I am having a bit of difficulty getting into the holiday spirit right now. It’s not that I don’t want to, because I DO. I’m just finding it hard. I’m… too emotional. About everything. And so I’m either tearing up in awe and gratefulness that we’re actually all okay, or I’m beating myself up over my inability to just feel joy without it dredging up all of those less-than-joyful feelings that oftentimes follow.
Really the best I’ve been able to manage on my own is picking out and eating all of the peppermint bark squares in my Ghiradelli holiday assortment. I don’t know if it’s exactly filled me with the spirit of the season, but I’m full and my breath is minty.
The truth is, I’m just tired. Tired from lack of sleep. Tired from worry. Tired from my back hurting. Tired from trying to keep it all together for the kids. Tired from trying to force myself to just GET OVER IT already.
Tired of being tired of myself. It’s like the movie says, you know. No matter where you go, there you are.
Anyway, in the midst of this, I have been primed for the kids– Chickadee in particular, both because she’s more sensitive and because she sustained the most serious injury–to have lasting after-effects from the accident.
It’s interesting to me that it’s Monkey, not Chickadee, who has blossomed into the quintessential little old lady backseat driver. Any time I slow down with him in the car, he’s right there piping up– helpfully–with, “Slow DOWN, Mama!” or “YOU SHOULD STOP NOW!” or “LOOK OUT FOR THAT OTHER CAR!” I am trying to be patient with him. I have explained umpteen times that he rode in the car with me for nearly 6 years before I ran into anything, and he needn’t worry that just because we had one accident that I am a lousy driver or it will happen again. He listens intently to my reasoning, nods in agreement, and then mumbles, “Well, I just get a little worried.”
Out of the car, he’s fine.
Chickadee, on the other hand, doesn’t seem bothered in the car. But if I talk to anyone about the accident in her presence, she becomes extremely agitated. She doesn’t want to talk about it, or hear about it, and she’s very clear about saying so. It’s okay to talk about her stitches or decorate her bandages, but not to address HOW she was injured. The wound is a badge of courage. The events that led to it comprise a movie she never wants to see again.
Last weekend (before the accident) I put up our Christmas tree. The kids have been begging to do the ornaments ever since. For a few days I was able to put them off because I just wasn’t mobile enough to be carrying boxes up from the basement. Friday I finally brought everything up; not because I particularly felt a need to do so, but because the children had been relentless. They fell to arranging the nativity and hanging ornaments on the tree, and Chickadee was in an uncommonly cheerful mood.
I finally decided to join in (and perhaps get some ornaments higher than 4′ up the tree), and went to hang an ornament near the top. In doing so, I bumped against an icicle ornament Chickadee had hung as high as she could reach. Because she could barely reach, the loop was right at the edge of the branch. When I bumped it, it fell, and shattered.
It had been a beautiful glass icicle, given to her last year by some family friends. She was heartbroken. I cleaned up the glass while she asked if I could glue it back together, and I had to explain that the damage was too great. I apologized (several times); I felt awful. I told her she could pick from one of my ornaments, to replace it. Later she curled up in my lap and asked me about the ornament she’d chosen; I told her the story behind when I’d received it, and she said we should share it. I told her that was a great idea.
This morning I was just WRONG. About EVERYTHING. She didn’t want to wear THAT to church. She didn’t want to brush her teeth NOW, she wanted to do it LATER. And she was communicating her displeasure by letting me know how USELESS and DUMB she was sure I was. Somewhere around the third altercation I threw my hands into the air. “Okay, Chickie. I’m done. I don’t want to argue with you. You know what you need to do, and what the consequences are if you don’t. You’re being rude to me and I don’t like it. It’s all up to you. I’m going to go get ready.” It’s not the first time I’ve used that tactic. It’s the most graceful way I can extricate myself, usually, but the downside is that it often makes her even more defiant.
I was halfway through drying my hair when I noticed Chickadee slinking into my bathroom. I said hello and went back to my hair. She worked her way around the dryer’s cord and hugged my middle, wordlessly. I put the dryer down and hugged her back.
“I’m sorry, Mama,” she said, cheek resting against my ribs. I kissed the top of her head and thanked her, and squeezed her closer.
We stood there like that for a while. “I like this better than fighting,” I commented. She giggled into my side. It tickled.
At church, she both tittered with her friend and tried to corral Monkey during the children’s sermon when he inexplicably became boneless and lay down on the floor. She cast a furtive wave to me over her shoulder as she left for junior church.
After church, she begged to be allowed to go play at her friend’s house, and danced for joy when we mothers assented. She gave me a hasty kiss and ran off.
Later, Monkey and I met up with Chickadee and friends at a Christmas festival complete with Santa. The kids begged to stand in line for their chance to talk to him. Monkey fretted that he didn’t have his list done. Chickadee pointed out the kids she knew from school. When it was their turn, I had to move in fairly close to listen to their conversation.
Santa asked why they both had bandaged foreheads, and Monkey was only too happy to tell him that his mom ran into a truck. I watched as Chickadee’s lips clamped down in a straight line, then was amazed when Santa whispered something to her and she broke out in a shy smile. She whispered something back.
(Later, she told me Santa had asked her if he should bring me a new car. Chickadee told him “thanks anyway, but we got one just like the one we had.”)
The kids each settled down on Santa’s knees, and he asked the inevitable question. Monkey started rattling off a litany of items he wanted: Pokemon cards, a Pokedex, maybe some more cars or dinosaurs, or some Teen Titans stuff…. Santa turned to Chickadee and asked what she wanted. “I don’t know,” she said.
“I think we’re all out of ‘I don’t knows,'” teased Santa. The shy smile came back.
“I don’t really need anything,” she clarified. Santa told her he’d think of something befitting such a good little girl. I bet he will, too.
After their time with Santa, we wound our way back to the parking lot. The kids had decorated and inhaled sugar cookies, done some crafts, watched the firemen drive around the vintage fire truck, and chatted with the big jolly guy. And two very bored-looking teenaged elves had given them candy canes. It had been noisy and crowded and not at all the sort of thing that I enjoy, but the kids were giddy.
As we climbed into the cold car, I flicked the switch for my seat warmer. This car has a few more features than the previous one, like the ability to roast your buns on a cold winter day. Ahhhh. “You know what I like about THIS car better than the OLD car?” I asked the kids (even then steeling myself against the “well why don’t OUR seats get warm??” that was sure to follow).
“What?” replied Monkey…
… at exactly the same time as his sister quipped…
“That this one’s NOT SMUSHED?”
(Okay, that wasn’t what I was going for, but she had a point. A pretty funny point, actually.)
And tonight before bed, Monkey had a spectacular meltdown over the fact that he was STARVING on account of I NEVER FEED HIM. (Translation: He had turned up his nose at dinner, and realized his error several hours later.) As he wept in the hallway, I knelt down to hug him. Before I knew it, Chickadee had had emerged from the bathroom–mid-tooth-brushing–to comfort him as well. I patted his back and she patted his head and then made her foamy toothbrush do an enticing song and dance that went more or less like “come brush your teeth! come brush your teeth!” until he wiped his tears and followed her back to the sink.
I am amazed, each night, as I change the dressing on her head, at how quickly she is healing. That seems to hold true for what I can’t see as well as what I can. How did I get so lucky to have this goofy, compassionate, nutty girl to show me the way?