08 December 2008

Love and peace or else

It was probably about the time that I realized I needed to send my sister a birthday card that it hit me with the force of a 500-lb. bomb: it is indeed December.

Let's face it, the stores have been decorated since October, which doesn't exactly inspire a sense of Christmas reality. The son has been vibrating for about that long, too. The daughter is rather more sanguine, and just getting a list of what she wants has been like pulling teeth out of a chicken. Because, of course, she knows she isn't getting what she's asked for: Swiss army knife, stilts, tool kit. My daughter, the survivalist. (No, I have no idea what the stilts are all about. To retrieve GI Joe when she tosses him up into the tree with his homemade parachute? And no, she's still not getting a chainsaw.)

Christmas is not my favorite holiday. The parts I like are the Christmas tree, especially the fresh woodsy smell, and decorating it and the magpie joy of lights and glittery decorations. I like making cookies and hot chocolate. I like the general sense of generosity. I like the music and the fire in the fireplace, even if it's 80F outside. I like the memories that we make, even though I'm the butt of one of the favorites: the year I dropped the Yule Log cake on the dining room floor.

(I asked my mother-in-law to contribute another Yule Log "that I can drop on the floor" for our Christmas Eve festivities).

I don't like the inflated expectations pushed harder and harder by advertisers and the companies that make little pieces of disposable junk that we're all supposed to covet.

Sure, I do get my family gifts, the kids in particular, but I know the best gift I can give them every year is what we do together, the stories that they can tell and recreate for their own families someday: listening to Patrick Stewart's A Christmas Carol; the Christmas goose I cook every holiday I'm not cooking roast beef with Yorkshire pudding; the Christmas breakfast no one will ever eat because they're stuffed with chocolate already; the cat pulling down the Christmas tree, eating the Christmas tree, puking up the Christmas tree; the dog running in to grab her present from under the tree and running off with it; the toddler daughter on a mission to find Baby Jesus at San Juan Capistrano. That is the stuff of Christmas dreams.

I don't like to admit that I've long since ceased to worry about putting together the perfect holiday. I know it will be perfect, whatever happens, even when the rickety back fence fell down during Christmas breakfast no one was eating in a torrent of termites in the midst of a supersonic windstorm, and we had to run out to prevent our dog from eating the face of the dog in the neighbors' yard, and the neighbor was so drunk at 9am that we knew we'd have to have the conversation about replacing the fence another day. Even the year that influenza hit me so hard and fast that I suddenly had a fever of 103 halfway through making dinner. Especially the year that neighbors B & J got the neighborhood sloshed on cosmopolitans and appletinis in our backyard during the progressive party--they looked so pretty!!

Our family and friends make it perfect.

That's all I want for Christmas.

Well, and for the world to come to its senses, and start playing nice.

I don't ask for much.

Go listen to some music: "Love and Peace or Else" from the album How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb by U2. Or else what? My children have learned not to ask. That's the power of "or else."

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