Originally published in the Miami News-Record on December 28, 2014
‘Twas the night before Christmas Eve and all through the house were four teenagers, a TON of noise, and the sounds of “A Swamp Christmas” on one TV and video games on the other.
Well, at least that’s how it was at my house.
I had cleaned the house from top to bottom all day and planned to spend the entire evening binge-watching “Dr. Who”, but at 5pm my husband announced that he needed a snack food for his department Christmas party. I swear to you, sometimes it’s like he’s a 2nd grader who forgot to give me a note from his teacher a week ago. He pitifully said he’d just go get some Little Debbie cakes, but the crazy overachieving person inside me exclaimed, “Well, I never! He thinks he can just take store-bought cakes to a party and besmirch your good name! This will never do!” One might think my inner me is dignified and speaks in a British accent. Truth be told, she is a haggard woman with flour smudges on her face, aching feet and very, very dry hands. And she sighs a lot. Pretty much, she’s a lot like the outer me.
I was out of vegetable oil for the cornbread. And I needed another cake mix and frosting for the cake balls my inner me insisted on crafting for my husband’s party. And we were nearly out of milk – I needed that for the potato soup for dinner AND Christmas morning gravy. So with a sigh I asked my husband to run to the store. I started the potato soup – but my daughter’s boyfriend and my son don’t like potato soup, so I started making hamburgers for them. Then my youngest daughter wanted me to teach her how to make cornbread. Another sigh escaped from the outer me.
After dinner (the cornbread was great, by the way) I started in on the cake balls. And as I stood in my kitchen listening to my three kids and the boy in love with my oldest daughter make an inordinate amount of noise while playing Dig Dug on the Playstation, I thought about Christmases past.
Paul and I had three Christmases without children. They were quiet, serene events. Then in 1996 we began our relationship with Ol’ Saint Nick and his yearly nocturnal shenanigans. Now gone are the days of tiny, sticky fingers and precariously constructed gingerbread houses. We sleep past 5am now.
No one gets that excited about icing cookies anymore. They didn’t seem too preoccupied with the trees or presents under them these days either – there was no peeking and shaking and repeated threats to stop. touching. those. presents. All the trees have been decorated evenly and all the way around for several years now. We said good-bye to the days of us buying our own presents and sticking nametags on them from the kids. Now, with driver’s licenses and trucks, they did a lot of their shopping on their own. This is the first year I had no idea what I was going to open on Christmas morning. This year we scheduled family gatherings around work schedules and boyfriend’s family gatherings. And this year I didn’t threaten a single child with placement on the naughty list. This was our first Christmas in our new house after 13 in the last house.
I know that the time is coming that my little birdies will flit away from the nest and that will usher in the return of quiet, serene Christmases for who knows how many years. Then, with any luck and maybe a pinch of Duggar fertility (although with far less intensity) we will again have tiny, sticky fingers around the house. The ornaments will again be haphazardly placed on only one side of the tree and only as high as their little arms will go when they help decorate my tree.
Ebenezer Scrooge was haunted by the ghosts of Christmases past, present, and future. I, however, am not haunted by ghosts – I am merely reminiscent, exhausted, and hopeful.