The time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s is undoubtedly my favorite time of the year. It is not only a religious holiday for many, but there is a general joy that can be shared among those of all faiths. A feeling of good will between all, and hopefully a time of generosity, kindness, and a restoring of faith in humanity. I love the atmosphere and many thoughts and memories of my childhood warm my heart. But don’t let the holidays fool you. It is roughly six weeks of my life that I honestly believe I become temporarily insane as Christmas comes and goes.
The festivities begin with the decorating of my home the day after Thanksgiving. I am tasked with putting the tree up alone as my young adult children so eagerly bring the boxes up from the basement, but yet seem to disappear for the actual work of erecting and decorating it. Being the independent woman I am, I stubbornly wrangle that 7 foot monster myself, and get the lights strewn before I have my own temper tantrum walking away mumbling to myself, “These boogers are putting this thing up next year if they want a tree, I am not doing this on my own – no sir-ee!” And yet, ever year I do, and every year I mumble to myself with disgust. It takes me a good week to finish the tree and get the remainder of the decorations on display. I tend to work in chunks of time. Not certain why or what that is about, but as I get older, I no longer feel the need to rush to do anything when it comes to the house. Is it really that important in the big scheme of things?
As I get my house in order and sit for a second, the parents are on the road heading north the week after Thanksgiving. They always come whipping into town in their stylish Chevy SUV loaded with more suitcases and tote bags than any two humans should possibly ever have for a trip north. Mind you, this does not include the cases of special ordered food for the princess, Miss Zoey, and all her accoutrements the folks pack for her. Yes, Miss Zoey is my parents’ cat and she is a must have guest if I want Don and Liz to visit. So I oblige as I don’t want an unhappy mother, and my cats get to enjoy a new playmate. I just pray the tree does not come tumbling down with their rambunctious antics.
They arrive exhausted and frazzled from traffic and detours. Dad just wants to chill out and eat, and I make certain a bottle of wine is chilling in the fridge for my mom. She is usually frazzled from sitting in a car for two days with my father listening to the same satellite radio station for 18 hours. We order a pizza and I get to hear in detail about the drive and all the delays they experienced. I smile and welcome whatever story they would like to share as I am just excited to have my two unique and loving parents back in town.
I know the holidays have come into full swing once my beloveds are in town. Mom and I will watch holiday movies during the evening hours in the living room, and dad will get all cozy in the bedroom in his recliner watching his action movies and crazy reality shows. Often I can over hear him snoring during commercial breaks, but don’t dare accuse him of sleeping because he will deny it every time with the excuse that he is resting his eyes. It is moving to see how easily we fall into our old routines just as we did when I was still living at home with them.
Their arrival also forces me to become the house wi-fi police. This one I secretly enjoy. I do not have satellite or cable, but rather stream my channels. It is usually not a problem until both parents are on their tablets, cell phones, and streaming two televisions. The task of sending a simple text message is often next to impossible and I have to go around being the enforcer. New rule in my house, you cannot be on your tablet and stream a tv show, it is either one or the other. I never, in my wildest dreams, thought I would be the rule enforcer to my own parents when it came to technology usage. It is a common sight to see my mom playing on her tablet, phone and computer and sometimes two at the same time. Talk about a technology junkie, I may need to hold an intervention for her.
By the time the parents settle in, my kids are wrapping up finals and my oldest will return home for the holidays. That is when the house begins to shake with chaos as we try to figure out schedules, make plans to shop, bake, and spend dinners together. It is nearly next to impossible to get us all together in the same room at the same time. That is when I have my first of three crying fits. I warn my children, “It is not Christmas if I do not cry at least three times.” I am not proud nor ashamed of my behavior. Christmas is a brutal season when you are a single mom trying to keep her shit together. No one said adulting was easy, and this is the one time of year that it takes inner solace to pull the holidays off without an explosion. I often find myself wanting to take a swig out of my mom’s wine bottle when she is not peaking, but a mere swig may not do the trick. Then I start to fantasize about running away next Christmas and going on a vacation in lieu of the madness, and that seems to soothe my anxiety.
The week before Christmas I am done with all shopping and trying to wrap up loose ends. I am typically still working, and I warn my family when it comes to dinner it is self-service because I have things to do. “Each man for themselves!” I declare. My nights are filled with mom watching movies with the volume cranked up to the holy heavens as I wrap presents or make lists of things to do. Sometimes I just stare blankly at the TV as I am numb from mental overload. Thoughts of what I should take to the Christmas Eve gathering and making sure my bills are all paid and up to date are running through my brain. My mantra becomes “No sleep ‘til Christmas” and this year was no different.
As tradition we bake more cookies than any sane person could possibly handle. As I sit and write this, I believe I still have three containers full of holiday treats. Why do we torture ourselves? It is as if I believe if we failed to bake the numerous varieties and dozens of cookies, we would be cursed with bad fortune. No one eats them. My dad complains about his waistline, and I try to avoid sugar, but every year we continue the tradition leaving me shaking my head saying, “I am not baking one damn cookie next year, ain’t going to do it.” But I know, just like with the Christmas tree, I will bake enormous amounts of treats this same time next year and they will remain on my counter untouched for weeks.
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day arrive and it is a great two days spent with my children, parents, and extended family. I am full of love and joy and will cry while my loved ones open gifts or as I open my gifts. It is usually the second cry fest of the season. The kids will eat breakfast and will leave to visit their father and his family. It always leaves a pit in my stomach, but they are no longer babies, so I turn my focus on myself and the two crazy parents still in my house. Bring out the mamosas! They seem to be a permanent fixture at this point, but I do not mind. The day is spent visiting family, and sharing precious moments, and making memories. It is the one day of the year I feel true contentment despite the shenanigans that just took place weeks prior. A glass of wine is in order, and by dusk I am a journeying back to my house seeking out a pair of warm pajamas, and flopping my body on the couch. Do not speak or acknowledge me at this point, because I am completely done and fear the post-Christmas grouch may appear. I am reflecting on how relieved I am that I did not implode; there were no major fights, my kids are happy, and the parents got to witness and share another holiday with me. Pleased with my accomplishments, I will undoubtedly pass out from fatigue.
Christmas does not end quite yet. My son was born on the 26th, so there has to be a birthday celebration. This year I fell ill with a lovely stomach virus. It was the Christmas gift that came late on Christmas night, and continued to give for days. My parents were packing to head back to Florida to beat the “New Year Traffic”, and I was sprawled out on the couch in misery. The house was full of pure chaos, and I was, of course, an emotional mess. Frustrated I could not throw my son his annual birthday dinner, we ordered food in, and I inevitably cried. Yes, the third cry of the season, and I held my theory true. We made the best of the evening, and what was important, I got to spend it with my son, even if I had to keep him at arm’s length away at all times.
The parents departed the next day, the kids were back to doing their own thing, and I was left in a quiet house. It is a much welcomed quiet as it has allowed me time to reflect on what the heck just happened in the past month. A true whirl-wind of laughter, tears, joy, and memories made. I am not certain if I am stronger for making it through another Christmas, or perhaps a little more unstable, but whichever may take precedent, I am thankful that I got to live this ruckus this year, and hopefully the next.
Happy holidays and wishes for a wonderful new year from my family to yours!