Category Archives: On being a mom

The Lifecycle of the Holidays

The Lifecycle of the Holidays

I like Thanksgiving. I don’t really like turkey, but I do like pie and forced gratitude. I decorate the table in brown and orange, presumably to match the turkey and the carrots. It’s fine. But really the best part of Thanksgiving is when it’s over, because I can get going on Christmas. If I can catch my husband in a great mood or not listening, I’ll trick him into getting our tree on Black Friday. If I have to wait another week, I spend it pacing and nagging.

The weeks before Christmas put me in the mind of a five-year-old. I carry the box of ornaments down from the attic and open it like it’s the Ark of the Covenant. I unveil each one, and share its story. Great Grandmother Alice knitted this clown out of yarn. Great Nana sewed the hair onto this tiny angel. We got this one the year you were born. My stories are met with mostly glassy eyes, but when my tree is done, I am overwhelmed by the beauty. I wake up early so I can sit next to it in the dark. I decorate the mantle and then over-decorate it. Everyone’s beds are remade with Christmas sheets. It’s hard to find a place to rest your eyes where something isn’t twinkling a loud message: Christmas is Coming!

The month passes, and on the morning after Christmas, I walk downstairs and the magic is gone. My house has transformed from one long White Christmas dance number to Jake Ryan’s house after the big party in Sixteen Candles. What is all this crap? Who put a dead tree covered in chotchkes in the middle of my family room? Its previously upbeat limbs point downward, like it’s just finished a really big shrug. Pine needles and fallen ornaments cover the floor. I grab the ornament box and start tossing things in. No longer am I treasuring the memory that each one brings; I’ve got get them out of my sight.

I do this Jekyll and Hyde thing every year. The transformation is both sudden and predictable. On December 26, my Christmas wonderland looks like Las Vegas during a garbage strike. Nothing’s changed but the calendar, but the anticipation is gone. Every sparkly, glittery inch of those first 25 days was a promise of what’s to come. When the day has come and gone, all that stuff is just clutter reminding us that the party’s over. Even the cheery tableau of Santas I’ve assembled on my mantle looks like a bunch of fat guys waiting for a bus.

This turns the week after Christmas into the longest of the year. I find that getting things back up to the attic is not as easy as it was bringing them down. This is both a consequence of gravity and the fact that no one’s excited to help. Because setting up Christmas, which is effectively making a huge mess, is a lot more fun than cleaning it all up. Regardless, those me-size toy soldiers that flank my front door have got to go. They’re giving me a look I don’t like. I rip their detachable heads off and carry them up myself, and their decapitated bodies stand there for days until someone stronger than me yields to my heavy sighs and hauls them up.

This morning I ran across a tiny forgotten Santa that I’d put by my son’s bed. He was peeking out from behind a lamp, and you’d have thought I saw a mouse. I grabbed it and raced up to the attic and stashed it away in that big bin of nonsense that I’m going to be thrilled to see in 11 months.

An Open Letter to My Cleaning Lady

I don’t want to bother you while you’re quarantining with your family. But just real quick: why is everything so sticky? I remember the last time we said goodbye. It was like any other Tuesday. Your skin had that nice sheen of perspiration about it, and in my memory, you are the most beautiful person… Continue Reading

In the Age of Quarantine, Marie Kondo is Out of Luck

I’ve been imagining what quarantine is like for Marie Kondo in her tidy home, surrounded by the six items that spark joy in her heart. She is fully prepared for a military inspection or a surprise visit from her in-laws, but she wasn’t ready for a global pandemic. I, it seems, have been preparing for… Continue Reading

Grieving Our Plans

During the first few days of the COVID-19 crisis, I shook my head a lot: This isn’t so bad, people are overreacting. They can’t just start canceling things. I have plans. Obviously I was in denial, the first stage of grief, and it was my plans that I was mourning. My plans for the next… Continue Reading

The Dorm Room Fantasy

This spring I received a catalog in the mail called Pottery Barn Dorm. I’ve never received this catalog before, but I assume that Mark Zuckerberg told them that I have a child starting college this fall, so I wasn’t so surprised. What surprised me as I flipped through the glossy pages is that you don’t… Continue Reading

Motel 55

I’m running a one star hotel. I’m not worried about improving my rating, as it’s peak season and all of the rooms are full. There aren’t a lot of other options for my guests at this time of year, so the myriad complaints to management about the quality of service go largely ignored. Breakfast is… Continue Reading

Dog Park Rookie

When I got a dog I was excited to start going to the dog park. I thought it might be just like going to the playground with little kids, standing around shooting the breeze with other parents. In fact it’s been so long since I’ve lingered at a playground that I thought the dog park… Continue Reading

If You’ve Got Five Kids, You’ve Got A Lot of Teeth

“That’s just so many teeth,” I said to the confused mother of five seated across from me at lunch. It was a weird follow up to the pretty standard suburban question: “how many kids do you have?” Depending on your point of view, there are plenty of more appropriate reactions, including “how wonderful” and “so… Continue Reading

The Upside of Scarcity

Many years ago, my son received a Thomas the Tank Engine train and a circle of tracks as a gift. He was two years old and could zoom Thomas around that track for hours, frontwards, backwards, crashing into imaginary obstacles. He loved it so much that I bought Thomas a buddy, his faithful passenger coach… Continue Reading

Sports Niceties in Real Life

Spring sports are winding down and the whole thing seems like a blur of driving, costume changes and sandwiches eaten in the car. There was the requisite amount of elbow jabbing, name calling and blood letting. But there were also the niceties of sports, the repeated rituals, words and actions that sort of smooth out… Continue Reading

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