Little hands, sparkly work
The holidays are here! This year, of all years, I really questioned the wisdom of decorating for Christmas. At all. Not because I’m channeling Ebenezer Scrooge, though I am exhausted and holding firmly to my cash.
No, friends, my early holiday fatigue stems from one simple fact: little hands make extra work.
It’s Oliver’s second Christ- mas, and our curious toddler is already fascinated by the spar- kle of the season. My husband started taking Ollie through the seasonal area of a home im- provement store months ago, and our son is delighted by the blow-up characters that appear this time of year. The last time we went shopping, Spence built up the suspense by wheel- ing Ollie slowly toward them so I could see his expression firsthand. My heart grew three sizes — like the Grinch.
But when we get home, it’s another stor y.
We don’t live in a palace. I’ve written many times about our fight against clutter. In the liv- ing room, Oliver’s toys have ex- ploded: underneath couches, across coffee tables, always un- derfoot. I spend many evenings organizing toy cars, books and stuffed animals only to find the room in the exact same state of disarray again the next night.
So we let it go. Resistance is futile.
But at Christmas? I like a peaceful home at Christmas. A tidy, beautiful, set-of-a-Hall- mark-movie sort of home.
Hosting Thanksgiving last week got us off to a good start. I knew we’d go straight from turkey to trimming the tree, so I focused on cleaning. Many of Oliver’s toys were shepherded off to a side room (he hasn’t missed them), and I went to work attacking all the handprints on cabinets, windows and walls. By the time the fam- ily arrived Thursday, we could pass as organized. Maybe.
I took Black Friday off from cleaning, but woke Saturday with an itch to rid my home of all the pumpkins out since La- bor Day. While we get months of jack-o-lanterns and pilgrims, the Christmas window is small: just a month, really. I already felt behind.
Having a child to delight at the holidays gives December a sparkly new sheen. Before Oli- ver’s birth, the youngest child on my mom’s side of the family was a cousin in her late teens — and with no excited kids to look forward to, decking the halls was still fun . . . but didn’t have quite the same luster.
I want to do it up big for Ol- lie, but it’s exhausting. Spencer and I took advantage of a long nap on Saturday to drag boxes up from the basement. When we brought Ollie back down- stairs after his snooze, the living room once home to just his stuff was full of bins and lights — the start of Christmas.
I love the look, smell and feel of a real evergreen tree . . . but let’s be honest: it took all our energy just to get to the oversized box containing the fake one in the basement. I have fond memories of going for a “real” tree with my family growing up, but I’m OK with buying some pine spray and phoning this one in. In a few years, when the kids are old enough to have memories of that one time we actually strapped a live tree to the car, “Christmas Vacation”-style, maybe we’ll consider it.
In the meantime, we had that three-piece tree lit in 30 sec- onds.
Still, I was sweating. Not that that’s unusual. Now more than halfway through my second pregnancy, a single flight of stairs is enough to wind me — and Spencer and I had schlepped tons of stuff upstairs. The holidays are a work-out.
So my reflexes weren’t sharp when Oliver approached the box of ornaments. The special ones, you know: my “baby’s first” orb, as well as Spencer’s and Oliver’s; porcelain ones cel- ebrating our engagement, our wedding, my first pregnancy.
Now that Oliver is old enough to “help” (and wants to), I’m conscious of how we’re encour- aging or discouraging him. A friend once told me the story of how she and her siblings would happily hang ornaments on the family tree only to have her mother come behind and move them all, “correcting” their work. That stayed with her into adulthood.
Oliver is too young to have his ego bruised by my obsessive-compulsive tendencies, but he won’t be in a year or two. My OCD rears up at odd moments, and decorating for Christmas is one of them. I feel this pressing need — self-im- posed, as always — for every- thing to be “perfect,” and Ollie coming behind me to wreck whatever I’ve just arranged makes me crazy. Doesn’t he share my vision?
Of course not. He’s not even two. He sees bright lights, shiny things, sparkly tinsel that gets trapped between our fingers and stuck to our clothes. He sees his parents handing over the least fragile orna- ments for him to hold. Letting him participate.
So we did. I carefully plucked out anything Ollie would be OK to grab and passed it over, tamping down my impulse to “help” him by hanging the ornaments myself.
I marveled at how big he looked next to the Christmas tree: tall and lean, but with the same baby face. Ollie spent the weekend there, practically hugging the tree, plucking ornaments from the bottom tier one by one. He couldn’t even sit up on his own last December and now here he was, running in circles with a plan all his own.
I followed behind, leaving each ornament where he placed it . . . but picking up loose strands of tinsel left floating in his wake.