Christmas can be stressful, I’m not sure if you’ve noticed. As much as I absolutely adore having the whole family together, there are always times when someone is unhappy. It’s just not possible to put such disparate people as my husband and my brother-in-law and my father and my dog all in one home for six or seven days and not have a few moments when someone is frustrated or unhappy. And because I have the golden-retriever-personality, I feel that everyone must be happy all the time and that it is my job to ensure this. Can you say doomed to fail? So a few years ago I started telling myself that everyone was not going to be happy all the time and I wasn’t going to be able to change that. It still happened and I still felt helpless but it was less wrenching.
This year as it got closer and closer to the day of “the arrival,” I realized that I just wasn’t going to be able to get everything how I wanted it to be. Dad is updating two bathrooms and the guys were here working on them until 8:30 on Saturday night, literally. So much for getting them freshly painted before the family arrived, I was lucky to even get the construction dust cleaned up! There’s also the added oddness of living in not-my-house but being responsible for cleanliness and food and general tidiness. This house has been lived in for forty plus years. And it has forty years worth of, well, living in the cupboards and closets. We’ve made a pretty good dent on the basement since we’ve been back but the rest of the house is pretty piled up still. Somewhere as I was cleaning the bathroom on Christmas morning just a few minutes before they would arrive I decided that I would adopt the same phrase Shauna Niequist has been repeating this season: present over perfect. I could stay home and get a bit more cleaned and light the candles or I could go with the family to the airport and wait for our guests to arrive. I chose the airport and present over perfect. (It was really rather cute–Glenn made a sign and everything. When was the last time you were greeted at the airport?!? I’m guessing pre-2001.)
And it was grand to have everyone here. As the girls get older it gets easier and easier to have them visit–they no longer need toys or paraphernalia, they bring the fun! We played Charades and Celebrities and Speed Uno and this funny musical instrument game I saw on a clip from Jimmy Fallon. We made all our favorite meals: honey-baked ham with “the good scalloped potatoes,” turkey and fixin’s (yes, Cranberry Cloud!), and Cathy’s Lasagna. We tried Slappy Cakes and Pine State Biscuits. (Totally recommend both.) And we scaled back our gift giving to “something you want, something you need, something you wear and something you read” for everyone, which turned out to be perfect and didn’t end up feeling scaled back at all.
And along the way, just in case I forgot my present over perfect motto and got too caught up in making everything Martha Stewart-esque, we all got the flu. Meredith and then Cathy, then me, then Glenn and today Dad. Nothing makes you spend Christmas day quietly deciding that however-it-works-out-will-be-perfect quite like not wanting to move your head.
I have to say though that my family was stellar. Glenn, who is an amazing uncle and phenomenal son-in-law to begin with, totally stepped up on all the things I couldn’t do on our Christmas day. While Cath’ and I sat very still on the couch, Glenn along with his sous chef, Meredith, made Christmas breakfast and while I slept for bit in the afternoon, he made dinner. He really is quite a guy.
And Cath’ and Jeff and the girls were amazing with mom. The girls were relentlessly patient with her when she had to pick up every. dish. from the table before she would walk to the car with them. Cathy was kind and so sweetly chatty with mom whose conversation is quite bewildering. Jeff made her laugh with his funny humor and any time she laughs or smiles is like balm to my heart. They truly were delightful. I got a bit weepy though watching the girls hug her goodbye before they left, knowing this will likely be our last Christmas together, at least all together at home like this.
Christmas 2012 has come and gone. It was sweet and weepy and barfy…and precious. So grateful for our time together.