I'm standing in the corner of my kitchen where the sink and the patch of countertop next to the stove meet. Outside snowflakes are meandering down to the grass. Two days ago it was almost 70 degrees and today we're in a snow globe.
I'm not feeling very Christmasy. I try to follow individuals snowflakes, willing them to drag me to serenity.
All is not calm in my household.
I just had an epic meltdown. Lily, who is supposed to be napping, crawls out of her room into our room where Jovie has just fallen asleep. She giggles loudly at her sneakiness.
"I want hot chocolate," she tells me.
"Shhh!!!" I whisper shout. "Get out! Jovie is sleeping."
This incites heightened cries for hot chocolate. Boisterous laughter. Jovie wakes up crying and I erupt in Vesuvian rage.
"LILY GET BACK IN YOUR ROOM NOW!" I yell, laying Jovie down in our bed bawling.
Slamming the door behind me. Hoisting Lily into her bed. Reprimanding her for waking her sister. For not doing as she's told. For making my life harder in that moment when I all I want is a few minutes of quiet so I can recover (discover) those floating bits of holiday cheer I keep hearing is out there for the taking.
I tuck Jovie in again. She screams some more. Stands crying at the door. She needs a nap. But maybe not as much as I do, having spent the previous night wedged on the couch with the dog who now barks in his crate in the wee hours unless he's snuggled with his people. As I dozed on the couch the thought faucet turns on:
Did I put the lasagna away?
I forgot stocking stuffers for Brad!
My magazine deadline is coming up… what the hell am I going to write about?
I resume my position at the sink as the girls yell to each other from underneath their respective doors.
"Jovie! Jovie! I'll get you," Lily yells.
"Yi-yi? Yi-yi?" Jovie responds.
They sing Rudolph and Frosty together. It's cute. They should be sleeping.
I set to work on the bread dough. And the cookie dough. And the batter for the chocolate cake. Hoping I can bake my way to sweetness and cheer. As mother's we're in charge of making these days special, right? Creating vignettes of happiness for our families.
Stir, stir. Knead knead. Wash dirty bowls and pans. Repeat.
Back in August I wrote a story about dealing with holiday stress -- I spoke to a couple of therapists who both repeated the mantra that this business of holiday stress was really just the business of ever increasing expectations for chestnuts, warm fires, rosy cheeks and smiling faces. The reality is a letdown: We're all the same people with the same faults and the same hangups that we have the other 11 months of the year.
But that's just fine they tell me.
The person who controls the pulse of the holidays should give herself permission to let go. To not feel like you have to keep up with everyone else.
I turn my back for a minute and hear suspicious chewing noises behind me and find the dog scarfing down a placemat-sized flap of bread dough. Long strides to the dog and I tear half the dough from his jaws and toss it in the trash.
A deep breath. Another deep breath. It's OK, there will be plenty of dinner rolls.
The hallway is quiet now. The Jovie's small hand reaches underneath the door. She's fallen asleep on the floor.
All is calm.
And there's a minute to think about the past month.
Sure. There have been some disappointments. For instance, there were no 'Parkly Deer to stake out. Those neighbors who left their lights up until late February never hung them up again for this Christmas.
And yes, maybe I thought it was a bit strange that they kept their Christmas lights and decorative lawn statuary up for so long, but I still looked forward to it. I learned from a show on the History Channel the other night that the tradition hanging up Christmas lights dates back to pagan celebrations of the winter solstice, when burning bonfires and lighting candles was a way to illuminate the longest nights of the year -- chasing the darkness away.
From that perspective, I'm in full support of keeping lights up until spring.
Even the squirrels were less than inspired this year …
|Pretty sure he wore the jingle jester collar last year...|
|… And is that a scrunch being used as some type of infinity scarf?|
So no 'Parkly deer. No super fancy squirrels. Oh well.
Each year celebrating with the girls is more fun. And this year their eyes have been dancing since I first slipped in a CD of Christmas songs in the car (we've been listening to it for weeks now).
"IT'S FAW-STY MAMA!" Jovie exclaims from her carseat. Feet kicking, head bobbing as she tries her best to keep up with the lyrics.
And when we showed Lily the classic claymation "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" she shouts every time "Mom! His nose is shiny!"
I got tears in my eyes as I watched Lily talk about princesses and other sparkly things with my 18-year-old niece Hannah, who years ago when she was little shared a similar bond with me. (I had to watch from a distance because Lily kicked me out of the room -- the same way Hannah used to kick her mother out of the room when the two of us were playing Barbies).
The older I get the more loops are closed.
They were both enthralled with Christmas Magic -- a lights display at a local park. Lily even got close enough to Santa to hand him her list (there was just one item on it -- a Belle doll -- which she has requested multiple times a day since we received the Toys R Us catalog back in October). Of course, she didn't actually talk to Santa. Instead she kind of did this weird squatting waddle in his vicinity while making the face pictured below:
The season has also fostered such amusing scenes as this one that Brad described earlier this week:
This morning, Lily requested a reindeer, which she told me could live in our house after we picked it up from the reindeer store. Sure.
And when we went over to Nana and Papa's house to see my dad's train display, I had as much fun watching the girls clap for the trains …
… As I did watching my generally stoic dad play with them …
And I took more than a little delight in the realization that, with Lily's obsession with sea creatures, I could partially re-create the scene of the famous Wandsworth-area Christmas Pageant from "Love Actually":
|Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket, never let it fade away ...|
"I love-ah you, too mom," she says. "I want some hot chocolate."
I laugh. Because people don't change just because it's Christmas. And at this moment, I wouldn't want her any other way.