Monday, December 26, 2016

Reactive Christmas

I was very aware when I opened my eyes on Christmas morning that it might well be the last one on which both my children will wake up in our home. Next year, they will both be in their own apartments, quite possibly with significant others, and who knows what the shape of Christmas morning will be then. This one was our usual, which I love, waking up slow, the kids wrapping gifts last minute, and then all of us in sleep clothes, opening presents, festive Christmas paper, bows and Amazon boxes strewn all around.

Our refrigerator conked out on Christmas eve, and we'd spent the night before throwing out everything. Juice from once-frozen strawberries had leaked everywhere, making our kitchen look like a crime scene. In the midst of the clean-up, our son came home from celebrating with his girlfriend's family, and he couldn't resist reminding us that he had tried to get us to replace our twenty-plus year old refrigerator before Thanksgiving. "You have to be proactive, not reactive," he walked around the house saying, but cheerfully, like a court jester, and ruefully, I laughed.

Well, that meant on Christmas morning we had few choices for breakfast, so our son whipped us up some grilled cheese sandwiches while our daughter ordered in huevos rancheros from a Mexican place on Seamless. The kitchen was a mess, the living room was a mess, and everything was perfect. I wished the entire day could have continued in that vein, but we had people coming over for dinner, so at a certain point my husband and son went to the store to shop for what we would cook, and I went into social anxiety mode, cleaning up the house. That's because one of our guests was unfamiliar to me, the mother of a friend of my children. Although her son very often hangs out in my home, I'd met her only once before.

I don't know how it came to be so deeply rooted in me, this idea that one must "make a good impression." I became a whirling dervish, making everyone miserable as I tried to impose order on the chaos, and when I went to shower I found myself crying from frustration. But a little while later, my son came to find me. Before he could say anything, I apologized for stressing everyone out, and I teared up again, and he put his arms around me and gave me a big lovely hug. "It's okay," he said. "We know how you are." I apologized to my husband and daughter too, but they just laughed because they'd both already moved on. My son is the one who is most like me, and the one who will get cranky right back at me. The other two, they shrug it off. Besides, they were busy cooking the feast with their fancy real deal chef knives.

Dinner was absolutely fine of course. I went to bed at midnight and left a circle of twenty-somethings chatting and laughing in the living room. I meant to take a family picture because we all looked so nice, but I forgot, so the pictures of my children in their pjs enjoying their gifts will have to tell the story. My daughter, by the way, is holding a tote featuring art by my niece Arrianne, whose creations can be found at Her stated aim is to "find the pretty in the gritty."

I hope you had the day you needed, that you managed to find the pretty in the gritty, and that your heart is at peace.


  1. Your son is so sweet. I am the same way about having to provide a good impression. The house must appear in order. I try to remind myself, it's the holidays, relax. A little chaos is normal during Christmas season. Love this post. It's a reminder to me that the kids won't always be under my roof for Christmas. So glad they were under your roof this year though. I know you savored every moment. Belated Merry Christmas!

  2. It wouldn't be Christmas without at least one meltdown on my part, so I hear you. I think it's the stress of trying to do it all, plus the lack of sleep from doing more than we should. That's my story, anyway ;)

    I'm glad it all worked out quickly. Your (grown-up) children are beautiful beings.

  3. Sorry about your fridge but everything turned out beautifully. Best to you and your wonderful family in the New Year.

  4. Christmas. It is so exhausting and overwhelming. But I wouldn't change a thing. I miss the times of Santa and kids waking up early but now I am loving sleeping in and laughing over a cup of coffee with them.
    Did you get your fridge fixed?