You would think that this year, our first year as a married couple with one single income, the holiday would seem more stripped of its maniacal materialism, and closer to its core. You would think.
When I went to Target on Christmas Eve-Eve to finish the shopping, my husband accused me of "gilding the lily", which is his typical response to me when I am trying to be superwoman. "I'm sure Santa has more than done his job. Really." But, off I went to battle supercenters near midnight.
I did get a few more things for the kids, and did spend a little more money. I thought that I was going to enjoy being by myself and get a little more into the Christmas spirit, but I just ended up tired, hungry, and even more cynical.
I'm not sure if it is that I seem to have lost my place in the world or if I am just a bit down in the dumps, but I could not catch the Christmas mojo this year. The most important things that define Christmas-y-ness to me went undone. Like my baking of 16 versions of cookies and candies or like my careful execution of the entire city of Bethlehem with my 200 piece nativity. Ever since my world turned on its ear, I have been feeling a little bit discombobulated, dissatisfied, and overwhelmed. You would think that suddenly being freed from 8 restricted hours a day, I would gain a tremendous sense of freedom and bundles of free time. Don't stay-at-home-moms take naps? Bubble baths in the afternoon after Oprah? Don't their houses smell intoxicatingly of Mr. Clean and Lemon Pledge every day? Isn't the laundry always caught up and the supper on the stove when hardworking hubby comes through the door? That's what I always thought.
The truth of the matter is, my life is so far from that it's not even funny. I was 100 times more organized and on top of things when my 9-5 career kept me structured. We ran like a well-oiled machine. I was supermom. I dreamed of the day when I could do what I thought I did best full time...be a mommy, a wife, and a creative person. Those were the things that I had to push into my limited free time when I was climbing the corporate ladder. Now, I can't manage to match the socks in time for everyone to get dressed. Add to that the burden of Christmas shopping, decorating, visiting and the like, I was a wreck. And I'm not proud of it.
I ironed the dampness out of the kids Christmas clothes because they weren't washed until an hour before church. By the time we arrived, 15 minutes late to Christmas Eve services, Harrisen had Tootsie Roll smeared on his Little Lord Fonteleroy collar. Daddy had ironed leftover tomato sauce into the ribbon on Evangeline's bonnet rather than taking a damp cloth and cleaning it. So there were my angels, covered in food, 15 minutes late, and looking like a hot mess. I broke down in the church parking lot, crying, saying, "Let's just go home. It's not worth it. I don't want to even go in." To which my husband gave me that look that said, quite plainly, albeit with no words, "Riiiiight....because Christmas Eve services are about showing off your perfect kids, not about celebrating the birth of Christ." Of course, he was right.
So, I sucked it up and went into the sanctuary of his parent's church and was struck with the beauty and awe of the true meaning of the Holiday. The presence of the Spirit filled me and my eyes overflowed with tears.
Just kidding. I wish.
Actually, I was so tied up in a knot, I could not shake free and let my heart open to the service. Between mopping at the children with a soapy paper towel hastily snatched from the bathroom and trying not to be resentful that I was missing mass at our beloved church to dutifully fulfill my Christmas Eve obligation to the in-laws, I barely managed to make it through without crying. I did cry, once. The one moment I let myself realize I was missing it. Missing it over stained white satin ribbons. Shit. This is probably why my atheist friends say church is a big sham.
Anyway, supermom's cape is at the cleaners, and she's trying to cope. I won't sugar coat it as my maternal family tree's upbringing would have me do. I won't lie and sing, "This was the best Christmas EVER!" Because it wasn't. But it wasn't the worst, either. And my sweet savior is still born, whether or not I chose to be emotionally present at His birth. That's the beauty of the story. He's born. He's born for us who are weak and flawed and imperfect. And he loves me, whether or not the nativity is set up or the baking got done. If I was perfect I wouldn't need him. So, happy birthday, Baby. Thank you for coming to this crazy Earth for the people like me.