Monday, December 26, 2011

A crazy, bittersweet, and Grace-ful holiday

Christmas kicked my ass this year.  I guess it sort of does every year, but I really thought it was going to be a TKO this year.  

I'm trying to sort through the aftermath today, but I feel like I'm coming down from a 3 day bender.  I don't really know what that feels like, because I've never been on a 3 day bender, but I imagine that this is what it might feel like.  NO, it's not because I drank too much wine over Christmas...maybe I had a glass or 8 yesterday (throughout the day, thank you), but it's not that.  It's a Holiday Hangover.  So much energy goes into making it "the most wonderful time of the year."  I always want it to be magical for the kids, because it was always a magical time of year for me.  I've always loved the Season; the lights, the family gatherings, the gift exchanging... But DEAR GOD, it's so much work with the list making and party planning and shopping and multiple celebrations...

For the first time in years, and with a little help from some friends, I had the gifts wrapped before Christmas Eve. Thus, the morning of Christmas Eve did not bring with it its usual sense of urgency.  It did, however, bring with it some sad news.  My husband's grandfather, to whom he was very close, was in the hospital, and it didn't look good.  It's not my story to share, so I won't share it here.  I will say, though, that it wasn't sudden; we knew it was coming, we just didn't know it would be Christmas Eve.  

The hubs left to go be with his family, and I went about the business of making Christmas happen, waiting to hear sad news and worrying quietly for my husband in the back of my mind.  

It's a little surreal how life's mundanities are often juxtaposed with its most profound festivity and sadness can get all wrapped up in each other... Life marches on, though, relentlessly.  

There was baking to be done, commitments to be kept, and a family tradition to uphold.  I'm not sure this is exactly how it went, but here's what I remember...  

Why can't I stop sneezing?  How am I supposed to get anything done when I have to stop and sneeze every few minutes? This happens every now and's like my respiratory system just gets stuck in an endless loop and doesn't know how to shut off the sneeze function.  The sneezing in itself is torture enough.  Just to add insult to injury...the sneezing plays hell with that lovely souvenir of vaginal childbirth known as stress incontinence.  I don't have time for this right now, I need to bake things!  

Enter girl child... 

What's for breakfast?  [It's 11:30, btw]
I was gonna make some eggs. As soon as I stop sneezing. 
What about cereal? Yeah, I'll go with cereal. I don't really want you sneezing in my breakfast. No offense.

Awesome.  I love that kid.  

Enter boy child...

What's for breakfast?  
Cereal.  [His sister's idea was better than mine.]
Ugh.  Never mind, I'm not hungry.  
That's cool, hold out for lunch in half an hour.  

Okay, first thing on the list is a Mango Chutney Cheese Ball.  Two, actually, one for each family gathering. 

Once those are done, I make some cream cheese and pumpkin fruit dip.  I'm still sneezing incessantly.  While blending the dip, I receive a phone call from my husband that his grandfather is gone.  I wish that there is something I can do to ease his pain and sadness, but all I can do is ask a few questions and say, I love you.  

Enter boy child again... 

Can I have lunch? 
Sure, there's the stew I made last night in the fridge.  
Never mind, I'm not hungry.  
Better eat it, dinner's still a long way away...

Now for the baking... I have to make a crustless apple pie, or boy child will not have a dessert he can eat at the Christmas Eve party.  I start to make it when he requests a gluten free apple crisp, instead.  I do have apples, but they're for my fruit dip.  Eh, whatever, sure, I'll make his apple crisp.  We'll go by the store and get more apples.  

Enter girl child again while I'm peeling, coring, and slicing.  

Mom, I was in my room and it felt like something was biting me and I looked down and there was this weird little bug on me.  

In my head, I say, Well... Isn't that great? Isn't it just kick-you-in-the-crotch and spit-on-your-neck fantastic? (Yes, I stole it from Friends.  Some things just stick in your head forever.)  

My neighbor phoned a few days ago to say that my kids may have been exposed to, ahem, lice from her children.  She was thoroughly mortified and apologetic.  I've been picking at their heads like a crazy monkey looking for a snack ever since.  Now she has a weird little bug?  Fantastic.  

Before my mind has time to complete any of the above thoughts, though, she looks down her shirt, screeches, grabs at her chest, yells, There's another one! and throws the offending bug on the counter. 

It is indeed a weird little bug.  I don't think it's lice, though.  Just to be sure, I consult Google Images after I catch it in a paper towel.  Nope, not a head louse.  However, it looks disturbingly like a pubic louse, which also comes up in the image search.  Now this just got weird.  Another quick look in the paper towel reveals the bug has escaped and is now nowhere to be found.  Also fantastic.  I take her to the bathroom for a full inspection.  No bugs anywhere.  Hmmm...

