There was once a time when I might enjoy a bit too much eggnog at a holiday party, grab my better half’s hand, and sneak giggling away into the guest bathroom to steal a little smooch . . . so caught up in the holiday spirit and so aglow and so young and so in love that while I may be able to restrain from PDA, I cannot contain my enthusiasm for a little covert Christmas kiss.
Times have changed.
Or rather I have changed. This is shocking to report, but . . . over the years, with time passing, against all that I have done to prevent it from happening . . . I have grown old. At every turn, I am reminded of all the ways that I am not young anymore. The eyes, the thighs, the creaks and cracks – Lord, it is overwhelming sometimes. Not that I am particularly vain, but when the aging changes lead to changes in how you do your life, rather than how you look doing it, that is cause for concern.
Of course, I still love my dear husband and thank my lucky stars that he is in my life. I see him from across the room at our most recent holiday party and note how handsome he looks in his cashmere sweater and cords. I would grab his hand and go for that stolen kiss, it does cross my mind, except I really have to go . . . If I don’t get to the bathroom soon there’s gonna be a HUGE problem . . . post-kids the bladder just ain’t what it used to be (case in point). So I take it on a slow jog (uh oh, bad idea) I take it on a fast walk down the hall to the bathroom and thankfully its free.
So I try to undress to the extent that I need to in order to pee, and notice there is a little bit of a problem . . . I mean, there is a lot going on with this outfit. And by a lot, I don’t mean Christmas sparkles or jewels, or sexy skin showing, or even holiday-themed stitching and colors. I mean, it was like going through four layers to get to where I could take care of business.
And maybe it was too many glasses of red wine, or perhaps that ill-advised first celebratory glass of bubbly champagne to kick off the evening, but damn if I couldn’t get my dressy ass DRESSED again on the back end. I mean, I was tugging on Spanx, pulling up tights, adjusting underwear, holding the hem of my slip with my teeth, for God’s sake. All the while barely balancing on the high heels of my dressy boots, hoping I didn’t come crashing down into the john once and for all.
And then, THEN there’s the knock on the door . . . and that deja vous–y feeling of panic . . . is it locked? Shit, I did lock it, right? Of course, in the olden days WE would have been embarrassed if someone walked in on us together smooching at the sink. On this night, however, I am mortified to think that someone may open the door to this partially naked, slipping Spanking scene and pass out with horror.
“Just a minute,” I screech, too loudly, too cheerfully, goodness knows what they think I am doing in here, probably cocaine, or maybe taking a hit off some holiday crafting glue (more the speed of the SAHM set), as hyped up as I sound. OK, Mae, get your shit together.
Deep breath. Underwear. Spanx. Tights. Slip. Dress. Breathe again.
Towel off beads of sweat from brow and practice a calm, friendly smile in the mirror. Leave bathroom disaster and head across room to husband, still handsome. Smile for real, grateful, when he reaches for my hand and holds it lightly while talking to friends.
I feel like I have run a marathon. Who knew the holidays could be so exhausting?
Well, really, I take that back. We all know that. And given the breakneck pace combined with the materialism combined with the perfectionist aspirations combined with the decoration extravaganzas it is easy to get overwhelmed. And have the holiday spirit knocked out of you with the force of a sucker punch.
Sometimes you can feel it coming. I knew I was heading towards a raging case of Scroogitis when I was offered the chance to go to a gorgeous Christmas Tree Farm, drink warm cider while taking in the breathtaking mountain sights on a hayride, pick my very own Christmas Tree with my family, and watch as it was cut down before our very eyes . . . and I was VERY HESITANT to jump on this holiday hay wagon. The problem? It was the weekend after Thanksgiving.
“Ummmm, but, it’s Thanksgiving!” I protested to my husband. “I mean, I didn’t have the tree in the mix until at least the first full weekend of December! I’m not ready . . . “
“What do you have to do to be ready?” he asks, “We pick the tree, we cut it down, we bring it home, ta- da! You are ahead of the game!”
How could I adequately explain the craziness that unfolds when it is time to do the tree? The trek up the attic stairs, slowly, dread mounting. At the top I look to the back corner for the boxes. The seemingly endless boxes taped and stacked from the prior year.
That to do the tree means to get the stand, and the lights, the boxes of ornaments, candles, angels, advent wreath, preschool Christmas creations, mantle fare, Christmas books, table decorations, stockings, linens, china . . . .
Yeah, that part sucks, and mostly because it is so COUNTER to what the season is really about. The irony kills me, because this is an important holiday in my faith tradition, and it is absolutely contaminated with all of this stuff.
It brings to mind this awesome painting I have in my bedroom by Sister Louisa (aka Grant Henry), which depicts The Last Supper, but with the addition of several cartoon speech bubbles:
“Separate checks, please!” the first one says.
“That’s ok, I’ll be paying the price for all of you,” Jesus responds, to which a clueless disciple quips, “He’s rich!”
Ahhhh, clueless is right, so very clueless and so very human. Missing the point, the miraculous and impending point, so completely. That’s how I can get to feeling during the crazy Christmas season, so bursting at the seams with stuff.
But let’s face it: the stuff is part of the tradition, there’s no way around it. I used to think that it would take a miracle for me to come to terms with it, but then I remembered Marianne Williamson wrote that a miracle is only a change in perception.
So, okay, fine . . . here goes : As badly as it stinks to feel overwhelmed by that part of it, once it is all said and done and the tree is up and the house is decorated, and the poinsettias frame the fireplace and the lights come on outside once it is dark . . . It really is nice. It touches some part of you that looked at the lights when you were a kid; that balanced on your tippy toes to see the tops of the trees, so excited that it was time to decorate; the anticipation, the love of family, the beautiful music — all of it can be part of bringing you back to where you need to be, where you should have been all along.
All the stuff of tradition — it is possible for it all to work for you, and not against you in your holiday quest – the good, the bad, the ugly (the Spanx! Even the Spanx!) – think of it all as part of your silly, clueless, sometimes marvelous, sometimes mundane, always so very human quest . . . in the end, our very imperfection is made right, and not by ingenious undergarments, or by shiny tinsel, or by holiday treats wrapped up in a bow.
But by something else entirely:
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord . . . “
Maybe what I need to say is: Thank you . . . for the gift of this crazy, full life.
And all the people said . . . . Amen.