I grew up Catholic; my husband is Jewish. And even though I am no longer a practicing Catholic, Christmas is deeply embedded in my bones. There must be a tree with lights, garland on the staircase, the lighted village on the mantel and, of course, stockings hung with care. My husband thinks it’s all pretty, but he also thinks an electric carving knife is a suitable tool for making that fresh cut in the Christmas tree trunk. You see what I’m dealing with. Here is a post I wrote last year about my personal Christmas frustrations.
The weather sucks. I’m freezing. I’ve got the house to decorate, presents to buy, others to make, meals to plan, cookies to cut out and cakes to bake. Because I’m not earning much money, all of this has to be done with masking tape, yarn and bag of flour.
I could handle all of the Christmas pressure with my usual aplomb, if I had a usual aplomb. Instead, I handle it with my annual Christmas Meltdown.
The Christmas Meltdown usually occurs on the day the house gets decorated. Every year, beginning in about September, one of the children will want to know when we will be decorating the Christmas tree. My daughter will ask me if we can finally have Christmas lights on our house like everyone else. I point out to her that we have luminaria in our driveway at Hanukkah, but apparently real flames are not garish enough.
Finally, the day will come when we have ushered Hanukkah out the door and Christmas decorating can begin. This year, I prepared my family for Christmas Decorating Day. I gave them a schedule of the day’s events. My family would be coming for lunch to see our tree. We need to get the tree set up before they come, I said. We need to get the lights on. We need to put the ornaments on.
No one remembered. I decided, in my usual mature way, that I would do everything myself. Christmas is an ideal time to become a martyr, I reasoned. Reason went out the window when I couldn’t get the Christmas tree box from the basement by myself. I would have to ask one of them for help. I went with the son, as the husband was nowhere to be found.
With the tree box in the living room, I began the Christmas Mood preparations. I was, after all, creating a lifetime of memories for my children. I set my laptop to Pandora’s “Swinging Christmas” station and started putting the tree together. My son came through the room, rolled his eyes and said, “You’re NOT listening to Jazz Christmas songs.” He didn’t wait for a reply. My husband wouldn’t know what I was listening to. He was sitting less than 10 feet away, working at his own laptop, wearing his $400 noise-cancelling headphones.
I was undaunted, though. I had my eyes on that lifetime of Christmas memories prize. Then my daughter danced through the room, pronounced the undecorated tree “ugly” and pirouetted away. “She’s right,” I thought. “It’s ugly. Christmas is ugly. I’m ugly.”
I did what any Christmas-crazed overwhelmed woman would do. I got in my car and drove to my happy place. There was no line, so once I had my tall, skim, no-whip hot chocolate, I drove to my other happy place. I sat in the car, in the rain, staring out at the prairie wetlands. I cried. I cried and drank my hot chocolate until I felt like an idiot. Then, I drove back home. Meltdown accomplished; Christmas pressure released.
PS I did not have a meltdown this year. My daughter proved she is no longer a little girl; she brought the tree up from the basement by herself. After I assembled it, she and her best friend fluffed and decorated the tree—all while we listened to Christmas music on my iPad.