It’s the darkest, shortest day of the year, the winter solstice. I couldn’t sleep past five. That’s OK because now I have over an hour to drink my hot strong coffee, eat my toast with peanut butter and bannana and write. The house is quiet and warm, but missing the fresh smell of pine and the bright lights Jack calls Christmas. The tree I didn’t want to get, the one I fell in love with when it was brought home. The tree that Danny, Maureen, Alan, Jack, Fiona, and I spent decorating and admiring on Saturday night. Telling the babies stories about each ornament as they went onto the tree. “Put the breakable ones up high” I say as I pass out glass santas and snowmen. My husband is happy, he really wanted a tree. He really wants tradition. I got into the spirit, I took a shower, wore a dress and lipstick, even bought a new pretty apron. I made a roasted chicken dinner with candied sweet potatoes and roasted turnips.
The next morning, Sunday morning, my moms memorial day, I plugged in the tree lights when I woke up. It looks so pretty, I have to take an allergy pill because the tree’s making me sneeze, but that is fine. I make breakfast for everyone before they even wake up and we drink mimosas and give toasts, “To Vikki Taylor”
Then, when it’s time to clean up and get ready to go to the beach, i’m cleaning the kitchen, getting snacks ready, peering into the living room to check on babies,
“Jack you can look but not touch” I say.
Then I hear crying, Jack has an Irish leprechaun in his hood and he’s fallen back onto it.
“Fiona leave those lights alone, Fiona no”
She ignores me, she’s unscrewing the lights off the strands.
Ornaments, even the delicate ones we put up high are finding their way to the floor. The strands of lights have migrated from the tree onto the carpet and decorating the Noahs Arc that Alyce sent the babies. It’s her favorite childhood toy, A beautiful wooden boat with all the animals in sets of two. It’s cute that Jack strung the lights on the boat but it looks like the most dangerous situation ever.
My husband did a good job securing the tree to the wall, there’s no way it could fall. But now it’s a strangulation hazard, Cut hands and feet hazard, and even, probably remote, but electricution?
“I told you, this is why I didn’t want a big tree”
I can’t because the gesture was so sweet, the way the tree and Santa means so much to him. The way he went and picked out this beautiful tree. For his kids, for his family. The tradition means something to him.
“When we get home you have to take care if this tree” I say.
“What should I do?”
I give some suggestions, he gives some suggestions, I don’t like his, he doesn’t like mine. The tree’s outside on the deck now. It looks like a banished family member, put out in the cold for behaving badly. It has the lights on it, so that will look pretty.
Who knew A Christmas tree and Santa could cause so much grief? It’s been months of debates between my husband and I, struggles about this holiday of absurdity and impracticality. I’ve had to question all my beliefs and what I want to teach my children, but balance it with opposing views. I’ve been accused of being a “downer” about Christmas because this is when my mom died and being in denile about believing in Santa when I was a kid. But I really don’t remember ever believing in Santa. There’s one final part to this whole Santa/ Christmas thing I’m against. The too many presents at one time for the babies.
“Alan, I think we should keep some of the gifts for later”
He doesn’t agree.
“Alan it’s too much at one time, they won’t appreciate them, they won’t get to know their new playthings intimately”
He bought them way too much and what if relatives bring presents too? I’ll have no option but to give away toys that other people bought. They have too many toys as it is. I think I need to stand by this one. Their little brains can’t handle it. I think they should get one toy today, then two toys on Christmas morning. Then the rest scattered through the vacation while Alans off work.
Wish me luck with this one.
Yesterday we had a very nice memorial for my mom. A funny one as always, going to the beach on December 20th in Northern California is always an adventure. We let Billy out, Fiona was sleeping in the car, Alan stayed with her. Danny, Jack, Billy, and I went out to look at the ocean. The rain and wind whipped in our direction. I held Jack tight. Billy ran around under the grove of Cypress trees and Jack laughed at her and wanted to get down. The day reminded me of Lahinch, Ireland where we spread our moms ashes in the cold Irish sea.
We quickly headed to Nicks Cove, a restaurant right on the water with oysters, ok drinks, and greasy fish and chips. Jack threw up in the car right when we arrived. I think he was car sick because in the restaurant both babies behaved splendidly. We had a ton of fun, despite the crappy food and carsickness. There are deer heads everywhere the babies keep looking at.
“Do you know it’s dead?” I wondered. What would they think?
Alan is off to work now, I just told him what I thought about the presents and he finally agreed.
The landscape of houses and trees and wet streets has reavealed itself. The sky is grey. And bits of fog emerges from the dense and dark green hillside. Today is laundry day, cleaning day, and studio day.
The babies will be up soon, it’s time to get to work, my special morning time has just ran out.