"O Crabby night, the stars are brightly shining......."
Anyone else feeling a little less than “Jingle-Belly” about the whole Christmas, jam-packed schedule? I don't mean to be grumpy and grouchy. It's just that I'm so good at it I hate to let all that practice go to waste.
Just yesterday, Jamie and I were driving along on our way to his company Christmas party. It really was a worthwhile event this year. They decided to dispense with the over-the-top dressy affair and keep it very low key, using the money they would have spent and blessing six needy families instead. We all brought grocery items and had a great lunch. But that didn't stop us from grousing the whole way there about just another thing to do and how many other "just another thing-s" we had to complete. We were so ridiculous Jamie finally looked at me and said, "What else can we gripe about now?!" "Have yourself a crabby little Christmas........"
The time pressures can bring out the worst, I guess. It put me in mind of a Christmas season long past. Hannah was about four and wanting to be in the middle of every single thing I did in the kitchen. That was fun for the first 32 hours of the day. But now it was 10pm and I was down to piecrust I was trying out, for the first time, in the food processor. Martha Stewart (that self-righteous irritant) made it look so simple the day before on her show. My first crust stuck to the top and was fit for gluing wood flooring to the concrete. The next resembled birdseed and stuck together like Sahara sand. I blew that out and started over, again. In the meantime, Hannah stood beside me saying things like, "Can I do it? What's wrong with it? Can I do it? Why is it wet? Can I do it? Why is it dry? Can I do it? What's wrong, Mommy? Can I do it? Why are you making that face, Mommy? Can I do it?"
I felt my inner Grinch flexing his muscles as I told her, "Hannah! Mommy REALLY needs to do this alone. You need to leave the kitchen now and just let me do this myself!" She reluctantly left muttering, "Well, I don't know why I can't do it." The next thing I heard was a phone conversation from the stairs. There she sat in the middle of the staircase with her Fisher-Price phone plopped in her lap and the receiver pressed to her ear. "9-9-1? 9-9-1?" she asked the phantom operator who couldn't have cared less that she had misdialed. "You need to come and get my mommy cause she's not right!" Boy howdy.
The year before, when she was three, we had guests staying during Thanksgiving. Hannah was up early and yakking away. I told her more than once to be quiet since people were still sleeping. Finally I cornered her in the hallway, stared at her eyeball-to-eyeball and firmly told her she HAD to keep it down. She looked back at me just as determinedly, pointed her finger at me and replied, "You better keep YOUR crabby voice quiet, too!" Checkmate.
So, what the heck's the matter with me this year? Deferred preparations might be part of it. There hasn't been any time to break ground on Christmas around here. December 13th and no sign of the Christmas season at our house. I'm trying to knock everyone and everything out of the way so I can start celebrating joyfully. Reminds me of Sunday mornings when we're running late. The standing joke in our house is to yell at every pokey-joe motorist, "GET OUT OF THE WAY, DANG IT! WE'RE TRYING TO GET TO CHURCH AND WORSHIP THE LORD!!" Beware oxymorons driving down the road. We might run over you, too.
The weird thing is, I have actually loved every single event we've attended this Christmas season. That hasn't been the problem. It's those spaces between the events where I get into trouble. The ones where I actually have to be grateful for four hours of sleep and haul it up anyway; the health issues I can't control; the moments in the kitchen believing wholeheartedly that counters are only a theory (as I haven’t seen them in days) and something else must be holding up this assemblage of dishes and debris; the effort expended trying to decide if Sir Edmund Hillary could have scaled a mountain the size of my laundry pile.
But now, just one day later, there are days like today. I spend time with my love-em-to-pieces teens in my Sunday school class....my pastor/dear friend gently exhorts us from the pulpit.....my perspective shifts. I begin to count my blessings and realize I managed to buy a Christmas tree in three minutes flat last night. No lie. Hannah decorated the mantle and got the decorations out yesterday in my absence. Jamie put the lights on the house. Hunter played a shepherd in a Christmas production and, with the fake penciled-in beard and headdress that looked more like a 40's fedora, managed to emulate a mafia gangster shepherding his sheep and made me nearly drop the camera laughing.
I was also overcome with the blessings of incredible friends we're surrounded by so much of the time, but especially in the last 72 hours of event-laden days and evenings. We've all been running in the same circles but many of us are facing rough challenges: A very needed liver transplant and declining health, offering to donate part of a liver to meet the need and all that entails, sending a precious son to be deployed as a new Marine, waiting on God as a beloved husband and father battles ALS, overcoming cancer and life changes, financial shockers and job loss.....the list goes on. Sometimes I just need God's Holy 2x4 to the forehead to get some perspective.
It has arrived, I’m happy to report, and with it, joy. Joy in realizing how rich we (my family, my friends, and I) are in all the things money can’t buy, how blessed we are by God's gift to us and by those who love us, and how, if you climb to the very top of my laundry pile and lean left, you can see the snow covered Sierras out the top of the bathroom window.