A fes­tive, year-end fi­nale

Maryland Independent - - Classified - Twit­ter: @right­meg

We’re reach­ing the fi­nale, friends.

I’m hit­ting that point in the hol­i­day sea­son where what­ever has not been pur­chased, wrapped or baked sim­ply will not be — and that’s OK. There has to be a point where we put down the curl­ing rib­bon and pick up the co­coa. Watch a Hall­mark movie (or four). Sing some car­ols. Visit friends. Crunch on candy canes. Even do . . . noth­ing.

This two-week ill­ness has def­i­nitely set me back, but I’m grate­ful that last year’s Christ­mas de­ba­cle was still fresh in my mind when plan­ning this week­end’s fes­tiv­i­ties. Now side­lined by a virus just a week be­fore Christ­mas for the sec­ond year in a row, I’ve learned that you re­ally can­not be too pre­pared. And what­ever prepa­ra­tion you think you did? Prob­a­bly not enough.

I’ve been wrap­ping presents for a thou­sand years, it feels. Back when my hus­band and I could ac­tu­ally cob­ble to­gether some en­ergy for home projects, we worked on re­vamp­ing our base­ment — once home to only left­over boxes from our move in 2014 — and mak­ing bet­ter use of the space.

I told Spencer he could have the ma­jor­ity of the down­stairs as his do­main . . . with one con­di­tion. I wanted a “craft cor­ner” to house my gift wrap, sta­tionery, rib­bons, etc., and I was ob­sessed with hav­ing a counter-height ta­ble on which to wrap. Spencer built me a beau­ti­ful one in the spring, and this hol­i­day was my in­au­gu­ral run with a des­ig­nated space for prep­ping presents.

What a dif­fer­ence. Gift wrap­ping once meant crouch­ing on the ground to bring on a se­ri­ous back­ache or clear­ing off my kitchen ta­ble long enough to drag out all the tape, trim­mings and tags. I’d get a few things wrapped be­fore I’d in­evitably get dis­tracted and take a break, leav­ing all the ac­cou­trements out for days.

With Oliver in­ter­ested in what­ever you’re hold­ing (lit­er­ally — any­thing), I could only imag­ine what wrap­ping gifts with a tod­dler around would be like. He’s been sur­pris­ingly dis­in­ter­ested in the col­or­ful pa­per, pay­ing lit­tle at­ten­tion to tear­ing through gift wrap at my par­ents’ house last week­end. But scis­sors? Tape? Now we’re talk­ing.

As it stands, I’ve been wrap­ping gifts late into the evening af­ter the baby has gone to bed, schlep­ping down into the base­ment to slap bows on a few more things un­til I fi­nally reached the end of the pile on Tues­day night. If you’ve seen me lately, you un­der­stand that go­ing up and down a flight of stairs re­quires men­tal prepa­ra­tion. My cen­ter of grav­ity is way off, and stand­ing for any stretch of time with baby girl John­son weigh­ing me down is a chal­lenge.

But I’m de­ter­mined not to com­plain (too much?) about the com­mon is­sues of preg­nancy. Now ap­proach­ing my third trimester, I know this is where the ad­ven­ture re­ally be­gins. Hav­ing made it to only 32 weeks with Oliver, I’m hop­ing to stretch much closer to full­term . . . which means I’ll also be stretch­ing the lim­its of my ma­ter­nity cloth­ing. And my shoes. And my san­ity. But I’ll be glad — and thank­ful — to do it, be­cause we know all about the al­ter­na­tive.

I’m just glad Christ­mas is hap­pen­ing at this stage of my own slow march to­ward March. I can’t imag­ine be­ing nine months preg­nant — as some friends and fam­ily have been — at the height of the hol­i­day sea­son, wor­ried about mak­ing De­cem­ber awe­some for ev­ery­one else when you re­ally want to just sit by the Christ­mas tree and eat sugar cook­ies. Alone.

I car­ried up the last of the pack­ages on Tues­day, head buzzing with the lim­ited cold medication I could take. It was late, but I was fi­nally fin­ished, high-fiv­ing my hus­band as I trudged back to the liv­ing room. The fi­nal boxes were nes­tled be­neath the tree, oth­ers put aside in bags to take to New York. I was or­ga­nized. Sort of. Ev­ery year I prom­ise that I’m go­ing to start ear­lier, try harder, strive more to en­joy the sea­son rather than pun­ish my­self by spend­ing the wan­ing days be­fore Dec. 25 dash­ing be­tween stores. As the John­sons have now started a tra­di­tion of get­ting sick, too, the pres­sure is re­ally on to wrap things up (pun in­tended) ahead of time.

But that’s be­hind us now, those wor­ries shelved for an­other 11 months. Christ­mas is al­most here. I’m look­ing for­ward to shut­ting down the ol’ lap­top, tuck­ing into my mother-in-law’s famed desserts and watch­ing my sweet son — al­ready a nat­u­ral co­me­dian — dance around on Christ­mas morn­ing.

This is our last hol­i­day as a trio, and I get misty-eyed think­ing of how we’ll have an ex­tra stock­ing hang­ing from the man­tel in 2017. I re­mem­ber think­ing of how ex­cit­ing it would be to have a lit­tle one sit­ting by the tree at all . . . and how strange, too, when it would not be just Spencer and me. We went from dream­ing about “Baby J” in 2014 to hold­ing Oliver just four months later, and haven’t stepped off the roller coaster since.

To stretch back a lit­tle more, I was still wak­ing up in my child­hood bed­room four years ago — rush­ing down­stairs with my younger sis­ter as our par­ents looked on.

Now I’m the par­ent, leav­ing out cook­ies and a mug of milk for Santa. Tend­ing to the last-minute presents and par­ties. En­sur­ing that each card is sent, the ever­green-scented can­dles lit and blown out be­fore bed.

It’s weighty. Life has changed quickly. But I sa­vor each snug­gle, each snack — even the latenight wrap­ping. It mat­ters. This time with loved ones? It’s a gift.

And I’m happy to share it with you, too.

Merry Christ­mas, friends.

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