The Gift of a Good Cry
"It's the most wonderful time of the yearrrrrr..."
Has anyone seen that commercial for The Bachelor? Normally, I wouldn't have, but we were visiting Jason's grandparents after Christmas and I saw it on TV. I immediately started laughing. A snarky type of laughter. Not about those poor, beautiful girls crying over a situation that they, themselves, went through a rigorous auditioning process to be placed in. No, instead, I was snickering about how the twisted humor to be found in sobbing hysterically at the most wonderful time of the year applies to this poor woman.
Flashback, Christmas Eve.
Okay... just before Christmas Eve... This year, I felt like I was pretty much on top of the whole holiday thing. I wanted my family to be focused more on how important the birth of Christ is and not on how important the presents were. I had persevered through the entire Christmas card stamping and licking. Being smart enough this year to use Leilee and a wet washcloth to dampen the envelopes instead of my own tongue (yuck!). I had only five cards left on the 23rd that I still needed addresses for, a phenomenal accomplishment. Presents to the in-laws had been mailed BEFORE Christmas. I had conceded to myself that there would be no Christmas cookie plates this year. We stuck with our limit on gifts for family, finding many wonderful, under budget treasures that were just perfect. Presents were flying in via UPS and FedEx. All right on time.
Jason had helped me pick out presents online, and he was busy working his butt off getting firewood for next year. So I quietly worked through everything else on my own (at least, that's what I felt like). Wrapping, planning, sticking, stamping, not complaining. We did our final shop. My sister and her husband came in early. My brother and his wife surprised us. It was all turning out to be a fabulous Christmas.
Christmas Eve eve we planned a family get together for my side of the family. It was at my mom's this year, so I spent the morning getting Christmas cards sent out and cooking at our house. My brother came and got all the kids so that they could go to the creek and play while my mom got things ready there. My sister came and helped me get a few things done, and then she headed back to my mom's. Jason came home from work and asked if I needed help getting things done. I was working on straightening the kitchen and since he had outside stuff to do, I said, 'no, I'm fine'. Which was a lie.
I really needed a few presents wrapped, food in boxes, my casserole and cobbler to cook faster, and to finish getting dressed. Also, I had been repressing frustration about not being with my family all morning. I wanted to spend more time with my brother before he left for Afghanistan, since we had been blessed with having him home for the holidays. I was frustrated that I hadn't finished cards earlier, that my presents weren't wrapped and that I wasn't perfect, darn it. But I didn't say any of that.
So I opened the oven to take out the cobbler that looked done, and it hadn't set up yet, and I lost it. Jason had a plan to wrap it in towels and just go, and all I could do was cry. Since he hates it when I cry for no apparent reason because he doesn't know how to fix it, he left to go work outside. So I blubbered for a while and he came back in. We hugged and talked through it, and I laughed at myself, and we headed up to my mom's for Christmas Eve eve.
First breakdown complete.
Christmas Eve night. The kids were in bed. We had spent the day with my family, having a huge breakfast, signing up for a 5k, and hanging out. Jason had picked up the boys' bookshelf, which had turned out awesome. We went and visited my extended family for dinner. I had taken the kids to the candlelight service, handed out cards, and gotten burned (by candlewax). But now, it was down to the wire. I still had most of the kids' presents to wrap. I couldn't find my paycheck that we needed to deposit into the bank. Then Jason had asked me how I felt about leaving for his grandparent's house six hours away on Christmas night. We would stay for three days to visit with them in the evenings and spend the days helping Jason's brother and his wife move to their new house. Of course I had said yes. What else would I have said? I love them all. That's what family does. I am inwardly freaking out. There were 20 loads of laundry to fold and maybe that many more to wash. The cars all needed cleaned out. Our fridge was full of food that needed eaten in the next two days. I was sad that my brother had left. We hadn't even begun to pack. Then I realized that I couldn't find one of Grady's presents.
Oh, and I was irritated that we still did Santa at our house. I had been reading blogs about Santa taking all the credit and how Santa didn't really deserve to dominate the holiday, and I was still processing all that irritation, coupled with feeling like my hope for a more Christ-centered Christmas was being overshadowed by Santa's big old belly.
Overwhelmed by it all and inwardly irritated that Jason was standing over my shoulder while I put pictures on an SD card for his grandma's digital picture frame, I started getting outwardly irritable. Jason walked out (to avoid my grumpiness), and I started to cry again. And, like I said before, Jason just hates when I cry for no apparent reason. I also do this really annoying thing when I am frustrated where I don't end sentences and huff a lot. That makes it all even worse, especially for a man who can't read my mind and just wants to fix the problem.
So here we are, arguing on Christmas Eve (now Christmas day). Presents for our sweet children, asnooze in their beds, unwrapped. Me hating Santa. And Jason in shock that I lost a present for our child. And get this, our middle child with a "woe is me" complex to begin with. By now, I am straight bawling. Runny nose, puffy eyes. On the day of Christ's birth, I am a sobbing, hysterical mess. And Jason is humming... "it's the most wonderful time of the yearrrrr..." It made no sense to drive to my office at midnight to see if the present was there. If it wasn't, I would have wasted two hours... which I very badly needed. If it was, I would have wasted two hours... which I very badly needed. I wasn't in the mood to write a letter from Santa (who I was hating) about how the elves were behind because of extensive requests for spy gear this year.
We couldn't agree on what to do, so I continued to cry and flop around the house, moving piles and digging through papers and boxes and laundry. Seriously, I cleaned out all the vehicles and went through every work bag (yes, I am so unorganized that I have more than one) and pile of paper (there are LOTS of those) and hiding place looking for Grady's other present and my paycheck. At 1:30 in the morning, I am in my pajamas and Jason's rubber boots, bawling in the driveway, digging through the Subaru... can you hear those sleigh bells jingling? Not over the sounds of my sniffing and huffing.
By 2:30 a.m. Christmas morning, I was somewhat rational. Jason and I had hugged and made up. There was still no present to be found, but a reasonable swap (we still bought them so much) was made. Our middle would not feel slighted. No check to be found, but I figured it would turn up, especially since it was hard to see through all those tears.
At 3ish, I snuck out of bed to stare at all the gifts and the lights on the tree one more time, hoping to snag a teeny bit of cheer out of the waters my tears had created. It didn't matter anymore who got the credit. I still had the joy of giving. Right? Sniff, sniff.
So now, we are home from our visit, Christmas has passed, and all the cardboard has been burned (yep, I'm bad like that). The house is in less disarray, and toys are put away. Our tree is parched and dropping needles, awaiting tomorrow to be undressed and placed by the burn barrel.
And, check update. Found today. Only because Grady spilled his cereal this morning. While I was irritably cleaning up spilled milk, I spied another work bag, tucked in the corner, behind the table, holding all the things I had been missing. I thanked my middle child profusely for spilling his cereal and apologized, with many kisses, for being irritated at all. He beamed confusedly.
If only he knew that I lost his present...
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By Laurel Regan