Hmmm. I realize this title implies something much more virtuous and groundbreaking than what I have to offer. If you are expecting to encounter a philosophical or educational piece, then turn your eyeballs elsewhere. If you want to read ramblings about the superficial insight this atypical holiday season provided my measly brain, then stay tuned my beloved victims!
I have expressed before that we’re not “big” on holidays. We prepare for Halloween with general apathy. Although we very much like each other, neither Nathan nor I have ever cared much about the “hallmark holidays” of Valentine’s or the buy-your-loved-one-something-or-else “Sweetest Day.” Fourth of July is fun because it’s ALMOST guaranteed warmth and barbecuing in good ol’ Michigan. And Thanksgiving is nice because you (usually) get a couple of days off work, spend time with family and it’s focused around simultaneous gratitude and gluttony, which is A-OK in my book.
But Christmas is another story. Because we both. LOVE. CHRISTMAS. The indifference and cynicism with which we view most holidays evaporates and we turn into giddy, fidgety, overzealous Christmas dorks as soon as we drive home from our Thanksgiving fulfillments. For 11 months of the year I can’t wait to put Bing Crosby to shame (through volume or talent is up to your bleeding ears to decide). For 340-ish days, we eagerly await Christmas parades, Christmas parties, Christmas services and specials. Although we stick to humble white lights and wreaths (so far), we both dream of making Clark Griswold’s house look half-assed. We love the cooking and baking, the gift-giving and gatherings, the traditions and movies and books and on and on and on. The restraint we possess in waiting until “Black Friday” (a shopping extravaganza which we do not partake in….because we are not
crazy that ambitious) to celebrate is admirable, at the least, if you knew how much waiting for Christmas makes us felt like squirmy, hungry children in line at the dessert table for most of the year.
The anticipation this year was no different. In fact, it was even greater knowing we had a fun and energetic two year old to add more whimsy to our most favorite of calendar days. However, the last couple weeks forced some unexpected turns for our family. Pregnancy complications (I’ll post more on that fun another day) and illnesses thwarted our usual Christmas plans. Thanks to my sudden decay in immunity and gestational well-being, our Christmas-palooza was seemingly ruined. We couldn’t travel to our usual family gatherings. We couldn’t head to the mall or local stores to finish Christmas shopping. I couldn’t concoct the meals and coveted baked goods during one of the few times of year it is socially acceptable to create and consume masses of sugary, buttery-laden goodness without guilt or judgment. The remainder of the Christmas decorations would stay in their sad little tubs in the basement storage and our nighttime winter walks through the impressively decorated downtown so Hazel could admire the lights and music would have to be pushed aside.
We spent this entire Christmas at home. No family gatherings, no travel. I mostly enjoyed Christmas from a horizontal position consuming Tylenol and watching way too many Christmas movies to keep our busy toddler appeased. Our usual hectic, but blissful hub-bub was dismantled. For the first time in my life, I had less than 4 (and have had as many as 8) family Christmas gatherings to attend. This year we have had but one Christmas – at home. Nathan, Hazel, our unborn baby, the dogs and I stayed home. We didn’t leave the house. Most of us didn’t even leave our pajamas (I left the dogs out on this one because they don’t wear clothes….and the baby is naked, so….).
And despite our quiet, germ-laden, bedrest-enforced holiday, it was absolutely wonderful. No rushing to leave the house, no pressure to look presentable. Home-cooked meals by my husband and taking our time watching our sweet girl open every gift with an excitement and enthusiasm that can’t be reproduced was more than enough to make up for a round of Tamiflu and a finicky womb. Being required to partake in a quiet holiday at home slowed things down so that I was able to witness some of the wonderful things in life we otherwise might not have the time or ability to appreciate. In not being able to do much of, well, anything, I was fortunate to learn a few things this year. Because we will most likely, hopefully, be back to our routine next year – with another baby in tow – I want to remind myself of the following:
#1: We fret about stupid stuff.
