An Alternative Christmas

Guest Post by Writer-Runner-Teacher Tricia Dowcett

Photo by Dolly Haorambam on Flickr... Thanks!
Whenever my mother asks me what we would like for Christmas, I always reply that I would prefer to do rather than to have.  A show, a day in Boston, a trip to a museum.  She will usually frown and insist that at Christmas, the kids should be able to “open something.”  “They’re not going to get excited when they open Lion King tickets,” she worries.

Admittedly, a gift that is essentially a promise of a gift is a difficult concept for a young kid to wrap his tiny, Target-warped brain around.  But, should that stop us from trying to shift expectations?  Sure, the look of joyous satisfaction on a kid’s face when he gets that Razor scooter or battery-powered Jeep is a pretty rich reward, but who is really more satisfied—the kid, or the parent?  The battery will die and the Jeep will collect mud and spider eggs, and the kid will count the days until the next big holiday so he can get more stuff.

A Walk in the Dark

Tonight, Lexi and I took a walk after dinner, and she asked me if I might point out Orion.  We found the brightest star on his belt, but the clouds prevented us from seeing the rest of his “body.”

“I’ve never seen Orion,” she said, and that surprised me, because I look for him just about every night.

But it’s true: we don’t really go out into the dark and look at the stars.  When we walk in the evening, I’m usually trying to stop the dog from pulling, or the kids from running (we have no sidewalks, so nighttime strolls with the kids can be a little unnerving), so my attention is forward rather than upward.

I told Lexi that on our next camping trip, we’d lie down and look at the stars.  “We can even camp in the backyard again,” she said.

“Yep.  … Hey!” I said, an idea taking shape, “maybe we can go camping on Christmas!”

She laughed.  “Mom!  You don’t go camping on Christmas.”

Too Small for Presents

One of my favorite Christmas Eves, I told her, was spent under the stars, in a natural hot spring in Colorado.  The pool was full of snow-drunk revelers— families, older folks, young couples —all joyously creating an alternative Christmas.  I slept in a cabin about the size of Thoreau’s hut, too small for presents, but large enough to fit a little wood stove, our wet hiking boots, and a bottle of champagne.

I’ve celebrated 39 Christmases, and this is the one I still hold close to me, in a little sachet under my sweater.

Why not, Lexi?  Why not go camping on Christmas?

This post is part of the December Series “If Only in My Dreams.” Click here to read more.

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