Seven days before Christmas and the presents are still not wrapped; they are hidden somewhere around the house, beneath duvets and coverlets, underneath beds and sofas, behind cabinets and drawers, stuffed in small nooks and crannies where they are least likely to be found. I am beleaguered with the constant thought of Alphonse finding them, for this year, he has decided to claim all wrapped presents as his. Oh, boy.
The tree is unfinished, too. The trimmings have been up for weeks now (one month to the day, to be exact), but for some reason, my husband, the designated lights man in this outfit, keeps postponing putting them up. Sure, some nights are simply impossible, as Alphonse and Alex, now both teenage boys, keep us in our toes with their antics. Alphonse is always a handful, and Alex, well, let’s just say, he can wear us out with his mile-a-minute “talkathon.” By the time they both say good night, we are tired as well, ready to fall asleep in our feet.
In an ordinary household of semi-grown adults, the house is set to go smoothly and like clockwork. The tree gets put up by a certain date, the trimmings and lights follow, the presents last, and they are all put away at a reasonable date in the future. Mine, however, does not appear to be an ordinary household. None of my plans have borne fruit yet. The list remains unchecked, and here I am, just days before Christmas, scrambling to make it work for this family again.
My sixteen-year-old keeps reminding me to stay cool and to take things in stride. Son, I’ve got news for you: I’ve never been one to “chill;” that simply is not in my genes. What I am is a control freak who needs everything done perfectly the way it should be. Between the added stress of the holidays and the “normal” daily workings of our real lives, I think I may be just a hair’s breadth away from a nervous breakdown. Some things I simply cannot control — like Alphonse’s newfound delight in unwrapping presents, especially those that are not his — but I’ve also realized that there are some that I can — like my husband’s aversion to Christmas lights. That should work with a little more gentle reminding (read: merciful nagging).
So here we all are, at the end of another year, looking the holidays straight in the eye. I should be used to this by now, having done this for this family for the last 18 years. Somehow, though, Christmas always catches me by surprise, even when I prepare months ahead for it. Then again, perhaps, that is part of the true spirit of Christmas — that it should continue to surprise us, long after we become jaded, disillusioned adults. That Christmas should continue to awaken us, to rouse us from the deep slumber of the year, that it be an reinvention of old and loved things, and in the process, gladden our weary hearts.
There are too many reasons these days to be downcast. Money, politics, relationships — everything that could possibly go wrong already has, it seems. But Christmas reminds us that hope is always just around the corner. That it comes toward the end of a long, dismal year assures us that however dark the tunnel may be, there will be always be light at the end.
(Published in HerWord.com)