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Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

‎For the last few weeks I have had an almost overwhelming desire to put up my Christmas tree. I know it’s too early. I know it’s not time yet but still I want to.

I spent an hour last week wandering through the aisles of Canadian Tire looking at the ornaments and wrapping paper. I picked up five Christmas CDs when I was at the library and promptly put one into the CD player in my car so I could sing along on the way home.

I have pulled out my recipe box and am making lists of holiday baking I want to do. I went online and spent hours picking out “just the right template” for our Christmas cards and “just the right pictures” to go on the card and actually ordered them.

I saw something on Pinterest I wanted to make, went out and got all of the supplies and spent two hours in my basement last night actually making it. Not thinking about it, not starting it and then giving up, but actually making the thing all the way through to the end.

I need it to be Christmas right now. Because right now I’m feeling all warm and holiday-ish ‎ and inspired. Right now I love the decorations and the songs and the stacks of store flyers at my door. I feel inspired and optimistic and yes, dare I say it, even excited.

I need it to be Christmas right now, because I’m not sure how long the feeling can last. I know there’s no way that I will actually feel like this in a month when the actual Christmas is actually around the corner.

Because by then I will have shopped more than I ever wanted to and I still won’t be done. I will have promised myself a dozen times that this will be the year I don’t leave all the wrapping until the end but I will break my promise, again. I will be tired of baking and having my kitchen counter perpetually covered in flour.

I will have forgotten three people I need gifts for. I will be tired of dusting around all of the knick-knacks and vacuuming up the needles that continuously fall from the fake garlands that line my banisters.

‎I will be sick of the music; sick of hearing Jingle Bells on the radio for the hundredth time in a single day. The calendar on my wall will be stuffed full of concerts and family gatherings and dinners and brunches and all I will want to do is sit at home in my pajamas.

I will have spent much too much time in the checkout at Walmart at 10:00 at night wondering what happened to my life.

I know all of this with a certainty deep in my heart because I’ve been around the block a few times now. This is not my first time doing this Christmas thing, now in the role of the person responsible for the tidings and the joy. I know by the time it arrives I will be tired of pretending I’m having fun and will just want it to be over.

That will be then, but this is now and knowing that then is coming makes me appreciate now even more. I stare at wrapping paper and picture the beautiful gifts under the tree. I sit back and watch the excitement grow on my kids’ faces and I allow myself to warm at the feeling. I read the Christmas books all the way to the end and pull the holiday DVDs down off the top shelf. I wear socks with Santas on them.

I’m celebrating Christmas in November this year, and holding on to that holiday feeling for as long as I can. ‎

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She was a pro at just sneaking it into the conversation.  We would all be sitting at the dinner table, our forks raised mid-bite, and she would just slide it in.

“Would you be able to dig the decorations out of the cubby hole for me tomorrow?” she would ask, simultaneously dishing out more potatoes and smiling lovingly at my dad from across the table.

And there it was, with those few words uttered, Christmas had officially begun.

When I was a kid the surest sign that Christmas was coming was not the sound of Christmas music playing on the radio or the smell of cookies baking in the oven, no, not for me.  For me, Christmas did not officially begin until the decorations came out from under the stairs.  It’s funny that I have maybe a handful of memories of actually putting up the decorations, trimming the tree, all of that, but at least twice as many of the process it took to get those decorations out from the spot they called home for the remaining 11 months of the year.

The “cubby hole” at our house was just that – a cupboard/hole under our stairs that at its opening was large enough for a full size door but which, at its depth, was barely tall enough for a 10 year old, let alone a grown man, to crawl on hands and knees. My father had ingeniously turned the largest section of it into a walk-in closet / mudroom and by hammering a few nails into the exposed 2 x 4s, thereby creating an effective little coat room.

The remainder of the space was used for storage, and as the place my brother would threaten to lock me when my parents were out and he was “babysitting.”

But I digress.

On the appointed day my dad would crawl deep into the depths of the cubby hole in search of the Christmas tree and all of its assorted accessories. Now this was a time before lovely Rubbermaid stacking containers and handy cloth sacks for holding artificial trees so our decorations spent 11 months of the year stuffed in aging cardboard boxes. Boxes that would inevitably disintegrate at the first touch, causing ornaments and knick-knacks to spill, scattering into the farthest reaches of the darkness.

And let me say, it’s not like there were one or two boxes.  Oh no, there were always at least a dozen.  They were varying sizes, varying shapes and notoriously poorly marked so although my mother could tell by merely glancing at them that the toilet paper box was definitely Christmas but the photocopy box was, of course, Halloween, my father had absolutely no idea.  So he would push all of them to the door of the cubby hole and yell up to my mother to please come down and tell him which ones she needed.

