|Pre- Christmas (chaos) Party with the Neighborhood Kids. It was truly all a blur.|
Ahhhh. The day after Christmas is like loosening the button on your waistband after overindulging in a holiday feast. Relief and room to breathe a little more freely. Christmas is over. And, it was successful. There was joy, love, happiness, family, homemade lasagna. The children did not receive coal or, as my father likes to tease, bags of dirt. But, in the 3 weeks prior to the arrival of the merry holiday, my gut had felt disordered and heavy with lead. I was doubled over in pain for days. I knew that I was anxious about everything falling into place-not just the holiday business( buying last minute gifts, wrapping them, making cookies and preparing for the kids’ pre-Christmas (chaos) Party at our house on Thursday, etc) but the business of The Mr. finally coming to a critical decision about the future of his employment contract with “The Bank.” I felt out of balance which only perpetuated the anxiety- fretting that I would not be able to complete the tasks I needed to carry out to regain a sense of order. I was shamefully snappish and short with my family but, also, incredibly apologetic. “It’s all right,” The Mr. would reply gently. “I know that you don’t handle (long pause) …well, life very well.” And he patted me tenderly on the shoulder and walked away. As soon as I realized that I wasn’t dying from some tragic abdominal disease and that my mind was wreaking havoc on the rest of my body, things began to fall into place.
The recap of last week begins with cookies. The Sunday before Christmas, The Mr. was kind enough to gather all of the supplies I needed to make cookies for our family and also for the neighborhood children (8 in addition to my four) who would be celebrating the last day of school before winter break with Princess Commando. It is the first year that I cheated- buying pre-made logs of dough and canned frosting. I rolled out and baked the cookies on Tuesday while The Baby napped. It is no easy feat to prepare any meal in our kitchen as we have no counter space and we are using an old wooden desk as a table (which is, also, catching the overflow of kitchen staples from the cupboards). I was relieved, to say the least, that the cookies baked up exceptionally. My anxiety began to diminish. First Born Son and Princess Commando helped me frost the cookies after school on Wednesday- while the air was filled with Christmas carols and standards pumped from a playlist (9 hours long) on our MP3 player. I realized I hadn’t pulled enough bowls to mix the frosting and food coloring; so, I asked Princess Commando to gather 3 more. We finished our frosting and the cookies looked perfectly whimsical. I stood back, surveyed our work, and let out a sigh of relief that at least one task could be crossed off the list. And, for the first time, I felt as if the season was something to truly enjoy. When the Peanuts gang began to sing, "Christmas time is here..." it didn't feel like they were taunting me.
And then I went into the kitchen, opened the dishwasher, and realized that where there had been 3 dirty bowls- the rack was empty. Sh#@!!!! Princess Commando had mistakenly taken the dirty bowls and we had been mixing frosting in them. "But this morning you told me the dishwasher was clean!" she cried. I broke down. All I could think about was a parent at school that I met once who was a germaphobe and would not let her child consume anything at school parties because she worried everything was contaminated by unwashed hands. If somehow it leaked (and with children who choose to be honest when it is least appropriate- it was bound to leak) that we served dirty cookies than maybe my neighbors would never allow their children to play with our kids again. So, I threw out the cookies. My mother rolled her motherly eyes in exasperation at my story (well, more at me than the story) and chastised me plenty for being wasteful. In hindsight, I agree that it was. But, while I don’t mind if my children eat cookies off our sullied, dog licked kitchen floor, or ones that have been frosted from unsanitary bowls, I just can’t stomach the idea of our guests eating frosting that may have been mixed with the saliva (I’ve seen how the kids lick their cereal bowls clean) of my children. I still had dough left over in the refrigerator. I made 3 dozen more cookies burning one dozen in the process. The cookies cooled, we frosted, again, but this time with clean bowls. And we had splendid, wonderful, fantastic cookies.
