Right. Before I start this, I should point out that I am very happily married to a wonderful person whom I like and love more with each passing day. This theory probably wouldn’t work to describe relationships in which partners are not happy or in which they are not fascinated with each other’s lives.
I’ve been puzzling for some time now the statement, “Christmas is for children,” and have come to the conclusion that it’s wrong. Christmas is for childhood and childish delight, but not exclusively for children. The only reason that I make this distinction is that, since we’ve had Katherine in our lives, the degree to which people focus on children at Christmas has become even more noticeable to us. My take on the festivities has become more complex since we’ve added another generation to the family and I’d have to say that what Katherine has done is remind us pointedly of how much Christmas is about unconditional love, uninhibited joy, and taking time to savour simplicity.
What Katherine has done for us is actually a complex thing; not only can we attend to her childish delight in lights, ornaments, presents, Santa and giving, but we can shed the mantel of adulthood for a while in so doing. For periods of time, we can be kids again and feel completely comfortable in relaxing in happiness.
When you get married to someone (or in anyway seriously involved with someone in a committed, long-term relationship – I’m not particular about nomenclature), even before kids make their way onto the scene, you spend time trying to figure that person out. Watch people who are in love sometime. They can’t stop looking at each other and studying each other. Hell, I still do it. If you don’t find the person you’re with fascinating and worthy of continuously getting to know, there’s something missing. You find yourself wondering what they’re thinking, how their thought processes work and how they assimilate information and come to certain conclusions. You wonder what it is that makes them incapable of telling a wrinkled shirt from a pressed one and how that makes their view of the world different from yours. In essence, you find them fascinating.
One of the parts of your partner’s life that you can usually only see hazily and from a great distance is their childhood. You get glimpses through photos, stories, little dibbits of information that their grandmothers throw out randomly, and their own recollections of things. When you have kids or go through various events in your life together, their parents are reminded of and recount relevant stories about parts of their life that you fit together like a jigsaw puzzle to which you know you’ll never have all the pieces and are enjoying the process more than anticipating the finished product. (This is one of the ways in which you get to know your parents as adults too, which is why grandparents, aunts and uncles are so important.)
I think this is one of the things that I was really coming to appreciate when Katherine was born and we spent a great deal of time with John’s folks. Winter is story-telling season and with them being gone for that part of the year, one of my windows into his life is only open a crack.
But back to my theory. At Christmas, you have the opportunity to watch your spouse return to their childhood nature, if only briefly. You get to see their reaction to lights, music, presents and you are their Santa Claus as they are yours, allowing you to keep your faith in the spirit of Christmas and your belief in goodness and giving. You get to see their face when they open a present that you put thought and time into. Watch your partner’s face when they see their stocking stuffed with presents – it’s a glimpse of the child you never got to meet. If you’re lucky, you get to see that face reflected in the child you have together.