It was at this point in the process where he usually ended up hitting his head.  It always happened; if it was a good year it happened only once.  Then there would come the inevitable string of profanities, laced together with such mastery that my brother and I would sit wide-eyed on the stairs and cover our mouths in shock.  We were normally told to “stay out of the way” during this whole ordeal but, through the years, we discovered just how far away we needed to be to make ourselves scarce, while still being close enough to partake of the show.

I, of course, was not there when my parents got married but I do believe that the yearly unearthing of the Christmas decorations must have been present in their wedding vows.  I promise to love, honour and once a year I will crawl down into a dark, dusty, dingy crawl space and dig out 17 boxes of holiday decorations.  It must have been there because he did it…every single year.  And even though he would bang his head, and even though he would swear, and even though I’m sure he hated every minute of it, he did it.

Because she asked him to.

I am all grown up now (apparently) and I have my own house, and my own 17 boxes of Christmas decorations.  The ornament didn’t fall far from the Christmas tree on that one.  And, just like they did in all of my childhood memories, my decorations live in a closet under my stairs.  And as I look at the calendar I see that it’s almost that time again, almost time for me to make my foray into that dark closet and dig out my boxes.

And when I do, I will probably hit my head, and I will probably scream like a little girl when a spider scurries across the floor in front of me, but deep inside I will be enjoying it.  Because it makes me think of my childhood, and my parents, and all the magic and wonder that lives under the stairs.

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a post-Christmas list

The presents have been unwrapped.  The turkey has been eaten.  The twinkle lights on the Christmas tree have lost a bit of their luster.  The pictures have been uploaded to the computer where they will inevitably sit, unprinted, for years to come.  And by the time they do make it into albums, I will have forgotten the little moments that went along with them so, with that in mind, I’m making this post-Christmas list of all of the little things I want to remember from this year’s holiday.

Back into the boxes you go!

1) waking up with a house full of people on Christmas Eve day.  Throwing together a brunch my mother would be proud of and being able to sit down around our new dining room table, seeing the faces of my friends and family; not needing or wanting to be anywhere else.

2) spending a quiet Dec. 24 chatting with a close friend while her hubby beat my kids at Wii bowling in the basement and put together a band that later performed Christmas songs for us.  No running to the store for last-minute gifts; no standing in line at the grocery store after fighting with some lady over the last package of powdered turkey gravy.  Just quiet time at home.  I was in my pajamas until 1:30pm.

3) being able to see my parents on Christmas Eve as the kids leave out cookies for Santa.  Yes, it was only over the computer but when you live 3,000 miles apart you have to take what you can get.

4) my son running around the house yelling “we have to go to bed before Santa gets here!!!” every two minutes.  We looked Santa up on the ipad (modern technology put to good use) but trying to tell a 4 year old that Santa is in Finland – and therefore not going to be in Canada in the next 10 minutes – is kind of a useless exercise.  It did provide much comic relief though.

5) going upstairs to see both kids tucked into my son’s bed and sneaking into the room to sit between them in the bed and read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas as their eyes grew more and more sleepy.

6) the look on my daughter’s face when she opened the new acoustic guitar we bought for her – her smile growing even bigger when we told her the gift came with lessons that will start in a few weeks.  She sat down and started strumming, looked up at me and asked if she sounded like Taylor Swift.

7) the 10 minutes of quiet, after all of the gifts had been opened and my hubby was done cleaning up all of the wrapping paper and cardboard boxes, the kids playing (relatively) quietly on the floor with their new toys and I exhale, and smile.

8) standing in my grandparents’ kitchen (always my grandmother’s domain) cooking potatoes and turnip to have with Christmas dinner.  It was sad that my grandmother, always the boss in the kitchen making all others fear doing something wrong, was now sitting in the living room quite oblivious to what was going on around her.  I stopped for a minute while mashing the turnip and felt myself getting sad.  Then my grandfather (who never used to step foot in the kitchen) came and offered to mash for me, and told me where to find the Tupperware.  Welcome to the new normal.

9) spending Boxing Day with the kids on the floor of the basement, putting together Lego trucks.  Out of all of the things I accomplished this holiday season, this gave me the most pleasure (and probably – sadly – took me the most time):

These shouldn't have taken me 2 hours to put together... but they did.

With the benefit of hindsight, this year’s Christmas has been a good one.  And now it’s all over for another year and I take a moment now to salute all of you out there who were responsible for Christmas at your house.  You know who you are.  The ones responsible for buying gifts, wrapping gifts, cooking dinner, putting up decorations, baking cookies, singing songs, organizing parties, side-stepping quarrels, taking pictures, compiling memories, kissing tired heads, finding lost toys.  Congratulations to all of you for doing a wonderful job for another year.  Put your feet up, grab a beverage of your choice and pat yourself on the back for a job well done.  Happy Post-Christmas.  Only 360 days until we get to do it all again.