In other preparations for the children’s party and for a visit from my sister and her family, I had scrubbed and polished the house until it sparkled and glistened and smelled of Murphy’s Oil Soap and other lemony freshness. I gave myself a moment on Thursday afternoon to take it all in. I actually sat down for 20 minutes while The Baby napped; and, I smiled at the invigorating glow and warmth that emanated from our rooms. Really, I was bracing myself for the tornado that would sweep through at three o’clock. My mother would be there to help but a little bit later than I expected as my sister and her family arrived in the wee hours of the morning from
and needed Mom’s car for transportation to and from my father’s house where they were staying. During The Baby's second nap, I prepared the table with carrots and dip, the cookie plate (which also consisted of chocolate covered pretzel rods, and melted marshmallow and cornflake treats dyed green and shaped into trees), crackers, juice boxes, peppermint candy canes. I waited on the porch for the rumble and grunt of Princess Commando's bus as it pulled up to the corner. The joy of the season tickled the air as Princess Commando gleefully bounded through the snow toward the house and Ms. L, the bus aide, shouted down the street “Merry Christmas!” Las Vegas
In honor of Princess Commando’s first party where she was to play hostess, I forced her into an adorable lilac colored knit dress which had dainty little white and cranberry flowers painted on it. She wore striped stockings on her legs. She had only two minutes to put her school things away before, J, the boy who professed his love to her before Halloween- walked up the steps to our house, his little sister M in tow and their Mama right behind. When J saw Princess Commando in the doorway- oh his face!- his little -blushing –cannot- contain- my joy at being able to spend time with you grin- made everything worth while. They were instantly riled up and started chasing each other around the house. His mother who is from Boston kept warning, "I'm gonna be wicked mad if you don't behave." In the midst of their little love chase, everyone else poured in. This is an 8 and under crowd. I didn’t have anything planned for them. I figured that they always took care of themselves when they had gathered in the past. I could just sit back and watch. The Mamas even asked if they needed to stay. I happily and confidently shooed them away. “We’ll be fine. It will be great.”
My wonderful mother entertained The Baby while I ushered the children to the table. After all of our cookie trials, no one even wanted cookies. They only wanted candy canes! With so many little boys- fueled by the promise of Christmas, the last day of school, and the sugary candy canes- the living room was bursting with energy which needed a little reigning in ( I saw someone start to do cartwheels up the walls). My mother suggested that I read a Christmas story. The children obliged as I temporarily settled them to the couch and about my feet as I read The Red Ranger Came Calling by Berkeley Breathed, my most favorite Christmas story. It takes place during the Depression era and is about a prickly little boy, doubtful of the existence of Santa Claus, and transformed by a fateful meeting and the surprise realization of an unlikely Christmas wish. If you haven't read it, please do. When we were finished, all of the children's eyes were wide with both belief and disbelief at the snapshot of proof that the story provides. It was magical!
And then there was more magic, as my sister and my nephews, Gus (2 years old) and Lu (7 months old and inches taller than The Baby) arrived in the middle of the children's impromptu dance party. The look of bewilderment on my sister's face was priceless. The photo above is a fair representation of what my sister walked into. It was a whirly- twirly blur. There were boys jumping off the arms of the couch. Some were hiding in the tree. There was a tickle attack going on. Someone started singing C&C Music Factory's "Everybody Dance Now. " What decade are we in and how does a 6 year old know that song? I had run out of clean drinking glasses so I had to give little M (on the couch) a pink, plastic wine glass to sip her juice from. It looks like she is "getting her drink on." It was a little crazy. But, at the end of the party, all the children exclaimed that they had a wonderful time. And, when I went to clean up the table, I found that all of the cookies had been devoured. During the dance party, they must have burned off a million calories and needed to refuel. When they all left, I found myself feeling so fortunate- to have been able to move into a neighborhood with such exquisitely entertaining little children whom my children love dearly. I feel that we have a holiday tradition in the making. Next time, in lieu of Christmas lights, I will hang a disco ball.