When they were wee children with the glint of Christmas lights in their eyes- expectant, restless, exuberant- we gloriously holly-decked, crafted, caroled, gingerbreaded, merried and lighted all the days from Thanksgiving to the arrival of that elusive jolly old elf. We picked a freshly cut tree and hauled it home filling the house with eau de Yule. We unwrapped the army of wooden nutcrackers to the intent admiration of the boys who handled each one with care- testing the wooden jaws, beholding the dazzling hand-painted uniforms. They reverently placed each ornament on the Frasier fir of that year- asking for the origin of each decoration. We strung lights in every doorway. We binged on Bing, Ella, Andy, and Vince- screaming at the top of our lungs with Miss Piggy when she sang the refrain Five Golden Rings on The Muppets 12 Days of Christmas. We cuddled under blankets and warmed our Christmas hearts with Charlie Brown, the Grinch and the enchanted world of Rankin and Bass. We baked and frosted and spread melted chocolate on pretzels which they gleefully called poop logs. We drove through the city looking for the best Christmas lights and decorations on houses. Our world was illuminated by their delightful fascination. It was magical. We were making traditions that would forge a solid sense of family togetherness and memories that would last forever.
This year I unfolded and decorated the new artificial tree by myself. Convenience replaced the pomp and circumstance of tree trimming days of yore. Wait, I had a little helper who alternated between bouts of interest and hyperactive destruction. She loved every ornament to its shredded, ripped, shattered, splintered demise with her intensely tactile fingers. The nutcrackers stand in a police line up on the mantle- their painted orbs are frozen in a flash bulb Surprise! expression. Lifeless, unloved. Each snowman in our small collection is missing an arm and their snow caps are prematurely receding- also due to Violet’s curious hands. We are short a few strands of lights this year- which seems to be the theme for this Christmas season.
The children with their minds and eyes occupied by other distractions, barely registered the rooms adorned in Christmastide. 'I’ll pass' is the RSVP to the invitation to partake in a mere 30 minutes of televised holiday bliss. I tried to engage Violet in the sweet story of that affable melon headed boy and his spindly tree, but she was more content to run in circles and try to ride the dog. And the other day while Princess Commando was watching a holiday commercial featuring gingerbread men, she had the gall to turn to me and say, “Hey, you should make gingerbread men this year. You’ve never made them before.” WTF? One of my favorite photographs is of her 4 year old face squished up with that mmmm, mmmmm, good expression- chin tilted to the air with a rack of gingerbread cooling in front of her. Note to self: in your next life, wait until the kids are older to try to rev up that memory making machine because clearly anything that happens before the age of 11 falls victim to childhood amnesia.
In my dimly lit house, with my broken ornaments and my shrinking Christmas spirit I felt myself start to sink in Grinchitude. I didn’t want to offer myself up to the sting of rejection by extending any more invitations to decorate cookies or watch holiday movies. I was going to hoard what little glimmer of light I had to myself. But lo, the second boy child came to me and- miracle of Christmas miracles- asked if we were going to watch White Christmas again this year. And First Born Son, chimed in with a request for hot cocoa. Princess Commando added, ‘And poop logs! Can we make poop logs for the movie?’
Reality often falls a distant second to the Christmas dreaming that goes on in my head. But, if I give myself up to believing in them again, I can taste a little bit of that holiday magic. And it tastes like a poop log.