We put up our Christmas tree last night. Simultaneously, we were finishing up a bit of painting in our dining room, installing some shelving on a dining room wall, and re-hanging doors on my kitchen cupboards.
I think it's safe to say we were attempting to do a few too many things all at once. That's how we roll.
So that could be the reason. The reason our Christmas Tree Decorating Family Time was a bit wonky. Family time around here is always a layered, complicated affair. We've got the children happily diving into ornament boxes, emerging with old favorites and happy memories. We've got the dizzying range of Christmas music filling the house, from the Messiah to Bob Dylan. We've got kids coming up with lovely ways to decorate their own rooms with left over tree branches and lights. We've got children dancing around the tree with sheer, unadulterated glee.
We've also got the bickering, the hurt feelings, the jockeying for prominent position for favored ornaments. We've got: "Her ornament is so ugly -- if we put it in front of the window, people will be able to see it! Can't we hide it?" We've got tears of disappointment when it turns out to be too late to start watching It's a Wonderful Life. We've got grumpy parents and ungrateful offspring.
It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.
And I think that's the point: to shed any notion of what perfect family time is supposed to look like and take each other where we are. The oldest and the 4th born? They feel animosity towards each other for the other 11 months of the year, so they aren't going to miraculously be good to each other just because it's Advent. The youngest? She has no design sense. Her contributions to the tree are sort of an anti-Martha anthem. The middle one? The one over there weeping in the corner? Maybe she's over tired, or her head hurts, or she's pissed that there's no hot chocolate. And the one who can't quite believe that even though we brought a tree home tonight, I still made him do his evening chore of washing the dinner dishes, well, I have to believe he will get over it.
In the end, a tree imperfectly purchased, lugged home, put up, lit and decorated is still a Christmas tree. The messy house still smells like pine needles. The ornaments still invite us to reminisce about Christmases past. In the end, before they trundle off to bed, some grumpy, some not, they still got to stand in front of the house oo-ing and ah-ing over the pretty white lights.
Family time, like my house, is messy. As are love, Christmas, children, marriage and life. In other words, everything good.
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