I am not type A. Like….at all. I am not organized, I am generally laid back – probably to a fault – and despite the best of intentions, have a miraculous ability to not complete projects. And yet as one of the most Christmas-adoring among us, I still find it can become quite stressful. Worrying the house isn’t clean enough for company. Worried about what gifts to get for family. Worrying about being rushed, not getting to spend enough time at gathering A because you still have to make it to gathering B. Reality is, none of it stinking matters. Even if you drop the ball and buy Uncle Lester something he didn’t really want (truth: I don’t have an Uncle Lester, and if you do I’m sorry because he sounds creepy) or feel you can’t spend enough on cousin Snobbypants because she already has everything (naming your kid “Snobbypants” probably doesn’t set a great precedent), it doesn’t matter. Even if you put hours into making your abode a pristine palace and your two year old and stupid dogs ruin all of your sweat-inducing efforts in less time than it takes you to say, “For the love of God please stop feeding the dog crayons,” and “why did you dump out that box of Teddy Grahams in the middle of the living room?”, it doesn’t matter. In even more mushy fashion than I can adequately illustrate, this year has taught us the only things that matter are health and safety and family and happiness. And because our families are graciously patient in postponing our traditions and have agreed to come to my mostly bedridden side in the upcoming days, I know they will STILL partake in the
burden blessing of receiving our crappy gifts in the presently disordered home that would give Martha Stewart convulsions. And that’s okay. Suck it, Martha.
#2: Amazon is the bomb-diggity.
Let me defend myself for a minute here. I put a great deal of effort into shopping local. Truly. In fact I abhor and strive to avoid Walmart and K-mart and any other “-mart” that drives out mom ‘n pops and seem to enjoy paying their employees in used tissue paper scraps and canned food drives (and I’m stepping off my soap box…now). I enjoy frequenting the local stores, and when necessary even partake in the crazed crowds, hustle-n-bustle of shopping malls and department stores. (Confession: I have a strong relationship with Target. Because…I’m human.) I love the decorations and the chaos and especially the people-watching. Because people are funny and entertaining and crazy. But we didn’t have time for much of that this year. Our usual last minute frantic but confusingly enjoyable shopping endeavors were replaced with, ‘what can I find online and get shipped here in time for Christmas?’ I turned to my good ol’ amazon Prime account with a slight sense of guilt and ineptitude, but this quickly turned into…success! Free 2 day shipping? Virtually everything I want and need and cheaper than in the stores? YES! I wear my hypocrisy badge with pride and fulfillment! This is the future! I’ve turned to the dark side, and if I could get fresh produce by shopping online….I would.
#3: My husband can cook.
It seems Nathan has been deceiving me for 8 ½ years. I am grateful I don’t have a 1950’s-esque chauvinistic spouse who would stink-eye me and yell, “That’s woman’s work!” if I asked him to transfer the laundry. I am fortunate that – especially since Hazel came along – he helps with domestic responsibilities. But for the most part, he handles the outdoor demands and I handle those within the walls. We’re both compromising, we both have our preferences, and I think we’re both okay with this system. As a result, his cooking repertoire is limited. Breakfast foods, hot dogs and take-out encompass most of his expertise. Once, in our earlier days of marriage, he offered to grocery shop and cook dinner as a surprise. He came home with the following: frozen corn dogs, shrimp cocktail and two bags of oreos. Fortunately, I knew well before then I hadn’t married a Mario Batali. But his well-intentioned “meal” solidified I should maintain my position as head meal planner and preparer.
When I found out I had to go on full bed rest, I was filled with many rational fears and frustrations. Because food is always among my top priorities (babies, breathing, food…), I pictured weeks of reluctantly choking down fast food and cheap reheated corn dogs with a label that is two ingredients away from creating mutant ninja turtles. But like a culinary superhero, Nathan has exceeded and slapped my pessimistic expectations right in the kisser. He has created not only edible, but really, REALLY good meals for our family. To keep the Christmas spirit alive, he talked of baking gingerbread houses and cookies, he volunteered to roast chestnuts and make Hazel and I breakfast. And on Christmas night, in a state of grateful bewilderment, I consumed one of the best meals of my life: homemade prime rib, potatoes with carmelized onions with a side of greek yogurt/horseradish sauce. What the…who IS this guy? It has been amazing. And unfortunately for him, I now know his potential and will likely guilt him into shrimp cocktail-less meals for years to come.
Ultimately, I was reminded on this holiday – more than any other – just how stinking good we have it. I was forced into the very necessary reminder that, when it comes right down to it, even the prettiest and most celebrated of holiday traditions are a bunch of unnecessary fluff. Sick or not, I was blessed with an amazing, relaxing Christmas at home – and that is more than I could ever really ask for or deserve. I hope you all had a safe, healthy and frazzle-free Christmas.
And I look forward to getting back to the fluff next year.