Let The Madness Begin

By Kerry Connelly

And The Madness Begins…

By Kerry Connelly

I’m writing this from Pennsylvania, where I’m visiting my parents. It’s Black Friday. My fingers are still swollen from all the sugar and carbs we consumed yesterday (I can’t wait the January health kick to start in) and when I get home, those $*#&*& Elves on the Shelves are waiting to demonstrate my every parental failure when I consistently forget to remove them. I swear, I wake up in panicky sweats every night between Thanksgiving and Christmas morning, when the Little &*&*&*^@$%s, as my husband and I call them, finally get shoved back into the wrapping paper container.

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Not only that — and I can’t believe I’m about to write this — but I’m taking my mother shopping. Today. On Black Friday. I am obviously in a carb-induced moment of psychosis.

I admit it. My love languages is gifts. I love wrapping paper and present piles, and the mountains of presents under my tree on Christmas morning have been known to compete with Everest. I’m sure a therapist would have a hey-dey with my consumerism, referring to some deep, aching hole of dysfunction, but the truth is, I love buying gifts that people love. I love the process of unwrapping presents — and the more, the better, because it’s one morning of every year when my entire family is sitting around in a circle in our PJs, coffee and muffin in hand, smiling and paying attention to each other. There is no football game on, no phones in hand, and I think I want to make it last forever. So I buy some cheap formed plastic from China and add that to the more meaningful gifts, and pile it on.

And this year, there is an urgency. I am getting less excited about presents — financial pressures are a little more intense this year, and cheap plastic from China has lost its appeal. But it’s also because my parents are getting older. Every year, I wonder if our last Christmas breakfast together. And my mom has been diagnosed with dementia, so making memories becomes a little more meaningful — and also a double-edged sword.

It means I’m paying more attention to the moments — the moments of laughter and clarity, the time shared doing the things we always do together. Like Christmas shopping. Even if that means we have to do it on Black Friday.

So all that to say: here are some tips to help you make a meaningful Christmas season — even the shopping part, and even when you’re facing one of the greatest losses of your life.

Notice The Laughter

Whenever I speaking to a bride-to-be, I’ll always tell her: Every hour or so, just stop, look around, and take a little mental picture of the day. It will go by so fast. Stop and take it all in. That’s the crux of all my tips this time around — and especially about the laughter.

One of the most poignant moments I had with my mom recently was after a doctor’s appointment, when she had been told for the millionth time that she had memory problems. We were at lunch and she said, “That’s so weird! Why didn’t anyone tell me I have memory problems?”

I said, “Well, the sucky part about memory problems is that you don’t remember you have them.” True to my mother’s form, she thought that was absolutely hysterical, and we laughed a long time about that. I’ll remember that moment — even if she won’t.

Notice The Scents

Christmas has a bunch of smells. Muffins baking for Christmas morning coffee, peppermint candy canes, even the pine piped into the stores to try to make us buy more. Scent is one of the strongest memory inducers. When you’re stuck in hectic moment, stop and take a breath, and let the scents settle in your consciousness. See if it brings up a happy memory for you.

And when you’re having a happy memory, stop and breathe in the smell. Let it fill your mind and anchor the memory into your mind.

Make a Kodak Moment In Your Mind

Like the brides I advise, stop for a second and take in the sights and the sounds — especially when you’re surrounded by loved ones. I’ll always have the picture of my dad, smiling in my cheer, thrilled that he’s getting some Irish bangers as soon as the presents are opened. I’ll always have the picture of my mom in the kitchen, peeling potatoes, or sitting on my couch, surrounded by crumpled wrapping paper.

Even in the face of loss, these memories comfort me, and I’m intentional about making them. Even today, God help me, as I brave the mall to spend another precious year, shopping with my mom, where I pick out all my presents, and the smile on her face is worth all the hassle.