Lit­tle hands, sparkly work

Maryland Independent - - Classified - Twit­ter: @right­meg

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.

Baby steps.

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