I know I'm not alone. Admit it: if you pulled together a picture-perfect, family-filled, present-filled, food-filled, memory-filled Christmas day, you're tired.
Of course in addition to this picture-perfect day is the picture-perfect season that starts at Thanksgiving and just doesn't stop. Because in addition to cooking and buying and wrapping, there is the "help" you get from little kids cooking and buying and wrapping which makes the whole process take twice as long. There is also the visiting of light displays and Santa, playing in snow, Christmas parties, and special church services. We visited Hershey's Chocolate World and saw their beautiful house made out of candy, a Christmas display they do every year. We did a photo session at home and got some cute Christmas pictures and didn't just make cookies for ourselves (both regular and gluten-free/vegan varieties, but special Christmas dog biscuits.
We went to a Christmas tree farm to pick out our tree, came home with the wrong tree, went back and got the wrong one again, but kept it. While at the tree farm, the toddler was so fascinated by the gift shop that we stayed over an hour. They were playing Polar Express, giving free cookies and hot chocolate, and had fascinating decorations to browse. Then we went to my parents' house to put their tree up since my mom's rotator cuff is bothering her and my dad recently had knee surgery.
I worked on organizing the attic so I could find the toddler and baby toys previously used by other children. (They didn't care that they got previously loved toys at all!) My husband and teens carried a train table from the garage (that he had made for them years ago) and set up track for a special Christmas morning surprise for the toddler.
Through it all, all laundry and dishes have been kept up with, people were fed every day (mostly meals made from scratch), and every Friday in December we went to a baby ASL class that my daughter is enjoying doing with her baby. I've kept up with blogging (not as much as I would have liked, but still kept at it) and editing the books I've written in every spare minute, of which there weren't many. The kitchen floor and dining room floor got scrubbed and the bathroom got cleaned. And two kids had a cold (or maybe the flu)for several days.
Now it's over. We have warm, fuzzy memories.
And I'm exhausted.
Yes, I have my daughter who shares "mom duties" with me. But she was up half the night Christmas eve with super-excited boys who couldn't get to sleep. She has been keeping those boys busy (and they are such a handful I can't even tell you) and keeping up with her business.
As I think of memories of family gatherings, it was often people in my current age range...the grandparents still young enough to do all the running around...that created the big, special family gatherings. It's the age where many of us see most clearly the value in pouring ourselves into things to create memories. I used to get stressed out and complain too much when relatives were coming for dinner. It was a lot of WORK, and I was TIRED. I wanted to just play all day. You know, like I did when I was a kid. But I don't mind any more. I can't tell you exactly at what point that happened. But at some point I no longer focused so much on the actual work I was doing but on the memories I was creating.
I think that many years from now, my kids and grandkids will remember grandparents sitting around our dining room table. They'll remember the magical feeling of coming down the steps to a room full of gifts and Christmas music. Maybe they'll still wear their same Christmas hats with their names drawn on with glue and glitter that they've worn every year since they were little. They'll remember carrying Grandma and Grandpa's tree through their yard and laughing about the funky 1960's Christmas star tree topper that resembled a seizure-inducing disco ball. My parents pointed out icicles on their tree that had been my dad's great-grandfather's. Maybe someday, at the end of the 21st century, my grandkids will tell their grandkids, "These icicles have been in our family since the early 20th century".
Those memories are worth the late nights and early mornings and "I'm never going to get this book edited!" frustrations.
But that exhaustion and frustration is real, and it's okay to honor it. To honor ourselves for experiencing it and plowing full steam ahead anyway, because our devotion to our families and our traditions is worth it.