Sometimes I actually get it. If some teenager can ride all day on a donkey, 9 months pregnant, and then deliver her own baby in a stable and still consider it an amazing and wonderful thing… well, I guess I can set aside the less-than-perfect aspects of my own life and bask in the miracles around me.
I mean, hell; being in a nice warm house free of dung is sort of the jackpot, in comparison, right off the bat. Add in not having to squeeze a messiah out of my nether regions, and my day really starts to look like a party pretty much no matter what. For one thing, I have a nice big bottle of Advil right there on the counter.
Regardless. Today was an excellent Christmas.
Two years ago was our first divorced Christmas. I was to have the children Christmas eve and morning, then they would go to their dad for the day. I put a tremendous amount of work into trying to make the holiday as nice and normal as possible, for them. I was probably a wee bit (ha!) stressed out about it.
I can’t even tell you, now, what happened then. I do know that Chickadee was still quite angry with the world over our split, and she was probably still in the “Well Daddy would let us [fill in the blank with any damn thing regardless of whether Daddy would really let them or not]” phase. The specifics have faded from my memory (or been repressed). All I can tell you is that I called my ex a couple of hours early, in tears, and told him to come pick up the kids.
They had fought with each other, and with me. They had whined and cried. There was no gratitude that I could see. Their behavior reached a pinnacle of atrociousness that would have horrified me on ANY day. But on Christmas. After I’d done so much for them. And they behaved like none of it mattered. The delicate house of cards I’d built to convince myself that all was good and well collapsed with an unceremonious WOOSH. And I called my ex and told him to TAKE THEM AWAY BEFORE I HURT THEM.
Thinking about that day still makes me cry. Partly because I think we all must’ve been hurting so much, in ways we hadn’t yet unravelled, even; and partly because it was Christmas and I sent my kids away because I just couldn’t take it any more. It’s definitely one for the Least Proud Mama Moments annals.
Last year was an improvement, in large part, I’m sure, because my ex put the fear of God into the kids. They spent the evening and morning with him, then came home to me with strict instructions to NOT MAKE MAMA CRY THIS YEAR. We spent the day with friends and they did not make me cry. So I didn’t have to kill them.
This year, I faced the holiday with my usual mix of anticipation of trepidation.
At church last night, Monkey squiggled and squirmed and yawned loudly and stroked the sleeve of my silk blouse while snuggling against me and trying to stay awake. I might’ve preferred that he behave a little better, be a bit less antsy, wear the shoes I told him to wear (we were at church when I realized that instead of his black dress shoes he was wearing his beat-up brown ones… oops!), but really, who cares. He is my baby, and he’s going to be 6 in less than 2 weeks. His days left to spin on his butt like a top during the children’s sermon and hang on me like, well, a baby monkey are limited. I savored the warmth of him in my arms and breathed in his delicious puppy-like scent instead of wishing his antics away.
Chickadee leaned against me and didn’t fidget, didn’t whisper. She listened to the readings and the stories, found us the right hymns at the right times and sang along while I snuck kisses on the top of her head. She held her lit candle carefully and didn’t fuss at me for smoothing back her hair during “Silent Night,” but gazed around at the sea of candles and looked thoughtful. She seemed, last night, so grown-up to me. When she slipped her hand in mine, on the way to the car, and asked if we could check Santa’s position again on the NORAD site before bed, I giggled with relief. Still a little girl. Still my little girl.
We checked on Santa (and the children ran upstairs and informed me that the elves had brought them new jammies!) and by the time I tucked them in, it was late. Chickadee came to the top of the stairs just once, to remind me that I needed to get to bed so Santa could come. I called up that I was going soon, and she went back to bed. They were snoring in no time at all.
Me, I did some baking for today, and a few last-minute (*coughstockingscoughcough*) things, and then went to bed.
This morning they were excited but patient. I was allowed a potty stop before we headed downstairs. They oohed and aahed over the contents of their stockings, stopping to hold up various items and insist I take a picture.
Three gifts apiece. Truth be told, this is probably the most sparse Christmas they’ve ever had. And I cannot tell you how I sat there watching them, unable to stop smiling, as they delighted in each present and thanked me because they were thrilled rather than because they should. Chickadee demanded that I open their gifts and watched me closely to be sure I loved the jammies, and the book, and the scarf. Monkey was pretty much done after he opened the box of Pokemon cards, although he did keep holding up one or another to declare things like “Oh THIS one has SPECIAL powers!” and “I’ve ALWAYS WANTED one of THESE!”
There was no fighting or grumbling. We sang while preparing breakfast, and the children discovered they could roll the Hoberman spheres my mother had sent them, much like bowling balls. I feigned terror each time a plastic sphere came bouncing into the kitchen, out of nowhere… and around the corner in the living room, giggling would erupt in response.
By the time my ex arrived to pick them up, they were fed and dressed and ready to go. Chickadee and I had been playing one of her new games, and I promised we’d finish when they come home later this week. They each grabbed the things they decided they had to have at Daddy’s, and then with a chorus of “Merry Christmas!”es they were off.
I left the carnage in the living room and headed to church. Afterwards, I made the rounds to several friends, dropping off presents and visiting briefly. Home again for a bit, I grabbed a brief nap (shut up; Monkey woke me up at 5:30) and then headed out to join friends for dinner.
I spent the remainder of the day and most of the evening eating and laughing and enjoying good company. Two notable points of the visit:
First, that I had baked something I dubbed “mystery pumpkin dessert.” Basically, I searched for a recipe for “something pumpkiny” based upon the ingredients I had handy, and my good pal Google yielded a recipe that looked interesting enough, called “Pumpkin Cobbler.” But… well… okay. I had to make a few creative ingredient substitutions, both because I didn’t have evaporated milk and because it called for nuts, which the hostess is allergic to. AND, when I pulled it out of the oven after the appointed time? It was still soup in the middle. So I baked it quite a bit longer. Plus, seriously–pumpkin COBBLER? It was not a cobbler. To me cobbler implies a fruit with enough body to stand up on its own. I don’t know. Basically, the entire thing was a disaster from start to finish, and I showed up with this pan of “I have no idea if this is going to be any good at all but here ya go.”
It was delicious. Not as big of a miracle as a virgin birth, granted, but I’ll take it.
Second, that we played a cool card game wherein there are “Skip” cards. Obviously when you play one you’d probably like to skip whichever person is ahead at the time. During this game, my friends’ 12-year-old daughter was proudly showing me her new necklace, which was a gift from her boyfriend. Did you catch that? 12. Boyfriend. And I think this was the first her grandparents had heard of this, and her father didn’t seem to know that this was where the necklace had come from, and so suddenly there was a great hubbub surrounding her and this gift, as we adults all razzed her mercilessly as is our duty. I don’t think her little brother appreciated the attention she was getting, so he piped up to let us all know that he’d heard her on the phone telling a friend that she and the boyfriend in question had kissed. TWICE! Oh lord, it was mayhem. She was telling him to shut up, her father looked like he was trying not to lock her in her room for the rest of her life, the grandparents were fanning themselves. Heh.
Remember, we were playing cards. So it was suggested that we settle down and get back to the game. Okay. My turn, and I played a Skip, and said that I choose to skip the daughter. She asked me why (she was not in the lead), and I smiled sweetly at her and blurted out the God’s honest truth: “Because you’re getting more action than I am.”
I don’t know if it was that that occurred to me or the look on her face that made me nearly wet my pants. I don’t suppose it matters.
I drove home full and sore from laughing.
There may be things I’m missing in my life, but the things I have are pretty damn good. Merry Christmas, indeed.