Monday, December 31, 2012

O Come All Ye Braggers: Merry Christmas From Me and My Hot Masseuse

O Come All Ye Braggers:  Merry Christmas From Me and My Hot Masseuse

It really chaps my chestnuts when friends send Christmas cards including brag-letters about their amazing trips.  I never go anywhere cool.  My cultural awareness consists of the time Layna and I happened to be at Nuttin’ But Beer ‘n Wings on “Chug Around the World” night.

At Christmas, friends who are normal all year lose their humble filter and send beautiful pictures of themselves on gondolas in Venice and dubious ones of their kids hugging and smiling after the ten-hour flight.  Please.  I could Photoshop too, but I spend all my time not cleaning out from behind the dryer.                            

Here’s an example of holiday brag-mail:

“This year Barbie challenged Babs that if she maintained a 4.0 GPA all year, Barbie would reward her with a trip to Paris!  Her average was a 4.3 so the clan donned their berets and hopped on a plane!  They saw the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, and Barbie discovered she loves champagne and that French people are very nice!   In fact, after several glasses of bubbly, she danced the Can-Can at the Moulin Rouge and several guys gave her very friendly hugs!  Ken bought some manly skinny jeans, and Kenny Jr. wants to pursue an internship in the French Quarter in ‘Nawlins!   Babs was disappointed that no restaurants served “French” fries though!  hee hee!” 


Reading it, I wished I’d skipped the cheesy burrito for lunch.  Just take away my wine and shoot me now if someone uses seven exclamation points in a row and says “donned,” because that’s kind of bizarro unless you’re J. K. Rowling or you collect Lord of the Rings paraphernalia.

Why can’t I take a week off and travel to beautiful places?  Because my fingers are flitting over a keyboard at midnight, editing my kid’s paper on why Zeus and Aphrodite wound up inside the Trojan Horse or something.  Meanwhile, the hands of Edwardo, the hot masseuse, are flitting over my friend’s back in Italy as he coos, “Would you like a leeetle more warm oil, cara mia?”


I shouldn’t be jealous.  I have everything I want.   I ruminate on my blessings driving back from my kid’s basketball camp in Chattanooga and shivering at the crack of dawn at soccer tournaments in Atlanta.  Sometimes I’m so overwhelmed with thankfulness that I’d hit my knees there on the sideline if my rear wasn’t stuck to the bleachers.

But honestly, there’s nowhere I’d rather be.  I’ll never have these days back with my children, but Turks and Caicos will always be there.  I’d rather watch my daughter play point guard than visit some Paradise Point.  I’d rather see her perfect her rise ball than watch a sunrise in Oahu.  And most of all, seeing my daughter’s embarrassment when I volunteer to have her Bible study at my house is priceless.  

In the future I might make it to an exotic location, or maybe even to Dollywood for a Christmas show.  But right now I’m enjoying watching my beautiful children put their old home-made (OK, school-made) ornaments on our tree.  Someday I’ll get to Italy.  And I’m definitely looking up Edwardo .

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Up, Up, and Away in a Manger

I'm reposting a short poem inspired by a picture of my son, at about 10 months old, sitting on Santa's lap.  He looked up at Santa as if he was wondering, "Who the heck are you?"  Then I started thinking about how very young children are probably confused about the whole Santa and Jesus thing.  Here's my interpretation of their confusion....

Mommy brought me in with her
To say hello to you.
But I’m not sure about this , Sir,
“Just what is it you do?”

Mommy said you were born on Christmas day
And you fly with reindeer too,
Bringing gift to girls and boys
Like the Wisemen brought to you.
Daddy said to ask you for things I want
And not be naughty, but nice,
And remember to thank you for all you brought
When I pray and close my eyes.
Sir, I’m not sure what it is you do,
But Mommy always talks to you.
Mom and Dad believe in you 
And they said that I should too.
So, Sir, put in your sleigh some trucks and trains
When from Bethlehem you come.
Dad knows you can do ANYTHING —
‘Cause you brought ME to him and mom.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Sleighfull of Magic Memories

At Christmas my nostalgia rises like the aroma of Slice-n-Bake snickerdoodles wafting through the kitchen.  'Cuz I'm kinda like Peg Bundy instead of Martha Stewart.

When my son comes home from college this month, I’ll pop a luscious Mrs. Smith’s pumpkin pie and Sister Schubert’s rolls in the oven to recreate the home-made aroma of Christmases Past, just like he remembers.  Nothing less for MY son.   

We’ll buy our live tree and decorate it together with the kids’ old handmade ornaments.  And like always, I’ll reminisce about the magic that permeated our home when little hands wrote crayon letters to “Santa Cwaus at de Nawth Po.”  

Dreaming of racetracks and toy kitchens with real sizzling sounds, my kids used to climb up on the mall Santa’s velvety lap.  One year, as I watched them there within the finger-licking scent of Cinnabon, I realized MY dreams had all come true.  

