The holiday season has never made me a Grinch. Nor has it ever made me deliriously happy. Instead, I am sure that I am like many people who alternate between mild depression and forced cheer throughout the month of December.
But not this year. This year I have a released the Christmas Beast and I am remarkably happier for it.
It all started when I decided to ditch my family. Not that last Christmas wasn’t nice. Sure I spent Christmas Eve dinner weeping in the bedroom, but my parents snapping first at each other and then at me wasn’t really to blame. Most of the family had gathered at my brother’s beach house in North Carolina, and we had a good time. I was just pregnant and grieving, and there was nothing Santa could have brought me to put my heart in the season.
No, the first reason we’re ditching our family this year is that they live in damn inconvenient places for a family with two little ones to get to. Last year’s adventure home began with me yelling at a taxi driver (in front of my pajama’d 2 year old) at a ridiculous hour in the morning to ‘not effing wreck because we don’t have time to buckle my toddler’s effing car seat in when we have an effing plane to catch.’ From there we flew (insert your own airport horror story here) and drove for hours and days to see both of our families across the state of North Carolina (it’s a bigger and flatter state than it looks on a map). As wonderful as Penny was through all the travel, I didn’t trust Louis and me to remain sane enough to do it again this year.
The second reason that we’re ditching our family this year is that they keep giving us stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I love presents. You should feel free to send me some anytime. The key word here is: SEND. Last year at both of our family celebrations, it was as if nobody noticed that we didn’t live there. “Thank you so much for these great coffee mugs, throw blanket, Curious George stuffed animal and book, large kid guitar, three breakable Christmas ornaments, pink poncho, music maker, tambourine, shirts, and sweater. We look forward to hauling them 958 miles back to Vermont.” Oh, and the barn! I forgot to mention that my brother-in-law (who’s quite gifted, really) built my daughter an enormous wooden barn (3X2X2 and weighing 40 lbs).
Okay, maybe I am a little Scroogeish here, but we had to pay $75 dollars to mail all the gifts home that we didn’t really want and certainly didn’t need. My brother-in-law decided that he would drive up to see us and bring the barn in person, thank god, as the post office was going to charge us $150 to mail it alone.
So this year we’re staying home and no one in my family (perhaps picking up on my Scroogeness last year?) is coming to see us. There is something great about reuniting with family over the holidays, and I am sure I will feel a pang of longing come Christmas morning when it’s just the usual four of us. But for now, I am quite simply thrilled to be in my own home with just my kids and husband.
All the chores of the season don’t feel like chores to me this year (I did all my shopping online and through Oxfam). I thought for about 30 seconds about doing cards, but read this article on Double X that persuaded me not to. And the holiday baking is just one more activity that I’ve been looking forward to doing with my daughter.
All of which brings me to The Beast. See, I’ve never had a real Christmas tree before. For some reason, probably because she’s a bit of a neat freak, my mother has always insisted on an artificial tree. But seeing as this was my chance to establish my own traditions, I leapt at the chance to get a real tree.
My husband, of course, crushed my original vision of heading out to the tree farm one snowy morning to chop down our own tree. He pointed out that 6-month old babies don’t really go for that sort of adventure, especially when it’s 20 degrees out. So Penny and I hit the boy scout’s tree lot instead, or the boy scout’s tree farm as I let her believe. (Thanks for the idea book club!)
A 70 year old boy scout greeted us upon arrival, and I promptly confessed I was a Christmas tree virgin to him and his drippy nose. He was gentle and led me straight away to an 8 foot tall treesicle (did I mention it was 20 degrees out?). I said, “Hey, great! Don’t you think it would be a little big for my two bedroom condo?” We discussed that my ceilings were probably 8 feet, and he led me straight away to a 9 foot treesicle which I deemed should do just fine. Drippy Nose told me that the branches would open up more from their closed umbrella appearance with some water and heat, so I happily forked over $38 for (after dashing to the ATM) what I thought was a tall but slender tree. I asked a slightly younger boy scout to strap it to the top of my car because I figure all equality of the sexes is off when you have 3 year old in tow, and we headed home.
My husband hauled the tree inside where it promptly melted all over my floor and unfolded its branches to reveal that it was the size of two lineman. We have had to go back to the store twice to get more lights to put on it. We do not have enough ornaments to cover it. And my husband had to saw off the top to fit the star on when we realized too late that we should have sawed more off the bottom. But I am deliriously happy with my Christmas tree and have christened it The Beast.
I don’t believe that I’ll float entirely through this holiday season high on the smell of my fur tree (at least that’s what I think it is). I’m sure I’ll start to get stressed and cranky again soon enough. Holiday traffic, a last minute to do list, the Christmas and New Year’s dinners that I decided to hosts, the toys that Penny keeps remembering she wants- are all bound to raise my shoulders to my ear lobes again. But I do think that there’s something pretty powerful about The Beast and anticipate having a very merry Christmas beneath his towering branches. I don’t suppose any of you have an ornament to spare?
UPDATE: My mother-in-law just shipped us an enormous box of Christmas presents (for $69.98) that included a new wine rack and mail sorter both handmade by my brother-in-law. I love them, and I love them more because I didn’t have to transport them across state lines myself!
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