Almost Christmas

“I felt overstuffed and dull and disappointed, the way I always do the day after Christmas, as if whatever it was the pine boughs and the candles and the silver and gilt-ribboned presents and the birch-log fires and the Christmas turkey and the carols at the piano promised never came to pass.” 
― Sylvia PlathThe Bell Jar

It's the third week in December that always gets us.

Wherein the span of seven days we do our best not to fall to fall apart. Rising early, riddled with stress over shop issues and orders being closed out in time for the big day. Festive school parties and pageants,  playdates, and presents, countdowns, and birthday celebrations to prep, wrap, and plan for. Where every minute of every hour feels like it's got it's own working arms against us.

Seven days, wherein the school's annual "breakfast with santa" kicks off the start of a stacked Saturday. Offering up three dollar pancakes in a mess hall crammed with familiar faces clad in flannel pajamas lined to take their turn on his lap. An event that comes an hour after a quick phone call with my best friend where I admit my disappointment in knowing that the possibility of one of those "classic" santa induced screaming shots, is slim to none because this baby loves him so. A conversation that makes me smile when seeing him in mad hysterics once he finally has his turn, so intense he's ripping the wire rimmed glasses off of the nose of a notably annoyed Mrs. Clause while I stand helpless, pleading for him to stop behind a shaky hand held camcorder while his brothers stand beside him with well trained frozen smiles.

A long walk home, a car drive across town to a puppy party for Claire where the squeals of twelve overly thrilled seven year olds in a ring of tiny dogs slice our ears from down the street. Dogs, cuddles, presents, candles, sword fights in the front yard and then off to dinner at their grandmother's. More food, more cake, different squeals from a new set of cousins to replace the one's we left behind. Then a cold Sunday morning that has us pulling the last of our holiday boxes from the attic, preparing for the school week ahead, buried in holiday "to -do's." The highlight being: Kindergarten's Christmas pageant in the auditorium where we watch adoringly for the third time as our boy sings his heart out alongside his classmates to the songs he's practiced and stumbled over for weeks. Little hands concentrating on dashing sled motions, wearing red dotted noses and oversized reindeer ears that keep slipping as they sing. A baby vomiting to the right of me goes unnoticed. A little girl in the front row cries in response to the thunderous clapping that erupts in front of her from a room full of strangers made up of adoring parents. Everyone is crying.

We make it through mid week, swallowed by the lists of contributions that keeps growing. Calling for wrapped books, canned food, party supplies, teacher's presents and birthday decor (of which only comes together around 4am when I wake to replace the green garland with a bright banner after I finish up the last of 32 little felt snowman finger puppets I started too late the night before, and promised him in the first place, by mistake) But come to feel prided on when I see how happy they make him when I hand them over in a basket for all of his friends to choose from.

I cross things off my lists but it doesn't make much difference.

Early morning I blow up balloons in the five minutes I can spare before they are downstairs over a plate of white powered doughnuts, seeking gifts. We all sing happy birthday. And just like that, a decade of motherhood is marked in the dim light of a rushed December morning.

Five hours later, his after school celebration in the afternoon at a local trampoline park with ten fourth graders that brings a knee injury that will ruin his time there. Tears, pizza, candles, kids, exhaustion. All before the stomach bug claims two boys within two days. One, in the backseat while driving down Candy Cane Lane with Burl Ives on the radio wearing bells on his wrist that jingle against that little green bucket I find in the backseat that feels God sent being how it' the only thing in the whole car there to catch his vomit when it comes without fair warning.

Fevers, chills, throw up, tears, Christmas carols, old cartoons, laundry piled in all corners, presents still unwrapped.

Thursday brings the last of the school parties. I make the rounds early with a baby buttoned in a red striped wool sweater buckled in his stroller and drop off wrapped goods that bear a decent resemblance to the pretty presents I pinned on Pinterest a year ago. Teachers praise the green wreaths twined with Olive branches from the backyard on their gifts. I tell them all the greenery comes from the foliage around our yard and they seem strangely impressed. The compliments are kind enough to make me feel good about my handiwork, (momentarily) letting go of the fact that my whole house has fallen apart in the wake of these late night wrapping endeavors.

Saturday finally arrives and I rush to clean up and build a party playlist as Mike strings lights from the roof rafters and all of the random boxes get stuffed out of sight to make way for a full night of dancing and laughing in sequined dresses and dark wool coats that arrive bearing bottles of booze and home made gifts quaintly packed next to flowers on the table. We kiss and dance, and let it all go because it's the one night a year we are all together without children, allowed to soak up the music of the season and get drunk and be merry with people we know we aren't likely to see again through the new year. The party goes till close to three in the morning, until my body aches with a weariness that feels rooted deep down in the hallow of my bones. The way it never did just a decade before, dancing with the same people, in the same outfits, under this same roof.

We collapse and wake late Sunday to more rain and a hungry baby in red striped pajamas wanting breakfast. The house is destroyed. An array of beer cans scattered atop our kitchen island. Trashcans overflowing and muddy footprints from the rain still apparent all across our wooden floors. The clean up is slow and steady. An old joy attached to clearing away evidence of our last big event. Proof we made it through another Christmas party, another year, another third week in December with a couple days left to rest up and reflect on the new year approaching.

Christmas, almost over.
But for now relishing a new contentment settling around this house. All six of us resting happily, watching the rain, waiting patiently on it's arrival.

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