Monday, December 1, 2008

The Nighmare Before Christmas.....

I will admit from the start - my head was filled with visions of grandeur this year. I was thinking what a breeze, what a delight, what a joy it would be to decorate this year! I envisioned Aidan, a very capable 4 1/2 year old, listening attentively and carefully to every direction I might give. I dreamed that Leo, moving beyond the stage of putting everything into his mouth, might even allow us to hang the bulbs and more delicate ornaments this year...

Clearly, I was delusional. If I know one thing for absolute certainty, it is this: decorating with children is not fun. People who say so are either lying, or are not telling the truth. Or have not ever decorated with children. Case in point:

As is our tradition, we picked out our tree the day after Thanksgiving and dug out all the decorations to transform our home into a Christmas wonderland. (Never mind the seemingly endless complication of our mid-summer flood, which forced us to relocate many of our decorations to our.... "storage facility." Never mind that the snow people and window lights are still MIA, and that it took exorbitant amount of effort to locate the tree skirt and kids' books. But never mind all that.)

Aidan was simply beside himself with excitement. He even said so. As I frantically tried to unpack each Nutcracker before he could dig the next one out himself (dropping it on the floor in the process) I tried very hard to keep my tone light as I patiently explained why, exactly, the Nutcrackers couldn't actually crack the acorns he found outside... the steel nuts he has from Grandpa's workshop.... and why the solider Nutcracker would actually never do any harm with his sword....

I threw the Nutcrackers up on the shelves in a haphazard manner - at least they were now out of the kids' reach - and bolted in to rescue the glittery faux fruit-embellished wreath that I painstakingly made the year Aidan was born (when I had free time! And didn't even know how much free time I had!!) from Leo's fingers. Leo, undeterred by the abnormally large size of the apple, not to mention the large pieces of glitter covering the fruit, was beside himself that I would not allow him to actually eat the apple. (What was that I was saying about not putting stuff in his mouth?)

Next, I tore through the carefully wrapped tissue paper, seeking each piece to the many nativity sets we have, grabbing the baby Jesus out of grubby hands and rescuing headpieces of the three wise men. I threw them into the china cabinet and locked the paneled door, only pausing long enough to make sure each Jesus was with his Mary.

Finally, onto the tree. And actually, we got off to a very fun start. I love unwrapping each ornament, reminiscing about where it came from or who gave it to me or to us. I have many ornaments from my childhood (although not nearly as many as my brother has - second child syndrome and all) and we have continued the tradition of collecting ornaments on each family vacation we have, starting with our honeymoon in Bar Harbor. And then there are a few ornaments, some of which are Jeff's, a few of which are mine, that are hideously ugly, and yet we each refuse to part with them. We love to harass each other about them, even encouraging the kids to handle them in the hopes that they will break and therefore need to be pitched.... but they are oddly indestructable.

However, as all tree decorating eventually goes, things started to get out of hand. The allure of hanging ornaments was lost, along with at least two ornament casualties. Then Aidan got a hold of the angel tree topper, and alternately tried to balance her on his head while announcing "Caps for Sale!" and playing air guitar with the small lute she holds in her arms with very loud, rock-style gusto. (He somehow manages to get the ear piercing twang of the strings just right.)

Leo, meanwhile, invented a game of his own. He found a small horn ornament of Jeff's, and was blowing loudly on the tiny mouthpiece, trying to play it. Then he would bring it to Jeff, who would hang it up, and the next minute Leo had un-decorated it and was playing it again. It only really turned into a game when Jeff actually tried to hide it from Leo each time.... yet Leo found it each time, and eventually refused to let Jeff hang it at all. He traipsed around with it until dinnertime.

Did I mention that by this point the tree skirt had been found, and Zoe, our kitty, views this tree skirt as her arch-enemy and attacks it every chance she gets? And that this really, really upsets Leo, who yells at the top of his lungs "Zo Zo!! ZO ZO!!!" each time she does this?

Weary and utterly spent, I gave up on the rest. I made a list of what else needed to be done, and checked it twice. As I sat by myself in the living room, filled with a beautiful tree but many empty boxes and unfinished decorating, I marveled at what I was thinking earlier, envisioning my Hallmark-commercial-decking-the-halls bit. But then, from the other room, I heard Aidan delighting in arranging his own nativity set, describing each person and animal to Leo. He told Leo all about the angel Gabriel, and even mentioned that this was where Leo got his middle name. Leo had gotten his hands on a small reindeer that plays "Jingle Bell Rock" over and over when you press on his hoof, and he was absolutely smitten. Aidan kept looking at the advent calendar and marveling at how "soon" it is until Christmas day. Leo learned to say "Mary" and "Ho Ho Ho!" and kept pointing at the lights and signing "light!" And the visions of grandeur returned. And I felt like it was all worth it again, all the aggravation and frustration, just to see what joy the chaos had brought to each of them, to see the transformation of the magic that Christmas can bring.

"Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time." Laura Ingalls Wilder

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