Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Revolving door of blessings

OK. So. For real: This was a great Christmas. Most of the Northern California family made it (one aunt and nephew decided to go to…wait for it…Colorado, to go skiing. Corker of a year to choose, eh?). I bought way too much prime rib (oooooh, the juicy succulence!) and it roasted to medium-rare perfection, my mother’s sides were, as always, delicious, and the black bottom pie was divine enough that even my Mutant Alien Children liked it. I had to arm-wrestle Captain Adventure for the last piece.

He won. Mostly by fighting dirty: He screwed up his little face and cried when he saw I was going to finish it off. Is that not dirty pool? I ask you…

The children stayed up late on Christmas Eve decorating cookies and discussing at great length what they were going to wear, eat, and do on Christmas. Cookies and milk were left for Santa. Mommy and Daddy, because they are stupid outside of all reason, got caught up in the How It’s Made marathon and didn’t get to bed until after midnight – imperiling the Santa visit with their wanton stay-up-too-lateness.

You know that you are an addict of both a show and a hobby when you are about to bring up warm milk for your exhausted toddler, but are brought to a sudden screeching halt because a ball of yarn is flashed on the screen, accompanied by the words, “Next on How It’s Made: Wool.”

{Riveted, undivided attention to the television screen for the next fifteen minutes. If someone had shouted “FIRE”, I think I would have replied, “INAMINUTE!!”}

The next morning at an extremely humane 8:30, Boo Bug opened our bedroom door and asked politely, “Can I go downstairs now?”

Apart from having brought way too much chocolate (see prior post, oooooooooh my head!), Santa brought some cool stuff. Eldest got a Real Sewing Machine, designed in a way that makes it all but impossible to get little fingers under the needle. Danger Mouse got a knitting machine. And Boo Bug got a loom on which she can weave a Real Belt (with a lot of help from mommy) (which here means, Mommy makes the belt and Boo Bug tells Grandma that she did it all by herself).

The biggest scream of the season came from Boo Bug upon opening her Easy Bake oven. Several cakes have already been produced. Some of them approximately the consistency of a brick. But they have all been consumed with great gusto, and sisters are envious.

Joy has no greater expression than a two year old boy with his very first train set – Captain Adventure played with it until all six of the AAA batteries were gasping their last. On the WalMart list: Case of AAA batteries.

Danger Mouse got her very own Game Boy and some (sneakily educational, bwa ha ha) games.

Eldest did not get any books to read and now I must report with some degree of gloating that she was upset about it; but mollified by the Blue Man Group keyboard. That thing rocks, people. Hours of entertainment. I might let the children play with it, too. Eventually.

As I was freaking out working in the kitchen, I looked up at my children. They had that glazed look a kid gets from sniffing new-toy plastic (same one I get from sniffing new minivan scent). Well-fed, well-dressed (or at least, could be if they wanted), showered with gifts and attention.

I paused for a moment in the midst of seasoning and stirring and rolling and yelping, “What happened to all those chocolate chips that were in here?!” to say a few grateful words to $DEITY. We have it good, here in the Den. We have it very, very good indeed. Not merely enough, but abundance. Everybody healthy, everybody happy, not a whole lot of drama and more than enough love to cushion the drama there is.

When I was a child, I remember loving and hating Christmas at the same time. My poor mother would go all freakazoid before holidays. Everything had to be Perfect™. The cleaning, the cooking, the pressing and dressing of the children…and she would go half out of her mind with it. She’d be snarling and snapping at my brother and me with the ‘clean the this’ and the ‘who put this here’ and ‘don’t you eat that, it’s for the party!’.

Somehow, as time passed, we learned to say, “Eh, whatever.” I only stress out moderately, compared to what my mother went through while we were young. Sure, yes, I admit it: I washed the walls on Christmas Eve day. A little Murphy’s Oil Soap in some warm water and a cheap cloth diaper was applied to the hand prints and dust and cobwebs festooning the walls upstairs and down. I also washed the cupboards throughout the Den and, in a brief flurry of energy, even did the baseboards downstairs.

I fretted over the pies and the roast. You’d think the fate of the world hung on what roast I picked from the butchers. Was this one fatty enough? Too fatty? Big enough? Probably too much…but it had just the right layer of fat across the top, so…SOLD!

But when I realized shortly before dinner was served (half an hour later than planned due to the roast’s stubborn refusal to reach 130 degrees in the center) that I had forgotten to make the dinner rolls, I said… “Eh. Whatever. There’s plenty of food, and plenty of starch.”

Nobody sniffed, nobody huffed or puffed, nobody said a word.

I know my mother felt the pressure of disapproval from the Eldest Generation. I don’t get that from any of them. Sure, I want things to be nice, I want to serve the best food and drink I can, and I want my Den to be a pleasant place to visit. I want people to linger, and I don’t want them to look at my kitchen and fear to eat what comes out of it.

But if there’s a splotch on the floor or one of the kids comes downstairs wearing pajama bottoms, striped tights and a floral t-shirt that she rescued from my rag bin, they just laugh. They don’t look at me as if to say, “What kind of mother are you” or whisper about it in that way some people have, where they say it just barely loud enough to ensure you hear them. They don’t take me aside to ask if I need, you know, help.

And they come back. Year after year, they come back. For Thanksgiving, for Christmas, for birthdays and parties and because they were in the neighborhood. They come to laugh with us, to eat my cooking and drink my (sometimes, er, intriguing) wine.

The revolving door is, in fact, in full swing right now. We had one family stay on their way up to Oregon. Another stayed on their way down to Los Angeles. Another is arriving in a couple days and will stay for a day or two before leaving again; a friend’s son will stay a whole week with us while his dad works between school terms.

They come back in spite of being confronted by mountains of laundry on the floor, being put on air beds in the middle of floors mounded high with backpacks full of homework and being awoken at 5:00 in the morning when we’re making coffee and sending one of us off to work.

It’s a joyful thing, having low maintenance friends and family. Every year it seems we add one or two more people to our list of friends and family who stop over with us, for a few hours or a few days.

I hope I can be that kind of family and friend, too.


Rena said...

What a wonderful Christmas. And thanks to modern technology, I feel like I got to join you. Love you lots, sis.


21st Century Mom said...

Oh my - there are 2 of you? 2??? No wonder the ground shifts around here from time to time.

Moira said...

I have to say that the Den is one of my fav places to hang out... and a great potty stop too!
lots of love and Happy Christmas!
Marnie & Kids