Earlier this week--perhaps moments after vowing to have a simple holiday this year--I decided that we should unwrap our Christmas jammies. We typically wait and do that on Christmas Eve, but the idea of having cozy new jammies for the whole month of December was positively singing to me from under the tree. The Kid and I swung through the store on the way home for chocolate chips to make hot cocoa, and I also rounded up a few new Christmas books that I'd set aside as a surprise.
But then, the hitch. Every year I torture Sweet Husband with the duty of buying my Christmas p.j.s. I'm ridiculously silly when it comes wanting to be surprised. Buying my own presents seem like a such a sad, drab thing, but sometimes sending him out to do it feels like a cruel game of Magic 8 ball.
On the pajama front, Sweet Husband usually guesses well, but this year his choice was...um, we'll say a bit matronly. I was let down, but I tried to hide it by heading to the kitchen to whisk up a pot of hot chocolate while the boys started reading the new books. Once the cocoa was ready, I put an ice cube in the Kid's to cool it, then took it to the table.
But apparently cocoa and books were too much distraction to be safely paired together. With one clumsy clatter, the Kid's hot cocoa spilled straight down the front of his new Christmas jammies. He screamed--mostly because he was sad about the spilled hot chocolate, not because it was too hot--as we peeled off his clothes and deposited them in the washer. He sobbed through a smaller cup of cocoa and a bath before finally crashing out with me in bed.
And that was the end of that.
The next day, I took an afternoon walk in the cold, reflecting on where I had gone wrong. It should have been simple. It should have been fun. But somehow, those warm holiday fuzzies just never showed up to the party.
As I walked, the freezing wind pulled my hair out of its loose braid, but the fresh air still felt good. Christmas carols flooded through my earbuds, and my boots clopped on the pavement in rhythm. Even though I didn't have a revelation, I went back to my office feeling refreshed, settled.
After dinner that night, the Kid brought me a stack of books. "Will you read these to me, mama?"
We began, as always lately, with The Polar Express and then continued with The Tomten, both books that I believe should be read in magical hushed whispers. The Kid snuggled up beside me to see the pages.
"Oh, there it is," I thought, as my chest brimmed with warmness and I began the familiar opening lines, "On a Christmas Eve, many years ago, I lay quietly in my bed...."
This morning we woke up to snow. Just a dust. The Kid giggled as he tasted bites of it off his mittens and tried to shovel it. He wanted to stay home and make a snowman. It only broke my heart a little to say that we didn't get quite enough snow for that. Just the fact that he suggested the idea tickled me. I know that we'll get more snow, and probably soon, so that's a wish I can easily fulfill.
Tonight, we had latkes for the last night of Hanukkah. It was not actually the last night of Hanukkah, nor are we Jewish (which is perhaps why I counted to eight from Thanksgiving Day and not the evening before), but that's certainly not reason enough to keep us from enjoying fried potato pancakes together.
Through it all, I keep thinking that one of these year's we'll get this Christmas thing perfectly right. By perfect, I don't mean Martha Stewart. I mean simple, meaningful, and with lots of chances to have that content "my cup runneth over" feeling.
And here's the revelation: I think that's my problem.
I've seen a lot of mamas blogging this week about having a simple Christmas this year. I love reading those posts and am so inspired by them. But even "simple"--and perhaps, even more so, it's best buddy "meaningful"--can become a standard of perfection almost as strong as "I won't be happy if I don't get everything on my list and bake 10,000 sugar cookies."
But the real moments I'm looking for aren't "perfect", by any standard. And, what's more, they rarely are something I could have planned or unplanned. They're almost always just surprise gifts--the wonderful kind that get tucked between the strange pasta cooker and the mommy-jammies.
So, I'll continue to muddle through--trying to make space, trying to make things special, winning some, losing some--but I hope, maybe, I'll do it with just a little more awareness of all of this.