Christmas stresses me out. Call me Scrooge or Grinch and I’m likely to answer. Most of the strain I feel focuses on presents and the excess of it all. Opening presents in front of others, as my family can attest, is not fun for me. However, giving gifts to show someone I am thinking of brings me joy. Recognizing my hypocrisy in this conundrum, I reach inside me to smile and get over whatever psychosis ails me around receiving gifts. But it is exhausting.
Bah humbugs aside, preparation for the holiday does build goodwill inside my curmudgeonly heart. I lack most connections to nostalgia, and I failed to build many consistent holiday traditions, but picking out and decorating a Christmas tree is my favorite activity of the season.
Our family is rarely together. As a blended household we are at different places (like college) frequently. With age, increased commitments, and freedom to drive and spend time with friends, we are together even less. Being together and picking out a tree is important to me. Walking through a tree lot or farm, goofing off and discussing the attributes of the most desirable Christmas tree is one of the only times we are together and connected in one conversation. That is my favorite gift of the season.
Once the tree is strapped on the roof and eventually navigated through the house, hopefully without breaking anything, we decorate. Some of us help more than others, but everyone contributes. We have a growing number of bins of ornaments, more than needed for a half a dozen trees. For several years we created craft ornaments together while watching Christmas movies. Seeing each of those handmade ornaments helps bring me back to those moments. On vacations we often buy ornaments to remember each trip. Baby’s first Christmas ornaments are being complimented with college ornaments as time rolls on. Any bit of nostalgia within me resides in these keepsakes.
Similarly, I explore my fly boxes and reminisce about moments on the water, at the vise, or trading strategies and stories with friends. My fly boxes have become my fly fishing Christmas Tree, preserving my fondest fishing memories. Like a well-curated photo album, the boxes of hooks, feathers and fur bring me back to places, people, and times I cherish on the river.
I lost a fly box this year when I was in Colorado. Searching along trails, parking areas, and within every inch of my rental car came up empty. Within that box, hours of time, dollars of various supplies, and the connection to memories were collected. Following advice from others, I put my name and address on all my fly boxes. On occasion I will open the mailbox, hoping to see that someone shipped me that simple box. Maybe someday I’ll receive it as a gift 🙂
Please cherish your time with your family, friends, and health. Treasure your time on the water and in nature. Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays!