On Thursday night I was out and about, picking up a gift that I’d found on kijiji (such a great resource for me this year!) when I decided to buy a bath mat. A simple enough thing to do one might think. And there was a shop called Bed, Bath and Beyond nearby so I stopped in. About 15 minutes later I left, with a bath mat, but in the throes of a panic attack.
Now I’ve never been a massive lover of crowds or closed in spaces but I was really surprised by my reaction. I was shaking, my breathing was restricted and I felt overwhelmed and upset. It seems a bit over the top (to me anyway) but there was just too much for my brain and nervous system to process. There were ‘goods’ everywhere, piled as high as the ceiling and many items that seems to have no definable purpose for being in the world. Among the very pleasing practical items such as towels and kitchenware were all sorts of strange gadgets and…well…stuff.
The fact that I was surrounded by things that I couldn’t identify, that seemed to have no real worth (despite the price tag) got me feeling upset and, honestly, angry. I know there has to be stuff in the world, I enjoy partaking of it myself, but in that shop alone there seemed to be enough redundant junk to fill a landfill on it’s own. I can’t claim to live a life filled only with what is necessary but compared to the profligacy of that one store we live in a convent.
The perfect antidote to all this came just the next morning in the form of a homeschool trip to Cumberland Heritage Museum, about 1/2 an hour east of us. It is a village set in the 1930’s and right now they are celebrating the festive season! We enjoyed a wagon ride around the town singing christmas songs, a trip to Santa’s workshop to make wooden toys and a visit with the big man himself. He could be found in an armchair in a cosy little house, friendly and welcoming to all the children.
The boys absolutely loved it all, making the toys, meeting Father Christmas and sharing time with their friends. The atmosphere was welcoming and friendly but we didn’t feel rushed or too busy. The children all packed into the giant wooden sleigh, pulled by giant wooden reindeer, as excited as any child would have been 90 years ago when these houses were first built.
I had several other mums comment to me how much they enjoyed Huwyl’s enthusiasm and joy throughout the day. He was, at 7 years, one of the older children, yet he suffers from none of the ennui that so many children are already displaying at his age. He sang with gusto, threw himself into each activity and watched Father Christmas with as much wonder and excitement as any of the younger ones. I feel so proud of his gentle soul.
As Father Christmas spoke to the children a little voice piped up, “I’ve got something for you!” Neirin had brought some coins from home and gave them to the big man in red, the hearts of all the mamas (especially this one) melted.
Despite the cold the children ran and played with gusto. We all sat around an outdoor fire drinking hot chocolate and listening to a christmas story, told without props but with great skill by one of the museum staff. Even though our official visit was over some of us stayed by that fire, talking and catching up while the children played with whatever they could find. Mostly they populated their world with their imaginations, running themselves ragged with the joy of just being able to play
The homes in the village are simple but so welcoming it is hard to remember that no one lives in them anymore. I had the urge to settle down in an armchair and share a cup of tea or read quietly. It reminded me that a few simple touches are all it takes to make a home feel festive. After all, it isn’t the decorations or even the gifts that make Christmas, but the time we spend together, enjoying the company of our family and friends.