Family Zone - It Just So Happens
by Cheryl Butler
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Have Yourself a Merry Little Chapstick
© Cheryl L. Butler
Typically, I don't get overwhelmed very easily. I mean the fact that I forgot one of my sons at church last year and didn't realize it until we were seated at home eating lunch only jangled my nerves for a few seconds and nearly a year later, he's finally speaking to me and doesn't feel the need to leave a poster-sized photo of himself on the dashboard. But during this time of year, when the pressure to pull off the most dazzling holiday your friends and mother-in-law will ever see, is thrust upon us even before The Statue of Liberty can put away her red, white, and blue-it's nearly enough to bring me to my breaking point.
Each November I sit myself down for my annual self-to-self pep talk. With only three items on this morning's to-do list--unclogging the blades of the dishwasher, making sock monkeys to give as gifts during these hard times (kidding, just kidding) and heading down to the drugstore to pick up some Chapstick for my son-non-flavored would be preferable he scribbled on a reminder note across my Centrum coupon--it seemed like I could get myself back on track by lunchtime.
Depending on what kind of a hair year I'm having or whether my extra chin can be disguised in a gently stretched out turtleneck, determines if this conversation will take place in front of a mirror or in the corner of my darkened laundry room. But wait, the laundry room is out this year because I'm holding a grudge against mine at the moment. Nothing big mind you, just a small inconvenience with our top-of-the-line front loading washer machine, the flapper on the pump, I believe went kaput. In my experience with this luxury contraption we've owned for a couple of long years, when something malfunctions it requires that the part be ordered from some remote warehouse in the farthest corner of the country, never someplace local. So this was the first test in the "Is she losing it yet?" department for the 2010 Holiday Season.
Surely it's ok to start feeling a few little pangs of losing control when you have ten family members that need to be kept in clean underwear and other incidentals like sports uniforms, white socks, and fine jeans and you become so exhausted from farming out six loads a day that you turn your dream Jacuzzi into a makeshift Laundromat!
Back to that annual pep talk of mine. The bad hair year and the resentment I am still carrying towards my washer machine lead me to the next best place for this important conversation-my car. Here I could lock myself in, turn on some peppy rendition of jingle bells and start feeling the holiday love once again. Oops-I forgot! I now have two teenagers who drive. Suddenly, mom's minivan is a super cool set of wheels, especially when it has a full tank of gas and can be driven with me left far behind. Sigh.
Not one to give up, I decided to give my bathroom a try-a tranquil place I could spend a few therapeutic moments alone. It's the last place anyone would look for me because in 23 years, I've probably only spent a grand total of an hour in there for whatever reason. Drat-that's no good either. The master bath is where I hide many of the Christmas gifts. Why do you think we paid good money for an oversized Jacuzzi? If it weren't for the use it has gotten as a washer machine or a stellar hiding place for a solid six weeks every year, then I think my husband would still be crying over that installation. With stocking stuffers and a gazillion rolls of wrapping paper peeking at me, I couldn't possibly have a heart-to-heart with myself about how to sit back and relax during this holiday season in there.
After the dinner dishes were done, compliments of the newly, unclogged dishwasher blades, I sat down to look at our family holiday greeting cards that I picked up when I forgot to buy the non-flavored Chapstick earlier that day. Eerily, there wasn't a single child, husband or pet trying to get my attention while I admired my painstaking handy work of getting eight children to smile at the same time during this year's obligatory family pose.
Despite the craziness this time of year brings, I have always enjoyed handwriting nearly 100 Christmas cards to friends and family for the sheer reason of wanting to stay connected during the holidays, not to brag about my Ivy League ability to jerry rig the Jacuzzi into our second washing machine. For me, taking that time to reach out to people I really care about (ok, well, most of them) defines the true meaning of the season.
My son walked in just as I tucked the photo cards away and I realized that I had just managed to pull off my annual pep talk without even trying. I may have forgotten to buy his Chapstick but I was relieved that I hadn't completely forgotten why this time of year is so special. Before I know it, the holiday tunes will be gone, my sacred hiding places will be empty, the last of the decorations will be stowed up in the attic, and sooner than I care to think about, my family will be grown and gone and these harried holiday rushes will be just a memory.
On that note, I headed straight to the drugstore to buy a few tubes of Chapstick. One non-flavored for my son, and some extras to keep around as a reminder that the holidays aren't about rushing around and putting on a good show; they are about spending time with those that you care about.
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