Our traveling extravaganza this year reminded me of how lucky we’d been the past four years, not having to travel anywhere to celebrate Christmas with our families. In fact, before this year, we hadn’t traveled anywhere for Christmas since 2001, when we were living in Minneapolis. And holiday travel involved driving about 11 hours with two rottweilers in the back of the car. Which didn’t seem too bad, except it severely limited my ability to shop at the Schaumburg IKEA on the way back to ‘The Cities.’
How things have changed – both the traveling and the celebrations themselves.
I vaguely recall Thanksgivings and Christmases before we had kids. There were elaborate meals, cooked in one of our homes. There were meals in restaurants. We’d dress in nice clothes, comb our hair, (apply makeup). There was quiet; minimal mess. We’d stay up late, watching movies or playing games; sleep in the next day, go shopping, eat some more. I think I even used to paint my nails.
But things and times have changed. My mom now has three grandsons. Which means it’s noisy and messy at her house when we’re all there. We still try to make nice food – well, one person does, while the others tend to the herd. It’s a constant flurry of dishes and clean-up and child maintenance and by the end we’re so tired, we can barely stay awake to play WordTwist against each other on Facebook.
This year, I didn’t even bother trying to stay up until midnight to ring in the New Year. Which, admittedly, I’ve become lazier about doing as the years go on. But this year, we drank our champagne with dinner and I was in bed by 10.30pm. The Hen had kept us up till all hours the night before and I was wiped.
The previous night, as he was lying on our bed during one of his intermittent cycles of sleep, I thought to myself: ‘This is the first Christmas I’ve slept with a little person’s butt in my face.’ But he was sleeping, so it didn’t really matter.
In fairness, the kids entertain us well in exchange for the sleep deprivation and chaos. Any amount of time spent with G will result in an enhanced vocabulary, whether it’s the particular phrases he uses repeatedly – like this year’s sullen ‘I’m not going to be anyone’s friend’ – or his customized words, like ‘air conditioning’ (for heat) or his habit of saying ‘may you please be excuse’ when he wants to get up from the dinner table.
We whiled away many minutes just watching him walk around with his newly acquired tool-set, a loyal cousin (assistant) in tow, ‘fixing’ things. Dutifully pulling out his measuring tape and stretching it across some surface; pronouncing it ‘ten hatches’, whatever a ‘hatch’ might be.
And the Hen. The only sixteen month-old to ever require his very own assistant at this year’s family photo shoot. Really, the assistant had been there to help entertain all three boys….but her energies ended up being devoted to our littlest one. Who was determined to escape from, our cry in, most of the pictures.
The same little man who had us in stitches as he cavorted upon a small sheepskin rug at my mom’s house, like George Costanza in that underwear photo shoot.
This was the boys’ first Christmas with their new cousin Bennett, only five months old. And G took quite a liking to him, taking every opportunity to snuggle him or coo about how cute he is. Which was, of course, adorable, except it reminded me of a much darker time (right after the Hen arrived), when he refused to call his baby brother by his first name (calling him Baby Jasper instead), much less snuggle with him. Of course, a cousin from Chicago who you see a few times a year isn’t the same level of threat as a baby brother living in your home.
And now, a New Year has arrived, (nearly two weeks ago). And I have nary a resolution to my name. In years past, I actually took the time to write down some things I felt I ought to be doing. Not this year, at least not yet.
Maybe 2009 is the year of being honest and guilt-free. I’m probably not going to exercise, or eat ‘right’. I will probably gain weight rather than lose it. And I probably won’t improve my knowledge of world history or politics.
There’s not a whole lot of optimism or commitment in ‘honest and guilt-free’, though.