Monday, November 30, 2009
Every year, I picture my kids, husband and I putting up the Christmas tree together. We're laughing and hugging and drinking hot cider (mine might have a little rum in it). Outside the window, the snow is falling in big fluffy flakes and we're telling stories about each ornament, recalling where we got them or when we made them. We're smiling and stringing popcorn, (I'm not sure why, I don't really want popcorn on the tree. The dog would eat it. But it just looks like something a happy family should do) as we sing Christmas carols.
You know, like the freakin' Hallmark movie channel would do it.
Somehow, it never turns out that way.
I made the mistake of mentioning Christmas decorations to my son.
"Now!?! Can we put them up now?" he asks, excited.
"No, no, not right now. I said sometime soon."
"Oh," he says, bummed out for about a half a second. "How about now?"
"No! Stop! Go watch tv or something."
5 minutes later.
Now imagine having this conversation at least 250 more times the next few hours. I couldn't even make eye contact with the boy, he was like a rabid dog, waiting to pounce, looking for an opening.
"But I didn't say anything!"
"You were going to, I could tell."
Finally, because I am weak, I give in. My husband is not home yet, so I venture into the garage and dig out the Christmas tree. To get to it, I have to move several boxes of junk, a tool box and a greasy seat from a Peterbilt semi. Grunting and groaning, covered in dust, I drag the thing into the house, three small children trailing behind me, talking excitedly about Santa.
"Santa will love our tree!" Delaney says. I wish "Santa" was here, I think, to help put the damn thing together.
"He sure will!" I say sweetly. Because I am. Sweet.
I dust off the spider webs and open the box. Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree, Thy leaves are so unchanging. Because you're plastic. I lug the parts out of the box and put it together. It's the kind with the lights already on it. You know, to make things easier. I plug it in.
They don't light. Of course they don't light. Silly me.
"Why don't they light?" Nick asks.
"Because mommy's out of wine," I say.
Several minutes of switching out bulbs, jiggling wires and turning switches on and off seems to solve most of the problem. I decide that a lot of large ornaments will disguise the remaining dark parts of the tree. So, now the fun part! Ornaments!
We open the ornament box. The baby is hypnotized by the sparkling garland. The other two kids shriek and dive in like they're bobbing for apples.
"No! Slow down! You're going to...CRACK...break them." Ok, shake it off. It's a small fatality. No one's bleeding, there's plenty more ornaments.
"That's ok, we just need to be more careful. Here, I'll hand them to you, ok? And then you can hang them up." Ah, mom, the voice of reason. I hand him and Delaney an ornament.
"AHHHH! NO! I WANT THAT ONE! I HATE THIS ONE!"
"NO! I LIKE THIS ONE! YOU CAN'T HAVE IT."
"OH GOD! Would you please stop screaming at each other? Give me that one, here, take this one. There! Is everyone happy now?"
"Ok! Let's decorate this tree!"
"AHHHH! DELANEY PUT HERS ON FIRST! I WANTED TO BE FIRST!"
Oh, why am I out of wine? I contemplate calling the neighbors to see if they have any wine. You can borrow sugar right? Why not wine? But I don't want you to think that I'm the kind of person that has to have alcohol to deal with stress. Because I don't. I usually use valium, but I'm all out.
"Mom, the baby has that sparkly stuff around his neck."
"Mom, remember when I made this in preschool?" Nick asks, holding up a decorated paper ornament. Yay! Here we go! Just like my little happy family fantasy.
"I sure do, it's a pretty one!" I say.
"WHY DON'T I HAVE AN ORNAMENT LIKE THAT!?" Delaney cries.
"Because you were too little for preschool last year. I bet you'll make one this year!"
"BUT I WANT ONE NOW!"
"MOM!" Nick screams. "THE BABY TORE MY ORNAMENT!" He falls to the floor, crying in distress.
The baby is chewing on the ornament. I take the paper out of his mouth. It's not very pretty anymore.
"Um, don't worry Nick. We will fix it!" I discreetly slip it into my pocket, to throw away when he's not looking. "Here, put this one on instead. No, no! Higher! The baby is going to get it!"
Somehow, we decorated the tree. Somehow, I made it through without wine (although we had plenty of "whine").
My husband comes home, very late, after the kids are in bed.
"The tree looks nice," he says. "I wish I could've been here!"