…by Julie Clark Robinson

  “On with the dance! Let joy be unconfined..”

-Lord Byron

            I won\’t do it this year. I\’ll not get myself worked up in a tizzy all in the name of providing a memorable Christmas for my family. I\’ll keep the gifts under control, and the trimmings and menus and parties and everything else that lands me in bed with the flu every year by New Year\’s Eve.

            I can\’t even believe it\’s me who is saying these things. What happened to that bright-eyed young woman whose heart was lighter than the meringue snow clouds she made every year? What happened to her endless energy and abounding joy at anything that squeaked of Christmas? Am I not the one who had a festive new outfit for every party, a sprig of mistletoe for every doorway and a small, yet thoughtfully wrapped gift for every mail carrier, hair stylist, and anonymous newspaper flinger or, for that matter, anyone who had been just plain nice to me that year?

            I\’ll tell you what happened. I became a mom. And now that time and energy is in limited supply, I\’m declaring a truce with the Domestic Christmas Faeries who haunt my tortured attempt at sleep at night. They win. This year, I won\’t even play the “perfect holiday” game.. And my family will end up happier for it, of that, I\’m quite sure.

            One moment from several years ago stands out to me as the perfect example of my having gone a tad too far with the holiday bit.  I had bundled up my 4 year-old son and 18 month-old daughter in their fluffy winter coats, hats and mittens. The air was brisk (okay frigid), but I dragged them out to the middle of a large courtyard with a huge, beautifully decorated pine tree. “Why, what a perfect setting in which to snap our holiday photo!” my Christmas muse was whispering in my ear. Naturally, my kids chaffed at the notion of standing out in the wind next to a huge prickly thing, let alone hold each other\’s hand and smiling. So what did I do?


    The drill sergeant from “Full Metal Jacket” couldn\’t have delivered the line any better. Needless to say, that year\’s Christmas card was not a keepsake of Rockwellian proportions.  

But now that the leaves are gone and the air is starting to dip beyond merely “brisk”, I find that I need to remind myself of a few things:

            I do not need to make star-shaped croutons.

            I do not need to make star-shaped croutons.

            I do not need to make star-shaped croutons.

            Nor, does anyone really expect me to jam a bunch of cloves in pomegranates and place them in freshly polished silver bowls throughout the house. Every bedroom does not need its own Christmas tree, every pillow does not need a cinnamon potpourri sachet beneath it, and my husband\’s lukewarm reception to his flannel jammies won\’t change even if they come wrapped in a tower of antique hat boxes.

With every TV commercial filled with the pageantry of Christmas morning, I\’m forcing myself to remember how it feels to wait until the kids are asleep before I begin the pleasure of wrapping presents – when it\’s pitch black outside and I\’m hunchbacked over the bed in the guest room trying to curl the perfect ribbon.  By that time of day, no mother should be allowed near sharp objects, let alone be twirling the blade of dull hair-cutting scissors around like a war-weary samurai.

These are the reality checks that I will call on to help keep myself under control this year. If I can\’t snap the perfect family photo, people will understand. Especially the hundred-some people I keep on my card list even though I haven\’t spoken with them since sending last year\’s “perfect” family photo. Come to think of it, have I ever stopped to think it\’s time to cut the cord with some of these people? Will my high school boyfriend\’s mother really notice how cute my kids are and call him in California to tell him? Will that idiotic former boss of mine look into my kids eyes and realize “So that\’s why she took two maternity leaves in three years.”?

            All I ever really wanted to do was create the kind of memorable experiences I had as a kid. Pure magic. Hot cocoa and angels in the snow. A drive on Christmas Eve to look for Santa\’s sleigh in the sky. Music and love and cookies.

Cookies. I guess I can handle a batch or two of cookies. Santas and reindeer. Elves and angels. Holly leaves with little Red Hots that look like berries.  Oh, good idea…! The Red Hots can double as the nose for Rudolph.  And, if I steady my hand just right, I can probably pull off a little icing mustache to distinguish the gingerbread man from the gingerbread woman. They\’ll need a house, too, with little peppermint wheels for windows. And a Christmas tree, with tiny Milky Way presents. Hey. Wait a minute…cinnamon sticks would make the perfect woodpile…dusted with confectioners sugar for snow, of course.

            Oh, what the hell. 

Happy Holidays to everyone, in whatever level of participation you can muster. I\’ve always felt that New Year\’s Eve is better spent on the couch anyway.  Since I\’ve become a mom, that is.                

Sensory Exercise:

If you start to feel overwhelmed by your holiday “To Do” list, reach for some things that will take you back to the magic of the season.  Bury your face in fresh pine needles or run outside and catch a snowflake on your tongue.  (Or, make sure you have plenty of holiday scented candles on hand if you\’re worried what the neighbors will think!)  Whatever it takes to help you remember your child-like wonder with the season, do it! January is best spend napping anyway, don\’t you think?