I stood in grateful silence.  Amid the chaos of scrambling elves and flashing cameras, I breathed an epiphany that grabbed my soul with both hands. It opened my heart like a sacred book, etching within its pages close-up snapshots of Dimples and Bashful in a smocked dress.  And the timid essence of a chubby little finger reaching for Santa’s beard.

The Jolly Guy gave them a treat as they slid from his lap.  But I didn’t realize I would turn around and their hands would clutch car keys instead of candy canes.

It seems like yesterday that three freshly-bathed kids, waiting for Rudolph, snuggled up to Dad as he read The Night Before Christmas.  My two girls with pink, chipped toenails peeking out from Barbie nightgowns.  And my son in his Star Wars t-shirt leaning in close behind Dad’s ear.  They hung on every word, and Dad paused at the end of each sentence so they could finish the rhyme.  

I never imagined listening to Dad would be so hard for them when they became teenagers.

Christmas Day meant the patter of four little feet in footy pajamas tearing down the hall and a wide-eyed, squealing baby girl toddling after the fun.  She was just happy to be puttering behind her brother and sister, learning by heart the meaning of Family and Forevers and Fa-la-la’s.  I was too.

Toddlers in full-body fleece were long ago replaced by teenage girls in boxer shorts.  But I often stroll through photo albums and love on my sleighfull of memories wrapped in Silent Nights and Little Tikes.  

Leaping from fuzzy Polaroids, my snaggle-toothed Cindy Lou Whos bear hug me, and I forget the frustration of finding red icing smeared into the carpet and meltdowns in the toy department.  And sometimes it was the kids who melted down.

Once while Christmas shopping, I almost had a mental collapse changing a diaper under the raised tailgate of my SUV.  Unusually stressed, I fumbled with the sticky strips in drizzling rain while the other kids’ fists were flying in the backseat.  I felt a familiar twinge of bat crazy twisting from my stomach when a misguided Happy Meal toy smacked me squarely on the forehead and a Goodnight Moon book whizzed past my ear.  

Every inch of me wanted to scream, “I don’t deserve this!” but I tried to remember the awe of kneeling beside them after bedtime prayers and butterfly kisses.  That sense of wonder always washed away the spilled sippy cups of exasperation and every bit of drippy ice cream on new shoes. 

These days I am humbled when I steal into my teenagers’ rooms at night and kneel in the same holy spot I’ve knelt in for eighteen Christmases.  The sense of Extraordinary cleanses away the leaking Gatorade bottles of frustration and every ounce of dripping sarcasm on the phone.  It’s that magical moment of the day when I linger over their amazing, lumpy bodies under the covers.  My misty eyes trickle praises to the Creator and I marvel, “What did I ever do to deserve this?”

Saturday, December 8, 2012

It's Not My Fault! It's the Elf On the Shelf!

It’s Not My Fault!  It’s the Elf On the Shelf!

How do you know it’s the day after Halloween?  Every suburban strip mall blitzes red and green, and declares that evil is SO yesterday and all the cool people are now into elves and eggnog.  Spooky store windows seem to turn on hinges revealing their twinkling toyshop side like in Harry Potter.

For me, Christmas decorations inspire warm and fuzzy stress.  From the depths of my eggnog, I feel a compulsion to create the most outrageously holiday doorway and tablescape in the neighborhood.

When my children were younger, I jumped on the Pretentious Party Bus and labored over mantle mania, fir flamboyance, and bannister blow-out.

The themes flanking my entry consisted of everything from “Who-ville Yule” to “Holiday at Hogwarts:  Glad tidings from Griffindor!”    

And don’t even get me started about that creepy Elf on the Shelf.  My first Elf bolted because I ordered him to clean up his messy, late-night Patron exploits involving strewn Coco Puffs.


But later I succumbed to kid pressure and bought another Elf who unfortunately “enabled” my G.O.D. (Gone Overboard Disease)

I hosted an amazing NASCAR Christmas party.  As guests strolled through my threshold laden with 1,027 blue spruce branches, most of them didn’t even notice the colorful race cars and checkered flags arranged in the greenery.   Ken dolls dressed as Jeff Gordon with Santa hats and barely-dressed Malibu Barbies kissed for photo ops.  And elves changed tiny tires. And beer-chugging fans dressed in little Willie Nelson t-shirts.

My oblivious guests went straight for the drunk dog cocktail weenies and never noticed the angel tree topper dressed in a black and red #24 jumpsuit and my official Budweiser tablecloth.  

The next day, I found my suicidal Elf, who could no longer take the pressure, hanging by his tongue from an ice sculpture of the Daytona 500 trophy.

Age and exhaustion cured me of G.O.D.  My enabling Elf on the Shelf went to be with the Big Jolly Guy in the Sky after freezing to death from the ice sculpture debacle.  

My family says if I’m ever tempted to buy another Little Elf that rouses my addiction, they will stage an intervention and cut up my Hobby Lobby Visa card.