A festive, year-end finale
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.