wave of holiday parties, the push to get Christmas cards out on time, searching for just the right gift, the utter exhaustion that only the holidays can bring – and you suddenly find yourself just four short days before Christmas.  How did it get here?  Even with all the signs that pointed to the fact that the holidays are upon us, they still crept up like a thief in the night.  Just five years outside of the retail world, and I find myself becoming somewhat jaded.  The older I get – and the older my girls get – time seems to pick up speed.  The period between Thanksgiving and Christmas – which once seemed to drag on into eternity within the four walls of my parents’ shop, now flies by like a rocket to the moon.  I have to slow things down – remember to take the time to read from our many Christmas books, sit with my girls and enjoy the Christmas movies from my own childhood, dance around the living room to the timeless tunes of Bing Crosby and Burl Ives, bake Christmas cookies, go to church and give back to those in need.  I can’t allow the holidays to become something I cherished as a child, to something I loathed as a teen and young adult, to something I loved as a young mother, to something I now virtually ignore.  When I try to see the holidays through my children’s eyes – that’s when I’m doing the best job as a mom.  When I try to recall the true meaning of Christmas – that’s when I’m doing the best job as a person.  There are so many people out there who truly struggle this time of year – they simply cannot see their blessings or they’ve lost more blessings than they can bear.  My heart goes out to each and every one of them.  I have to remember to see my blessings and count them daily (no matter the time of year).

I have just four short days to get into the Christmas Spirit.  All the cards and packages have been mailed, just a few more packages to wrap, the girls are out of school.  Time to get started on the merry-making.  I have to change my point of view – these tasks leading up to the Big Day are not a chore, I’m making memories.  I shape the way my girls view the holidays and how they will spend the holidays with their families one day.  That’s a big deal!  Even though the holidays snuck up on me, there’s still time.  This could be the best Christmas yet!  After all, Ebenezer Scrooge turned his entire life around in just one night.

May you, too, find peace and joy in the next four days.  I wish you and yours a very Happy Holiday Season!

Note:  Mom and Dad also escaped retail, in time.  Mom went back to her true love – nursing (where she still works most holidays) and Dad became a professional Santa Claus.  If that doesn’t say Christmas Spirit, I don’t know what does!

by Kasie Bolling

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Published in: on December 21, 2008 at 3:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

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