Christmas is just plain crazy, sometimes. You can preach all you want about finding peace during the holidays and valuing time spent with your family in favor of making things perfect. But pshh. When it comes right down to it I can fill my time with leisurely enjoyable activities and still reach the end of my day completely exhausted. Our Sunday was like that this weekend, Sunday-up to Sunday-down.
We started the day with a sleepover wakeup at 4:31 am.
I know. It’s idiotic to say I really wasn’t trying to cram too much in when I start a story containing the word “sleepover.” But we really only inherited one child for the night, and typically that decreases the number of children I have to entertain by one. At worst, it’s a zero sum game. But I’m not used to the 4:30 wake-up. That was a new one.
I got the brood out the door, and we made it on time to church. Mostly, this involved sitting. Then we did some much-needed grocery shopping, grabbed lunch and visited with Nana, which also involved significant sitting. Next we did a little Christmas shopping, which was only exhausting because of the number of times I had to remind the Preschooler that we were NOT shopping for a video game for him, and even if we were, we would never be purchasing anything containing the words “bloody” or “zombie” in the title. After that we stopped by a birthday party that wasn’t at the time or location we anticipated. Again, given the car ride, this involved additional time on the fanny. Next, we went to a Christmas dinner party, which involved sitting and eating, a new and improved variation on the previous lethargy of the day. Finally, after another thirty minutes of sitting for the ride home, we pulled into the driveway – a mere twelve hours later.
The car was stuffed to overflowing with church clothes and wet shoes in bags and white elephant gifts. There was a stack of ten identical teacher gifts that slid around with every turn threatening the eggs in the grocery sacks. There were coats and mail and newspapers and stuffed animals and sandwich wrappers. There was a stack of books for the library and three umbrellas in various stages of dryness. There was one stack of important paperwork. Somewhere.
The poor car resembled a bloated pig on its way to the summer fair begging to be let out of its misery. Point of fact, I felt much the same way. Shame on you holiday artichoke dip, temptress that you are.
One kid spoke nonsense and sleepwalked to their room, and the other had a complete break-down concerning their inability to eat chocolate from the countdown calendar. But I finally got both kids to bed. I could have just crawled into my bed. But instead I slumped down the stairs and reluctantly made my way to the garage, where I popped open the hatch and peered into the chasm of my burgeoning SUV through burning eyes.
What a load of crap.
I momentarily contemplated a Monday morning car-unpacking frenzy, complete with screaming and yelling involving the words “sick and tired” when I remembered there were groceries in there. Dairy products. Eggs. And I heard Husband-Wan-Kenobi’s voice saying, “We can do this. Ten minutes. We’ll blast it out and be in bed in ten minutes.”
So, like a whirling dervish I emptied crushed eggs from their cartons, wrapped teacher presents, doled out stacks of clothes to be put away, hung coats to dry, packed Monday morning school bags, fed the varmints, distributed the white elephant treasures to their rightful owners (including the hand-croched pink piggie which met an untimely trash-can death), printed the hot lunch menu and reviewed the overburdened calendar. Whew. I did it! In my mind, this was a feat of mammoth proportions …
Right until the moment when I reached the top step. This is the step closest to my laundry room, where I realized that there was still (again) no laundry for the upcoming week. At this hour and state of mind, an inventory and assessment of actual bodily need was in order. Sweet Pea had one outfit option and several pair of underwear. Check. The Preschooler was going to be wearing sweat pants and some layered shirts, none of which matched, but I was content to premeditate an excuse, perhaps a passing comment like “I love it when they pick their own outfits.” This would absolve me of bad mother guilt and misdirect The Preschooler’s teacher who already assumes the worst about me. But technically, it was true. He would be chosing it because it was the only clothing in his drawers. Check.
Check. Check. Check. Laundry situation assessed. Check. Operation “Laundry Mayhem Monday” being formulated. Check. Guilt absolved. Check.
And that’s when I saw it. I saw it, and I realized that the layers of chaos had reached such mammoth proportions that I had begun to look beyond the clutter and straight into the black hole of household oblivion.
First of all, I already have Christmas ornament guilt. We have a ton of those tiny hand-made Christmas ornaments that I never put on my tree.
Because, you see, I have a glittery brilliant shimmering crystal snowflake tree. I labor over individually designed dainty paper snowflakes and hang them delicately between golden twinkly lights and sparkling garland. Individually they garner the occasional admiration of onlookers, but en masse they take on what must be the antithesis of the homemade ornament tree. They are truly beautiful mini masterpieces. I enjoy giving many of them away to friends and family as the season progresses, and this tradition has left little room on the family tree for hand-made yarn ornaments and popsicle stick creations.
But you just have to hang them somewhere, don’t you?
Our solution was to give each of the kids a mini tree for their rooms, and divvy out the ornaments between them. The result is one hot-pink glowing tree with a Cinderella on top, and a rainbow-light doused tree nearly overcome by a fat wad of jumbled lights with ornaments hanging mostly on the floor.
In case you can’t fully digest this picture, let me break it down for you. Doggie ornament. Navy airplane ornament. Nerf gun. Guitar. Kinnex – lots of them – which hurt by the way when you step on them in the dark. Tree lights on, around, and trailing away from the tree. A kaleidoscope. Various Transformer parts. Half a candy cane. One of each of three sets of shoes.
And one pair of blue size 4 underwear, hanging from the lowermost bough of the tree.
Though my first instinct was to grab the stinky wad in disgust, I first imagined how it got there. I envisioned the flurry of limbs that must have been flailing when it flew to its perch. I failed to grasp exactly how one could launch a pair of skivvies in such a way as to lodge it in that precise location. It was surely a maneuver that could not be re-created.
So I decided to leave them there. Horrifying as that may sound, they seem to stand for what Christmas at our house is like more than any of the other hand-made ornaments. True, it’s a bit of an experiment. And a risky one at that. I’d like to see just how long we can go through this season before The Preschooler finds his festive blue boxer briefs. I’m curious just how often my little man exercises situational under-awareness and, as time passes, how well his olfactory system works.
But like I said, Christmas is just crazy, sometimes. Around here, we tend to let it all hang out, but at least we do it (mostly) in the comfort of family and friends. So if my version of “Peace on Earth” involves the humor found in a pair of underwear dangling from a poorly lit tree amongst Kinnex-sprinkled garlands at the end of an exhausting day, then so be it. I like it. It works for me.
Anyway, just like the rest of my life, there’s a silver lining to letting go and letting things be just a little. Because the next time The Preschooler complains about not having any underwear, I know RIGHT where to send him.