Wasn’t it? I could swear it was just last week I was turkey shopping, trying to remember all the food items that go into our family’s traditional meal, cranberry sauce (we are a canned family, don’t judge us), stuffing, brownies instead of pie because my kids are weird and don’t like pie (who doesn’t like pie?!).
I could swear it was just last week when we were all sitting around our increasingly crowded dining room table, the kids wearing their little Thanksgiving craft hats, the glitter glue still shining in spots on the table, a little smear of red glitter under the napkin, my pinky finger swiped with silver glitter from picking up my fork. A pretty and messy leftover from the time we spent together gluing cut out feathers onto cut out headbands just a few hours before.
With all the prep work that goes into a full Thanksgiving meal, the eating part really does go by fast, especially with little kids. As you try to cajole them into at least trying a bite of turkey, here try it with the stuffing you like stuffing, you make sure everything is on the table, butter, salt, wine (yes, yes, wine) and then you get up over and over again to get more stuff. The sippy cup. More egg nog. More butter. Another fork because one got dropped. Another fork, yes he dropped his too. You sit down, tired yet happy, just in time for them to finish up and look at you with pleading faces to be released from the table so they can luxuriate in the endless hours of no school on a weekday. All that prep work, all those hours cooking the turkey, and the main event is over. Now go wash the dishes.
That’s what I feel like I’ve been doing lately. A lot of prep. Most of our lives are prep right now. Get the clothes washed so they can wear them to school and make sure to teach them to put those clothes back in the hamper not the floor so you can wash them again, maybe teach them to do it themselves sometimes when you have “extra” time so they can be competent adults. Homework prep. Teaching, teaching, teaching. Going over test stuff. Getting ready. Getting them ready for the next test, the next level, the next grade, the next performance.
My 6 year old spent weeks doing her prep for the Nutcracker. Hours in the studio making sure they all got their little parts right, getting the bun perfect for rehearsals, making sure she had the right tights, and as we sat there in the audience the time seemed to fly by too quickly and it was all over. I cried because I am just a crier now, and I cried because it was all over too fast. All that work she put in and I wanted to savor it for longer, I tried to force myself to keep replaying the images in my mind on the ride home that night so I wouldn’t forget. I wanted to hold onto that feeling of just enjoying the moment rather than focusing on the prep like usual. Preparation is of course necessary, I’m not going to argue that. It’s even more necessary when you have four kids, you need a good deal of prep just to get them all out the door clothed and fed and hopefully on time. Prep keeps our little family ship afloat. But how much time am I prepping, and how much time am I savoring?
And then I come to now, today, it’s almost Christmas. Everyone keeps asking, “Are you ready for Christmas?”. Am I ready? It doesn’t matter if I’m “ready”, it’s going to happen. Whether I have every gift picked out and paid for, carefully wrapped and placed under a tastefully decorated tree, it’s going to happen. It will be here. And no, I’m not “ready”. We don’t have a tree yet. An almost week-long stay in the hospital last week for kidney stones prevented that from happening. The gifts, I have those, that was easy. We have tentative food plans. I put some decorations up. But I’m not “ready”, because it is all going too fast and I feel like I can’t catch up.
Don’t get me wrong, I love all the holiday magic. Hauling out the ornaments, remembering them again for another year, finding your favorites, these little baubles are almost like tiny time capsules, holding memories of all those holidays past. I also love giving the kids presents, there’s nothing quite like seeing their little faces light up when they rip off the paper to find something really exciting, especially when they still believe in the elves and Santa and all the magic of the whole experience.
So, I’m letting go of some of the prep to make time for enjoying more of the time together. I’m going to let the kids do most of the tree trimming, and although my latent OCD tendencies will cry out in my brain: “THERE ARE TOO MANY ORNAMENTS ON THAT ONE SIDE! SPACE THEM OUT!” I will sit back, sip some mulled wine, and just enjoy the fact that I have all these kids together under one warm roof and enough money to buy a tree to put up inside to hang ornaments on. I’m hoping by prepping less this year my kids will understand more what the whole point of the holiday season is. That the time together itself is a gift, and it is one that we don’t all get to have, either, that it isn’t one to be squandered.
While I was in the hospital last week my mom found out she would have to undergo another surgery, a mastectomy this time, and I have to admit, it was a blow. One that we were hoping wouldn’t be the case, but one that we are hoping will be the first step toward her being cancer free. It definitely isn’t something that we were ready for. That whole experience itself has happened so fast, didn’t she just get diagnosed? Didn’t that just happen like last week?! And yet here we are, it’s happening, and even with no prep time it is something that she will get through, something that we will all get through, if only simply because time and the passing of time forces you to go through it. Originally, when she told me about the next surgery, they had scheduled it for December 23rd, and of course my first instinct was to protest that date, it would be Christmas! What about Christmas?! But I didn’t say it. Her health, this happening, her being well, is more important, and Christmas can go suck it if this is what needs to happen first. The kids wouldn’t mind waiting for Christmas, this takes priority. And to be honest, I wasn’t super excited about celebrating anything at that point. Wallowing, that sounded more like it.
But thankfully, the surgeon gave the okay to postpone it till after the new year, so we will all celebrate the holiday together, and for that I am grateful. So grateful for the time. I remember as a kid asking my parents what they wanted for Christmas, and they always said they didn’t want presents. Didn’t want presents?! That was crazy talk to me, I had no idea how they could not possibly want anything at all. But I get it now. I have zero things on my list this year besides just getting to be together. Underneath all the mistletoe and holly, the cute wrapping paper and the lights, underneath the tree and the treats and the carols and the cards, that’s what you have, this time. For this year I wish you all so much happiness, and togetherness. And once again, know how much your thoughts and prayers have meant, especially right now. Happy Holidays to everyone, sending you all love and hugs from my family to yours. xoxo