2012-12-19_17-35-14_117Christmas was not the disaster I’d prepared for, it was a different disaster altogether.  I was ready for emotional upset from the kids, remembering other homes and Christmases, big drama. They did fine.

My disaster was more usual: petty, insignificant, embarrassingly mundane. The headcold from hell probably caused it. Not a serious, wow-this-might-be-bronchitis type cold. Just a gnarly runny-stuffed nose and nasty sore throat that neither DayQuil nor NyQuil seemed to touch. Did I mention I’m an incredible baby when it comes to being sick? Not serious something-might-be-wrong sick, but completely non-life-threatening, annoying, too sick to work sick. Or I guess I should say too sick to have Christmas.

2012-12-15_17-05-57_695Can we all agree that having one day that we think and think about for 4 to 6 weeks in advance, and encourage little children to think about all the time too, then having that day, no rescheduling allowed, sounds like a somewhat bad idea? It’s a lot of pressure. Even as a kid, deliriously loving the mass consumption of giftwrap, I sometimes got a hit of the rumbling panic that underlies a high-stakes better-not-cry holiday. It’s so important to have a good time, for everyone to have a really good time, and to keep it going. (And mostly we did! The baked beans hit the sidewalk in a smash of pyrex just as we arrive, a drunk uncle shows up drooling and snarling and we kids were all sent to play/hide in a nearby house under construction while the adults kick the poor uncle out, it was an adventure to tell the tale. We were plucky! We were brave! We were having a really really good time!)

Can we also agree that one can spend over a month talking about “keeping Christmas sane,” not overdoing it, explaining how one wants one’s kids to get the meaning of the holiday, not overdose on presents or sugar, even specifically tell one’s partner we’ve gotta hold back some of these presents because of the generosity of friends and relatives and all these crazy UPS packages, and still go right over the same cliff December 25? The fact that both kids turned into greedy little paper-shredding monsters hungry for more may be as much a cultural touchstone as a character flaw. I remember my mother laughing when she asked me to check off anything I might like to ask Santa for in a science catalog and I checked nearly every item, page after page, at least a hundred: ostrich egg hatching sets, every science kit, everything. Kids, right? But now I know she might well have wanted to yell a bit too, at my ungrateful greedy little self. Especially if her cold medicine wasn’t working.

Finally, can someone tell me why it never occurred to me until today that a beautiful, simple meal focused on one knockout, expensive item is a high-risk prospect? That everything kind of rides on that one thing working out? Dry turkey is a common but forgivable sin when there are a million side dishes that are what people really want to eat anyway. It goes great. But when there’s no fresh crab because of rough weather, what convinced me to get precooked “fresh-frozen” crab? After the “easy hour and a half” thaw the crab was still frozen, though mushy too. Oh, and there was a tall pile of it! It looked so beautiful. Plenty for everyone.

Thankfully when I hit my wall and decided I’d had it with Christmas and with hosting Christmas, friends were kind enough to clean up the dishes and play with the kids. There was friendly chitchat, games, laughter, even more presents exchanged. Desert looked good (though I couldn’t taste anything), and for all I know people really did enjoy the meal, and the day. The rain poured down, and I love the rain. No one seemed to mind that I morphed into a conscientiousness objector right before their eyes.

I guess that’s my Christmas miracle.

2012-12-15_17-06-07_774The original, after all, featured a smelly manger and emergency childbirth. I’m pretty sure a murderous tyrant wanted the baby dead, which is why they were travelling. The gift was hope on one of the darkest nights of the year. The new life foreshadowed a radical new teaching focused on love and compassion. The precious oils and spices the wise men brought are a story device to underscore the miracle, they are not the miracle.

If for most of Christmas day I forgot all this, if I panicked that we’ve set on a course to raise horrible greedy brats, if my pride was wounded by a weak meal, if I lost hope that my throat will ever return to normal, if I gave up in the middle of the most important dinnerparty of the year, I suppose that’s my part this year in the Solstice-Christmas-Hannukah story, remembering why we so desperately need the light. I guess I can be forgiven, or better, I guess I already have been.