Sunday, November 24, 2013

December looming

As I look at my grocery list and wonder if there is anything I absolutely need before Friday, anything that is worth descending into the hell that is supermarket the week before Thanksgiving, I realize that holiday is almost here. It's late this year, so two days later, the Christmas season is upon us. Christmas, and of course, December.

I'm not ready.

As my mind tries to grapple with birthday party—which kids, how will I fit them and their parents in my house, is my house really still in this utter disarray from my office dismantling this summer?, theme, when—and the special snacks for school and a present and Christmas—crafts and shopping and decorating, my heart is bending in around itself, protecting, pushing back the busyness and all the doing.

I seem to alternate between okay years and not okay years. This feels like one of the latter. Where last year I barged into December ready for battle, ready to reclaim the month or at least some part of it, this year I'm worn out already. I can't seem to get any traction going into the month.

I've done my usual clearing of the slates as much as possible: no appointments, no work from difficult clients, no tight deadlines. I'm trying to get myself organized to wrap up the gift part early, get that out of the way. My family is helpful. They realize that this month still wipes me out. They offer to pick up or order gifts that will bear my name, and sometimes I take them up on it. I hand off the toughest of my nieces and nephews to Brian.

I look at my to do list and think about what I really have to do and which things I really want to do. I try to cross out the rest. But there is an almost five-year-old who wants a real birthday party this year. The kind with games and cake. If it were not this month, if life had not taken that wrong turn a year before she was born, I would be all over it. We'd have fun picking a theme, figuring out games and activities and decorations, decorating a cake. I don't want to throw a birthday party in the middle of December, but even more I don't want to let my daughter down. I have grappled with this since before she was born, since I stared down that first December without Henry and waited for her to arrive.

When I ask who she wants at her party, she starts listing her cousins. Maybe I'm trying to tackle this all wrong. I keep trying to get out of the way and hear what it is that's important to her, try to strip down my own expectations of what birthday means. I try to create simple traditions, ones I can pull off, ones that can grow with us. I love the idea of a quiet tradition that fits our family, but I remember birthday parties—the DIY, homemade affairs that I grew up with, the kind my sisters give their kids. I toy frequently with the idea of a summer half-birthday party as the time to do all the games and activities. I don't know how to sell her on that though, so I keep coming back trying to figure out what it is in her head.

I am looking forward to
  • putting up the tree with the girls
  • the wrapped up books advent calendar that I'm planning for them
  • sleeping with Kathleen on her birthday, because she is so excited about it
  • the tea party to honor Brian's mom, using the tiny cups she gave the girls
  • seeing their faces Christmas morning

I'm dreading
  • Christmas Eve and the hour and half mass and the scramble to get to Brian's brother's house
  • getting bogged down in things that feel like they need to get done
  • that day just past the middle of the month, the one between the birthdays and Christmas, the one that is dark no matter the weather
Tonight, Elizabeth picked We're Going on a Bear Hunt for her story. December is almost upon us. We can't go over it. We can't go under it. We have to go through it. 
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