I still remember the year Santa didn't bring me a monkey -- even though I'd been pretty reasonable all year and asked nicely for it in a letter and truly believed in Christmas miracles.
I got a really nice doll, and thanked Santa for it, but I have to admit, I started to wonder about that 'magic of Christmas' stuff. A truly magical Christmas would have resulted in a monkey for sure, I thought, especially when my parents were so dead set against the idea.
The next year, when I realized Santa was never going to bring me a monkey, that was the year I learned to adjust my expectations.
Yes, Christmas was about giving, not getting, and it was about family and songs and church services and candles and turkey dinners. Thanks to the magic of my parents, it was about all those things, plus a lot of laughter and love.
When I became a parent, however, those expectations ramped up once more. I started to set for myself incredible wild-monkey-for-a-pet-proportion fantasies -- not just for Christmas morning, but for the entire season.
I was convinced that if I just started early enough, I could make the season magical for the family. First, I had to make homemade gingerbread houses and popcorn garlands, turn the house into a glittery but tasteful wonderland, find thoughtful life-enhancing gifts, fulfil all their desires and embrace the season merrily, merrily, ho ho ho, because surely if I didn't, I was a substandard mom and the kids would all be traumatized.
Every year, I tried a little harder, and every year of course, I failed. And the more I tried to meet those expectations, the less joy there was to be found in the season. I don't quite remember the year I realized I was never going to have a Martha Stewart Christmas, but I have learned to seek out joy in this chaotic and clamorous season of great expectations.
Not surprisingly, I find joy in the small things.
In the smell of shortbread in the oven.
In the sweet piercing harmony of a viola and violin at First Lutheran Church.
In the first sight, that first morning, of a now-thawed, now-gloriously unfurled and fragrant Scotch pine from the St. James Optimist Club.
In the faces of the children at our front reception area at the Free Press, carefully tipping margarine tubs and piggy banks of pennies into the big white bin.
Pennies are small things, too. Each one is a blessing.
Thank you for contributing to our campaign.
How to donate
YOU can drop off coins, dollars or cheques at the Free Press building at 1355 Mountain Ave.
We also have brightly coloured drop-off bins near the front entrance of every Wal-Mart store in the city and a giant penny on the second floor of Portage Place.
Or, you can mail us a cheque made out to Pennies from Heaven, 1355 Mountain Ave., Winnipeg, MB., R2X 3B6. You will get a charitable tax receipt from either the Christmas Cheer Board or Winnipeg Harvest. If you want to support one of the organizations in particular, just put the name in the memo line.