It took a while, but I have Christmas spirit again

By Darin J. McCann

Merry Christmas, one and all.

I chose to open with that particular greeting for two reasons: The first one is, well, it’s Christmas, and I wish for all of you to be merry. The second reason is because I’m feeling a little bit like Jimmy Stewart at the end of “It’s a Wonderful Life” these days, and I just want to spread some of that cheer.

It wasn’t always Rockwell-ian thoughts coursing through my veins during the Christmas season. No, for many years I was more comfortable playing the Grinch than George Bailey. There was just too much to do during the Christmas season, and too little time to do it — and I just had this incessant nagging inside that we had completely commercialized an event that existed for the most pure of reasons imaginable.

My mild disdain for Christmas most likely began in 1990, when I was sitting in a tent in the middle of the desert listening to a radio that wasn’t speaking very often during the months leading up to the first Gulf War. I had duty that Christmas night with a gunnery sergeant who scared me to pieces, and the two of us casually talked about what our families were probably doing at that very moment — and I have never felt more lonely than I did that night.

From that point on, Christmas lost some of its luster for me, and I still find myself feeling somber every Christmas for those young men and women deployed overseas who are fighting loneliness and coming to the shattering reality that Christmas isn’t a wonderful time for everybody.

However, my feelings began to change last year. My daughter, born last November, was still basically a simple blob of humanity who cried, slept and relieved herself with equal aplomb. She had no recognition of the holiday season, and the only Christmas-oriented thing that seemed to garner any of her attention was a singing reindeer my wife had placed at the door.

But it was different. I found myself playing Christmas music every time we all got into the car. I started hiding the Elf on a Shelf every night. We planned a big Christmas dinner, and had Christmas movies playing the week before the holiday at a non-stop clip.

I got it.

After all those years of dreading Christmas, and all that came with it, I finally understood. Christmas was amazing! Every last part of it, from overspending on useless presents to eating too many sugar cookies to simply wishing strangers a Merry Christmas as you passed them in the store. It all made sense, and that was when I had my George Bailey moment. Yes, Christmas is a magical time of the year, and I just wanted to share that spirit with everybody.

My daughter is, quite obviously, a year older this time around. She is far more active now than she was last year, and exhausts me by running from one spot of the house to the next, stopping only long enough to pet one of the dogs a bit too enthusiastically or to grab a pair of my reading glasses so she can practice her rather-impressive skills as a pretzel twister.

But she’s still not quite grasping that it’s Christmas, or any of what that means. My friends tell me to enjoy this time, to save some money for the coming years when she will want (demand) more toys (that I probably can’t afford) and will become a raving (albeit, adorable) lunatic sometime around September. And that makes sense.

Of course, lots of things make sense to me in the realm of logic, but that doesn’t mean I transfer them to reality. For instance, I am fully aware that it’s not a good idea to wolf down an entire container of sugar cookies while lying in bed and watching Family Guy reruns, but... Yeah, you probably know where that was heading.

The fact of the matter is I’m even more excited for Christmas this year than last. She might not know exactly what’s happening around her yet, but she does like to rip paper and she loves playing with toys. Throw some Perry Como songs on in the background, and I’ll be living the Christmas high life while watching her.

I truly hope all of you have a Christmas this year filled with family, friends and laughter. Maybe, if you find yourself with a free moment, think of those who don’t, and those deployed overseas so the rest of us can. Merry Christmas!