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the fruit tray

I had been doing so well.  I made it through a visit with Santa without blowing my stack waiting in line.  I managed to make multiple trips to the toy store at peak hours without coming to blows with a cashier or wrestling with another parent over the last Lalaloopsy doll in the store.  I cut myself some slack and decided there wouldn’t be Christmas cards this year.  Things were going pretty well considering we’re now only 4 days until the big day.  I was even thinking that a good-old pat on the back could be in order.

And then came the fruit tray.

My daughter announced to me at 8pm tonight that she needs a fruit tray for her party at school on Friday.  The rational, reasonable part of my brain knows that it’s not a big deal.  I mean really, if I don’t have time to make something I can just buy a pre-made one at the store tomorrow and be done with it.  But, the irrational, Christmas-crazed side of my brain decided for some reason that this was the one thing that was going to push me over the edge.  I lost it.  I can fully admit that this was not one of my better moments as a mom and now, 15 minutes later, I feel really horrible.

I wish I was the kind of person who could go with the flow on this type of thing but, after living with myself for 34 years, I know that it’s not me.  I’m the freak-out kind rather than the roll-with-it kind.

I feel really bad about making my daughter feel bad.  All she wants is a fruit tray to take to her school and it’s not her job to worry about the 10,000 other things I have to do over the next 2 days.  To push the dagger further into my heart, I know that if I did the same thing to my mom when I was little (which I’m sure I did…more than once probably), she wouldn’t have freaked out.  She would have smiled, given me a kiss and when it came time to leave for school on the appointed day, she would hand me a beautiful fruit tray, each piece of fruit cut by her own hand, even if she had to stay up until midnight doing it.

And with that I feel 10 times worse.

I will go to the store tomorrow and get my daughter a fruit tray.  She will take it to school with her on Friday and for her, that will probably be the end of it.  Years from now she probably won’t remember any of this – or at least I hope she doesn’t remember any of this.  However, as all of you mom’s out there know, from this point on, every time I hear the words ‘fruit tray’ I will remember this.  I will remember the guilt and the disappointment in myself as a mother, the time spent wishing I was a different kind of mom.

I’m probably going to cry about it a little bit.  Then I’ll take a deep breath and tell myself that it’s okay, that beating myself up about it won’t make things any better.  I’ll probably only half believe it.

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in search of some mommy magic.

As I stand in line at the grocery store behind a hundred other people, I wonder.  As I wrap what seems like the 250th present and my fingers are numb from the tape, I ponder.

What is missing this year?  To be honest, it’s not just this year.  I’ve noticed it gradually coming in the years since I became a mom.  What is missing is the Christmas magic.

When I was little I used to sit up in my bed on Christmas Eve and I would swear, in all honesty, that I had actually heard the reindeer’s hooves on my roof.  The excitement of waking up on Christmas morning, staring at the clock until it hit 7:17am or whatever random time my father had designated as “wake up” time.  Standing at the door of my room with my brother beside me, standing in his doorway, counting down the final minute until we could make the mad dash and leap onto my parents bed.  Magic.

A stomach filled with butterflies, with just a slight tinge of fear that maybe Santa didn’t bring what I had asked for this year; that maybe I hadn’t been as good as I let on in my letter.  What if?

That’s what Christmas is missing for me.  I know, it’s wonderful to see that excitement and wonder on my kids faces but, and I’m probably a horrible mother for saying this, I’m envious of them.  I wish I could go back to a time before I knew the “truth” about everything.  I wish I could go back to a time when I didn’t know how all the strings worked behind the scenes and the reality of how much work is involved in making Christmas.

I wish I didn’t know what (almost) every gift is under the tree – because I bought them, wrapped them and put them there.  I wish I didn’t cook everything on the Christmas table and all of the cookies in the Christmas cookie jar.

If I was to write a letter to Santa this year, that’s what I would ask for; just a little bit of the magic back.

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the calm

It’s 7:30 a.m. on a rainy Thursday morning.  I sit here in my living room listening to the sounds of…silence.  The cat is lounging on the floor at my feet, relaxed but ready at a moments notice to jump into action should it appear that I’m making my way towards the ‘treat’ cupboard.  It is the perfect way to start a morning.

The hubby and kids were out the door 15 minutes ago and I’ve already taken care of the one piece of work that I had to do on my day off.  My list (aka plan of action) is sitting on the kitchen counter, just waiting for me to get off my butt and change out of these flannel pjs.  I have planned out my route to maximize time and efficiency as there is much to be done on this, the last shopping day without the kids before Christmas.

Maybe it’s sad but this is probably the most excited I’ve been about Christmas since the beginning of the holiday season, i.e. the middle of November.

I can almost taste it, a morning spent running errands without having to bribe, cajole or physically drag a little person around with me.  I can browse at Walmart for 20 minutes rather than the usual mad dash through the aisles, trying to go as fast as I can without forgetting anything.  Ah…bliss.

Kind of pathetic that this is what passes for an amazing few hours in my life but I’ve determined that at this stage in life:  married, working, two kids, you really have to take what you can get and learn to love it!

Happy shopping to me!

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