My apple-crisp-in-progress is starting to look a little brown around the edges, but I need to figure out what's been crawling on my daughter.  It wasn't a flea...  She was in her room, what else could it be?  Sonofabitch.   We just got her a gently used mattress.  Oh my God, is it bedbugs??  I'll die.  

I check the mattress, and I find no signs.  I check the cats, but I don't see anything visible on them.  I am reminded that they need their flea treatment, though, so I take care of that while I have them pinned down.  I notice on the box that it shows that it protects against fleas and a whole host of other things.  Including ticks.  Back to Google images, and I'm fairly confident now that it was a tick.  Ew.  What can I do about it right now?  Nothing else, so I finish my apple crisp.  

The apple crisp goes in the oven, the mulled wine goes on the stovetop, and I decide it's time to have a talk with the kids.  I share the sad news with them and tell them Daddy is going to need some extra special care and hugs when he gets home.  They are sad, but they nod and accept what I've said with the ease of children that don't fully understand the reality of death yet.  

My timer goes off for the mulled wine, and I go to put it in the air pot thermal dispenser, spilling hot, sticky wine all over the counter and the floor.  My husband chooses this moment to walk through the front door, and I'm torn between hugging him tight and cleaning up the spilled wine.  The hug wins.  I clean up the wine next and talk with him a few minutes.  

He goes to talk with the kids as my timer for the apple crisp goes off.  It still looks awfully doughy on top, so I turn on the broiler so that the top will brown nicely.  

I realize that I'm terribly behind schedule, so I take myself off to my room to apply some make up.  The apple crisp has escaped my mind completely.   

We'll just be a few minutes late, it'll be--  What's that smell?  Is something burning?  

I run for the kitchen but am waylaid by my husband.  Go turn off the oven, I say with urgency.  Hurry!

Now, we have a scorched apple crisp.  He takes it out into the misty cold so it doesn't smoke up the house.  I see an open drawer and slam it shut, yelling, DAMMIT!  The drawer face retaliates against my rough treatment by popping off and hitting the floor with a loud clatter.  

My husband says, Well, that was helpful.  Did that make the pie all better?  I respond childishly that at least it wasn't a shower door (because he once threw a pair of channel locks through a set of sliding glass shower doors in anger after he accidentally broke the shower head off in the wall while trying to adjust it).  Realizing that was petty, I apologize for breaking the drawer.  

I retrieve the apple crisp from outside and decide that I can salvage it.  I scrape the black layer off, and it's actually quite edible still.  The hubs finds wood glue and clamps the drawer face back on.  He's a good man. 

We get ready to go, and of course it's raining while we load food, gifts, and chairs into the car.  We arrive at our event almost an hour late.  That's okay, we were just bringing appetizers and chairs.  No big deal.  Just prior to our arrival, I realize that I've left the apple crisp on the stovetop at home.  Seriously.  

Stay with me now... I know I'm waxing long, but the fun's not over yet.  

We share a lovely meal with my family.  The food is plentiful, and boy child is starving.  He's gone all day without eating, because he did not like the options offered to him.  He has a headache because he hasn't eaten.  So, he proceeds to shovel in food like he doesn't know where his next meal is coming from.  

Next thing we know, he's not feeling so good (quelle surprise).  He monopolizes the guest bathroom for a while; inevitably, he upchucks his stomach contents.  Or most of them.  Then he lays down in the guest bedroom where all the gifts and coats are stored, monopolizing a room that is heavily trafficked this evening.  Not for long, though, because he runs for the bathroom again.  It's occupied, so he has to run through the house to the master bath.  The rest of his dinner makes a reappearance.  He proceeds to cry and carry on about a headache, doing his level best to disturb the rest of a baby resting peacefully on the bed.  Oh, my God... Can we not ever just go somewhere without taking drama and chaos with us??  He rests a bit and perks up after that, eats again, manages to hold on to his meal, and the rest of the evening is blessedly uneventful.  

Back at home, the kids are herded to bed after the traditional reading of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas and the leaving out of candy and milk for Santa.  

I am anxiety filled because I feel like Christmas is going to flop this year.  They have so much, and I didn't want to spend money on junk.  They'll get a few things, but they're going to feel let down on quantity.  I'm prepared for that, and I feel a little bad despite the fact that I want them to learn to expect less and value quality over quantity.  

...I know that I named my daughter Grace for a reason, though I didn't know it at the time.  I'm reminded of the reason on Christmas morning.  After the gift giving excitement is over and she is nestled on the couch reading her Kindle, she sighs contentedly and says aloud to herself: Best. Christmas. Ever.  I'm walking by, and I stop, look at her, and say, Really?  She looks up with eyebrows raised, surprised that I have heard her, and smiles beatifically.  Yep.  Best ever.  Love you, Mama.  

And there it is.  That moment right there, is the reason that I will do it all again next year. 

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