I love the holiday season. I love shopping and wrapping and cooking and hosting and stressing about the shopping and wrapping and cooking I haven’t yet done to be ready for hosting. I love feeling superior to the rest of the country because I can be in New York City in 30 minutes’ time and feel the energy and festivity and the completely exclusive sensation of being both freezing cold and sweating profusely at the same time in a crowd of people getting engaged and getting in family fights in front of a giant tree. I love drinking eggnog and watching other people be grossed out by my yolk-based cocktail. I love all of it.
I hate waking up on December 23 in tears because I dreamt my I missed my mom’s call. I hate finding the perfect present for her or watching truly terrible Hallmark movies that she would just love. I hate when my kids ask me why I am talking in my crying voice because just breathing seems a little too hard today.
It’s been 10 years without her. And we are doing fine. Really we are. But if we could have her back for just one day a year, this would be the day.
Christmas under mom’s watch was not textbook perfect. It was far from a catalog Christmas. My mom wasn’t Christian or Catholic or any Jesus-abiding religion. She was a Jew who grew up in Communist Romania under a dangerous regime. She celebrated as a child because it was safer to assimilate than not. (My dad, by the way, is a Buddhist from Japan who grew up eating KFC for Christmas day – an actual thing).
Asking Santa for a fully-wrapped candy treat, probably
My mom “hid” gifts in plain sight on her bedroom floor. As we got older, she leaned into her arthritic hands and had us help wrap the presents (i.e. wrap my own gifts that I would get way before Christmas anyway because she was too excited to wait to give it to me). She served too much food for dinner buffet-style in disposable tins that stayed out all day so we could graze while she organized a family-wide cheat at Scattergories for the sheer purpose of making her rule-driven oldest daughter crazy. She forgot about stuffing stockings until late Christmas Eve and then dumped stuff in from around the house pretending it was purchased just for us. A half-burned candle. A chocolate bar out of the fridge. One year, I got my own toothbrush – my own used toothbrush.
In other words, it may not have been perfect but it was perfect.
I love the holiday season. I love it because my mom made us laugh with her Christmas absurdities. Sometimes she made us (me) cry when we (I) came out of the bathroom and everyone else in the room suddenly agreed that a country starting with the letter “c” was “Cashmir”. She made us gluttonously eat. Then eat some more. She made us feel like a part of some crazy Christmas circus society. I love Christmas because I loved her.
And when I wake up with cheeks wet from tears, missing her so much I think it might crush me, I make myself get out of bed and wrap a half-burnt candle or a gift they forgot from last year because I am the mom now and I, too, will make this a completely imperfect perfect Christmas.
My mom was a super affectionate gift-givey person. My dad is affectionate in like a “I think I’ve met you once and you disappointed me” kind of way unless you’re his grandkid and then ka-Ching: the sky has opened and it’s raining CVS gifts and piggy back rides.
This all made for a great upbringing. My mom would buy us stuff and my dad would shake his head at how spoiled we were which only made it more evident to us how special it was that we could roll around naked on a pile of mom-bought cabbage patch kids like we accepted a filthy offer.
Balance is life, people.
As a parent though, this leaves me somewhere in the grey zone where I love to buy my kids presents almost as much as I love to hate myself for doing so. Like self-flagellating with a pool noodle. (Yes, another pool noodle reference. Do you understand now just how violent the noodle situation is? Also I dare you to type flagellating without first accidentally typing flatulating.)
Today is Amazon Prime Day. Which means I woke up sweating with twitching iPhone fingers at 3 am (midnight pacific, obvs) because my body knew THE DAY had arrived and my brain has long ago succumbed to the lack of will power in my frontal cortex. (Don’t fact check that.)
At 7:52 am, or 3 kindles, 4 pairs of swim googles, a food dehydrator, 6 solar-powered garden lights and 3 deleted and refilled carts later, I’m heading downstairs to see my husband, Mr. Reasonable (not his real name). My guess is he will approve the garden lights, question the kindles, toss the goggles and avoid the dehydrator because he knows his limits and our kids will end up better for it.
Or, we’ll have a pretty sweet garage sale in September when we are bored of all the aforementioned crap we haven’t yet broken or put aside to return but didn’t return because come on let’s be real nobody returns to amazon.
God, I love today. Happy Prime Day, friends. Be safe out there.
Playroom full of the crap
Sometimes my kids rebuff and resent my attempts to guide them into being healthy, kind, well-adjusted human beings who don’t pee on the floor or smack other people with pool noodles or show affection by farting in one’s face pantsless. (Because I’m an a-hole like that.) They cry and stomp feet and often they, particularly my 6-year old with the soul of a cantankerous aged neighbor weeding his garden, will yell, “I can’t wait until I grow up and I can do whatever I want!” And often, I will respond, “Someday you will be grown but for now enjoy being a kid. You can play and eat treats and cuddle your mom and not have to go to work or pay taxes or have playdates that you know are probably direct sales schemes.”
When you’re a kid you can walk your babies until you don’t want to walk your babies and you throw them in a bush but honestly, adults get super judgy about me doing the same.
But here’s the thing. My kid is right. Being an adult IS kind of awesome! I can see over most people’s heads at the movies. I can stand in the corner of my pantry and eat Halloween candy from 3 years ago without much worry of contracting a parasite because the alcohol has probably sterilized my gut anyway. I can make up excuses and cancel appointments and pick what I want from Whole Foods and cook with real fire and look at real estate on the internet and pretend I drink wine for heart health and have sex and use being tired to get out of having sex and pretty much all nature of things and take a capsule instead of liquid medicine and find a career I love and leave a career I hate and have kids and try and make them good people and then write about it on the internet.
For now, though, my kids will get scolded for pool noodle violence and deal with me feeling superior to them because I don’t sleep in pull-ups. But, I am a grown-up. So I could if I wanted to.
“Is she sleeping through the night yet?”
It takes about 6 minutes post-birth before someone asks you this. At first, I assumed it was concern for my well-being, for my babies’ development. “How sweet!” I thought. “This stranger at Target really wants to have a dialogue about infant night-time habits!”
New parents, I am sorry to tell you that is a load of crap. There are two reasons people ask you if your baby is sleeping. The first is fear. There is a very good possibility that their baby is also not sleeping and they are looking for someone else with whom to toss around under-eye concealer recommendations in a 3 am group text when you’re all up rocking your babies back to sleep. You’ll recognize these people by their extra-large lattes, look of genuine empathy, and possibly mismatched shoes.
My kid was at his two-and-a-half-year-old well-visit the first time he said, “Fuck”.
“How are we doing today?” asked the doctor in his Snoopy tie and smart wire rims, breezily entering the exam room where my naked-by-choice toddler squatted under the exam table looking for lost change.
“Good,” Toddler replied. “I don’t have to get a shot and I didn’t say ‘fuck’.'”
“Good, good, glad to hear it,” the doctor replied, as luckily, while his vocabulary has always been expansive, my kid’s diction was about as good as his set of manners.
“She’s ready for her own bed now.” That’s what I announced to my husband yesterday afternoon. I had thought it the week before last and the week before that and, honestly, two months ago. But yesterday I said it aloud to hold myself accountable. To make it real. Continue reading
I had planned on telling the tales of our summer journey in chronological order. Start with our, ahem, interesting international flight and end with some reflections on all we had learned and experienced and ate and ate. But there is one story that everyone keeps asking about. When someone loses a body part on vacation, I guess it piques interest. So to save the real suspense for future stories that don't involve feet (because ewww), this is how I lost one of my toenails in Italian paradise.