Tuesday, December 24, 2013

All Through the House.

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house.
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
Three stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicolas soon would be there.

Thing One and Thing Two were tucked snug in their beds,
While visions of presents danced in their heads.
And Cocoa with her bone and I with my glass
Settled down for a long night ahead.

When down the hall came a tiny pit patter
And I waved her in close to see what was the matter.
“I can’t sleep, Mom. Can I snuggle with you?
It’s always better with you.”

The day had been full of mayhem and merriment,
Last minute gifts, tranquilizers, gift wrap and peppermint.
Even Cocoa’s excited …
She woke at 4 a.m.

Christmas has become so frantic and quick
And this year I have a bone to pick with St. Nick.

I’ve had no time to sit down, to relax and to calm
And this pace needs to end before me it claims!

Now, Merlot! Now Cab! Now Shiraz and Chardonay!
On Pinot! On Muscat! On Riesling and Rose!
To the top of the list! To the top of pile!
Now gift wrap! Gift wrap! Gift wrap it ALL!

As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
Our eyes and our thoughts can’t help but turn to the sky.
To the one long gone and those here, too.

With a heart full of memories and a head full of dreams,
We’ve had a year that has held more than it seems.
I tucked her golden curl and wrapped my arms ‘round
The little girl whose passion for life knows no bounds.

“Sweetheart, we can’t snuggle up tonight.
Mommy stays awake ‘til you’re asleep every night,
And she still has dishes to clean and gifts to wrap,
Before she can finally take her own long winter’s nap.”

My eyes—how they hurt! My back, how it aches!
My buttocks are tender, bruised like squished berries.

I took her little hand, so small and warm,
And led her down the hall to her room.
The lights on her little tree danced merrily,
Lighting the path to where Bunny waited patiently.

As I tucked her in close
I thought of the gifts waiting for me
And I knew that what they want
Will not be under our tree.

With a kiss on her brow I started to leave
Determined to get it all done before I fell asleep.

We’ve been lucky, we know
Even if mommy hasn’t filled the hole in their souls.
And this year I am filled with thoughts of firsts and lasts
As a Christmas surprise brings us all together
For memories to last.
And now on the eve of the big man in red
I hear her say as I walked down the hall—
“I hope Santa brings you Gerard Butler!”

Merry Christmas, one and all. And to all, a good night.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Rub a Dub Dub.

I simply don’t have time for this.

There are 11 days – 264 hours – until the big man in red is supposed to jam his cranberried belly down our chimney and I have 11,264 things still left to do. 

(That’s also about the number of unopened and answered emails. If you’re wondering when I’m getting back to you, let’s just assume the response won’t be coming home for Christmas.)

But, really, I don’t have 264 hours. Subtract work – running an undesirable 11 hours a day right now – and sleep – all of six hours, at best – and we’re down to 77 hours. Minus the three hours a week of workout time I am clinging to and we’re down another 15 to 62. Take out the 25 hours I’ll be at the rink for the kids over the next 11 days. Subtract familial commitments between now and then. Remove the overnight trip for work that has unexpectedly landed on my calendar.

13 hours. That’s all I’ve got. And I’m about to lose 20 minutes more.

A year ago, Santa finally caved. After two years of unrelenting puppy-dog-eyed pleading – driven home by the guilt-tripping haranguing of those who made me feel worthless as a parent for not providing a puppy for my oh-so-not-deprived children and who do not spend any time in the eye of the storm that is my frantic existence – Cocoa arrived. She was sweet and perfect.

For about 13 hours.

Our pocket-sized pooch is now 55 pounds of unbridled energy and far too many smarts. She is my daughter … with a fur coat. Her spider-eating episode cost me a grand and gifted our vet with both enjoyment and the genesis of an academic paper. She races in circles before jettisoning herself off the trampoline. Our gardener begins each visit reviewing a bag full of irrigation system parts collected since his last visit, an exercise in his ability to remember and repair what’s supposed to – but isn’t – stay beneath the ground. She’s torn apart every holiday delivery that UPS has decided to leave behind the gate. And now I’m supposed to find a way to wash her with a medicated shampoo that needs to stay on her for about 15 minutes before rinsing.

There are many things missing from my seasonal dose of merriment, and a glass of red and a bubble bath are just about the only guilty pleasures that haven’t been sacrificed for the greater good. And even those are few and far between. There is no avoiding the fact that my last sanctuary is about to be desecrated, and there’s a good chance I will be maimed in the process. And, right now, neither one of us wants a bath.

“Cocoa, please cooperate. Just once. Because I really can’t take any more right now.”

Sliding her silky head beneath my hand and resting it on my knee, her lime-green eyes stare back at me as though she understands my plea for calm and cooperation.


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Snow Fall.

“Do you remember when the snow globe broke?”

My childhood is filled with the memories that wintery grey skies bring. Ice skating on gently undulating ponds, peering down at the miniature horseshoe crabs frozen in motion. The first snow falling on my August birthday. Crying against the pain of warmth returning to near-frozen fingers and toes. Elaborate labyrinths in the drifts against the house. Blocks of ice melting on the stove. The mottled purple frostbite of my brother’s hand left uncovered for a 200-yard walk home. Twenty-four hours of darkness. Wild dogs deep within the snowy tunnels under the house. Brightly colored Christmas lights gleaming against frost caps on the inside window sills. The wind howling against the cold porch door, and my mouse-brown hair frozen to the wall when morning arrived. Husky puppies in the kitchen. Riding in the dark holding tight to the sled lashings. Elaborately embroidered parkas unveiled on Christmas Eve and Santa by DC3. Julie Andrews and my favorite things.

I loved winter and everything it brings.

Until the eternal winter that we were thrust into left me struggling to enjoy that most jolly of seasons.

The first one is a vague, foggy memory of uniformed officers hanging Christmas lights, an explosion of children’s toys under the tree, pressures to sacrifice myself for the good of family and the way it had always been done.

But it was the second Christmas that forever changed how the bells rang and the halls were decked.

By then the fog had lifted and left behind a seething and relentless anger that festered in the cold and empty house. She barely four and he just months into kindergarten, they had experienced so much that the magic of Christmas could not erase. Unhealthy and weak, the Thanksgiving weekend loomed over me like a black storm cloud overhead and I steeled myself against familial pressures and watched as the men of the houses in our cozy enclave climb up and down ladders, armed with strings of brightly colored lights and green holly.

Surrounded by boxes of ribbons and trappings and ornaments that evoked memories I loathed, I wrestled the nearly-10-foot-tree and its ribbons and trappings while carols sang in hollow merriment. But of all the sights and sounds, only one captured their attention.

The silvery, snowy globe.

More than a snowy holiday scene, to my daughter it was a magical place she wished she could enter. For my son it was a special gift from Santa. For me it was a link to Christmases past and all the ones that would never be. And suddenly it was gone, shattered and scattered in the way that our happiness had been. Everything that was trapped inside escaped me in a furious maelstrom.

As all children do, they remind me of that moment. Instead of all of the moments of sacrifice and love, it is the moments of anger and awfulness that they recall and that are forever burned in their memories. Moments I can never erase, leaving behind a mother’s guilt that I am resigned to and at times seems insurmountable.

A new snow globe arrived that Christmas to replace the one that had been lost, bringing a snowy sparkle back to the little boy’s eyes. But every holiday since, it is still the little girl that is mesmerized by the scene beyond reach in the way that I am mesmerized by what is out of reach. And each year as we deck the halls, she reminds me.

“I remember.”

And I imagine the sparkle in her eyes when she finds her snow globe this Christmas morning.