I almost did it. Or at least for a minute, I thought I did.
For the first time in the history of my being responsible for Christmas, I almost had all the presents wrapped before Christmas day. I was almost ready.
Year after year, for 37 of them, I would find myself on Christmas Eve day feeling stressed and rushed; irritated with myself that I was needing to spend five or six hours wrapping gifts, baking cookies and sometimes still shopping. Every single year I would growl and grumble at myself and say ‘NEXT YEAR I will have all this done and will leisurely enjoy the pre-Christmas season. I will have everything bought, wrapped, baking done, the house clean and I will sit and bask in the glow of the Christmas lights.’
Has never, ever happened … even once.
When I was surrounded by kids and critters, we lived on fast forward. Constant chaos. I never caught up with the laundry in 20 years. There was much stuff, much activity; days were a blurr of motion and commotion. I had to accept that peace and serenity were concepts that were unattainable and unrealistic and for the most part, I didn’t care. But I carried an expectation of myself to give my children the vision or at least the illusion, that Christmas was magical, beautiful and peaceful- for even the briefest of moments. Just the calm before the storm, but a glimpse of possibility ... "how-things-could-be".
It’s that darn television’s fault. All those people – perfectly ready when friends and neighbours would drop in … house sparkling, stockings hung; them - all pleasant and smiley in their Christmas prettiness … hair combed, make up perfect and children sweetly smiling in red velvet dresses and socks that matched. I knew it even smelled good in there – like freshly baked gingerbread cookies. Never scotch tape and wrapping paper strewn everywhere, mish-mash piles of plastic bags with unwrapped gifts, and plain old ordinary, grilled-cheese sandwich life happening.
We’d get home from church about and I would stay up for hours, making sure that when they awoke and came downstairs, that the Christmas tree would be lit and every single thing would be in order. Peace on Earth. Santa’s treasures would not be obstructed by clutter and disarray. Goodwill to Men. And Women. And children. And dogs. And EveryTHING. In all likelihood it was for my own need to achieve order and serenity for one single moment in the year, but what I envisioned was that my brood would have warm and wonderful memories of the magic of Christmas, and that somehow would make up for the bedlam the rest of the year.
NEXT YEAR, I would tell myself ... I will absitively, posilutely be organized and ready DAYS ahead. Perhaps even WEEKS ahead. After all, I have had a fair number of runs at it.
I did truly, honestly believe that THIS was going to finally be NEXT YEAR. Three full days before Christmas Eve, I started wrapping gifts. I even put names on them so I didn’t have to re-open them because I couldn’t remember what they were. I was downright giddy with the vision of being In Control. I truly thought that I was. I was congratulating myself and doing a Happy Dance. Joy to the World!!!
I’m not sure what happened. There seems to be a chunk of time dropped completely out of the space between that day and Christmas morning. A time warp tricked me into a false sense of sanity.
In the end, I was worse than ever. I was not only wrapping on Christmas Eve AND Christmas morning, I found myself for the first time in history, coming down to a regular weekday messy kitchen. For the last few years, I have been quietly reflective on Christmas morning, thinking about how things have changed with the kids gone. This year I didn’t even get to sit down for a cup of coffee. I do not know what made me believe that I had things under control; obviously I was hallucinating.
I was up at , working like a maniac, trying to pull things together by the time the crew arrived in the afternoon. It was a re-run of the nights that I would be scurrying around, vacuuming at in the morning. I still wanted them to walk into something that looked like a television Christmas. I also wanted to be able to sit down and visit instead of the indelible image I have of my mother-in-law never leaving the kitchen or enjoying her company during holiday gatherings.
I was spinning. By the time of the expected arrival, I had cooked, carved and cleaned up the mess of two turkeys, had the gravy made and potatoes and turnip mashed and every dish done. It was exhausting and crazy, but the transformation and order was shades of Christmas morning past.
They all walked in moments later. Was I greeting them at the door with hugs and happiness? Oh no. I had just got out of the shower - wet hair, no make up and trying to wrap last minute gifts on my bed. I was feeling tired and old and crusty and was ready for a nap. With grace of God, I hopefully will get another stab at it.