It comes without ribbons! It came without tags!
It came without packages, boxes or bags!
So it was for Dr. Seuss’s Grinch, and so it is for us all.
I am so not ready for Christmas. As usual.
On the other hand, what does “being ready” mean? Having no funds, I had little shopping. I decorated as much as I could, to be festive. Exterior lights were hung, as was fresh garland and wreaths. My kids are too young to have expectations. Everything is fabulous to them. Which is part of why I adore them all so much.
We hosted a party this weekend for our neighbors, which was not only a success but had the added benefit of making me finish things on time.
I don’t know. I remember my mom being better at this stuff, more on top of it. I haven’t finished our Christmas cards yet, which will be New Year’s cards for some of you out there.
Did I lose a weekend somehow?
We are going to Mom’s tomorrow after dinner for the holiday; what is not done by lunch tomorrow will not get done. I just hope I remember to put everything into bags.
But I’ve tried to embrace the holiday spirit. I love it. I really do. I want to have more fun with it, less of the stress of the to-do. I ache with the memories of my own growing-up, with La Famiglia holidays that included Santa’s workshops, Andy Williams, and manicotti preparation. I saw none of the stress or effort my Mom put into the tasks that yielded such memorable results. Today I want to be with my family with little or no hassle, and am saddened by the reality that my wish is foolish. These holidays — Christmas, for my family — have become a hassle. Now that I’m in charge I realize the stress that my magical childhood white-washed. I worry about what to cook, what to buy; the party I’m hosting, the party I’m missing (ouch, my dear cousin’s annual caroling extravaganza with my amazing auntie at the keyboard); the packing, the planning. I pinch myself and wonder, when did this become MY job? When did I become the grownup?
Today, with the kids, I let it all go. My sisters-in-law and I agreed that this year, instead of a cousin gift exchange, we’d do a cookie swap, in which each child make some cookies to be given to each of his or her ten cousins. Each kid bakes cookies; each kid gets a cookie from each of his or her cousins. We all want to foster the “giving not getting” tone of what we believe Christmas ought to be.
So today was baking day. I decided that rather than making 4 different recipes, each of my children would get a cookie cutter and make a pattern of sugar cookies. We had gingerbread men, stars, trees and bells. But by mid-afternoon, when baking had finished and decorating was to begin, it was a free-for-all. I made four or five bowls of colored royal icing. All four kids slathered it on to whatever cookie was close by, their own shape or not. In the background I spun such nostalgic CDs as Nat King Cole and Tony Mottola.
The funny thing was, I was tired, but not stressed. Even though I had just this morning paid to have the house cleaned, the sight of neon blue icing stuck to my kitchen walls didn’t upset me. The fact that Cooper’s bells soon ended up more of a dirt brown than any festive color didn’t bother me. The kids had a great time. Cooper poured confectioner’s sugar, mixed water and added drops of food dye with the intensity and precision of an MIT professor. Mitzi waxed poetic about “abstract” Christmas trees. Ellie and Joanna could barely smile for the stiffness of icing on their cheeks from repeatedly licking the bowls. I literally hit clean up. The results…palatable? Who knows.
But the process….about as close to the Christmas spirit as a Mom could hope. It was great fun, for all of us. Almost what I remember of my own Christmases. Not without conflict or stress or a much-needed cocktail for the grownup in charge, but imbued with a heart-wrenching sense that this is the stuff our lives are made of. This is life, messy or not.
Now, if only I can get that florescent green icing off of my ceiling before 2009.