Back when I was pregnant with Biggest, the topic de jour was the gender of my unborn baby. To the folks who would ask, I always said the same thing, “I decided to not find out the baby’s gender.” Most folks’ reaction was of raised eyebrows, which then led to my remark:
There just aren’t enough good surprises.
I’m sitting here with a mimosa slushy and thinking about things. I’ll be the first to admit that the mimosa is probably adding to my tendency to pontificate on the inane, but whatever. They are mind-enhancing things, these mimosa slushies. However, the basis of my heavy thinking is caused more by this time of year I often feel is more the “Time of Giving and Getting” than “Christmas”.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am a fan of giving and getting. Not all things, mind you. The flu, gonorrhea, being audited, headaches…the list of things I don’t want to get is plenty long. But in the context of holidays and celebrations, I’m all for it. Not to excess or as a means to “buy” someone’s affections, but I can get into presents just as much as the next hedonist/capitalist/coveter of stuff. And I love that my kids, especially Biggest is a really good gift giver. But there is a whole aspect to gift giving that makes me break-out into one of those ladylike sheens and worry.
What if they don’t like it?
I moved back to the northwest in 2004. I came back with two kids, no job, and no husband…at least for five days of the week. It took Mister Soandso almost a full year to get a job here and so he commuted back to the Minneapolis area until then. (You know you’ve been living in hotels for too long when you get handwritten Christmas cards from them.) And while it was good to be back in the land of my birth, it was a terrible time for me in many ways. The worst was the realization of how horrid a single parent I was. Well, not all the time. But let’s just say there were times I never want to relive again.
But being a some-of-the-time-single-parent to those two kids at that precise time also had some bright spots.
This is the time of year I think of carousels. Of the real carousels I have ridden and the figurative ones that I often feel I am riding, perhaps without full consent. That sensation of whirling about on harried days filled with far too much to do and see–I am a bit breathless and overwhelmed. But also a bit in awe of the sparkling lights and the endlessly looped music of the season. Yes, the holiday carousels…
I remember the first time I rode a carousel. It was a whirling delight of shiny gold, wooden horses, and jangling music. It was 1974 and I was at the Spokane Expo. My introduction to carousels, tied up with all the other sights, sounds and tastes of a World’s Exposition imparted to me all that is magical about visiting new places. My parents gave me a chance to experience the exotic lands of the world via the hundreds of booths and food vendors. And with the price of a golden token, they allowed me a trip into the magical world of make-believe, a place I was not inclined to often venture as a child.
A carousel makes a mighty fine portal into that place where a child can feel joyous, yes?
You know how there are those things that are so much a part of our lives that we forget life could even be, without them? Those things that make up our normal, our today, our reality. They are as diverse as we are. But many stand in common. My life is always a combination of the chaotic and the sparkly, the disastrous and the lovely. Broken bits, scratches, and dust mingling with the most glorious bits of wonder. In most ways, my life is a process of looking for the good, so that what I see in my “normal” is beautiful and wonderful.
Nineteen years ago, Mister Soandso and I were just starting out our married life together. Oh, we had had two years together already, but not as a married couple. As a his and hers. It was the first week of December, freshly back from our honeymoon at the cold and rainy Oregon beach, and we headed off to the equivalent of a “five and dime” in Portland. We were young and in love and very, very frugal by necessity. But we wanted Christmas. So we selected three boxes of medium glass balls, two strands of plastic pearls, and then Mister Soandso picked up a cardboard box. “We have to have a Christmas Angel,” he said. I was ambivalent. I’d grown up with a spire atop the tree until one year it broke and we got a three-dimensional glittering star. But Mister Soandso wanted an angel. Who was I to deny him?
For nineteen Christmases, our angel has been topping our trees. She lights up, both along the edge of her luminous skirt as well as the single white bulb she grasps in her porcelain hands. Every year when I take her down to put in the box I mistakenly labeled “Christmas Angle” one year, I first must escort outside all the spiders huddled in terror upon her her tinselly wings. For nineteen years she has both lit up our holiday as well as created sanctuary for those in need. She has watched over our Christmases as our family grew from two into five. And for most of those years, she watched us while surrounded by a choir of bunny angels my sister made for us and which Mister Soandso likes to encircle the top of the tree.
My sweet littlest had just scootched over a seat at the table and I had poured myself a cup of coffee. I stood across from him and we chatted about his day, and the computer math game he was playing and all the things we needed to accomplish that day. And then the largest Christmas tree we had ever purchased fell smack down upon the table. It narrowly missed Littlest, and the top of the tree, with the Christmas Angel and her dancing choir of angels smacked me upon the head.
We lost lots of ornaments, it made a big mess, and it was certainly exciting. But a friend said it best. “No one was hurt. She did her job.”
Yes she did. Instead of sitting directly in the tree’s path, Littlest was mere inches to its left. And although it collided with me, I suffer no lasting marks.
As I cleaned up the carnage, I noticed two things. First off, a bunny angel had landed on the keyboard, between Littlest’s hands. And our lovely Angel still seemed to be watching me.