Wensley had to get a haircut last week. I try to avoid cutting his hair in January and February because it is so dang cold, and he doesn’t deal well with the snow. It couldn’t wait, however. He was getting a bit of a Rastafarian situation on his back end, and it was time.
I brought him home from the groomer and dug through the winter accessories to dig out his sweater. I knitted this for him a few years ago. (There is no pattern to share; I just knitted a rectangle and fashioned it around his body and then sewed it up.) Unfortunately, when I pulled it over his little body, I realized the moths had been at it.
Obviously, Wensley doesn’t care. He doesn’t love wearing sweaters and would be happy to feed the whole thing to the moths of the world. But he stopped shivering once he had it on, and that was the important thing.
I was reminded of a story that David Sedaris wrote in When you Are Engulfed in Flames, where he buys a $400 cashmere sweater but finds it is too nice to wear. He pays a professional designer to “distress” it. Extremely distressed. He writes, “Ordinarily I avoid things that have been distressed, but this sweater had been taken a step further and ruined. Having been destroyed, it is now indestructible, meaning I can wear it without worry.”
This is not a cashmere sweater, but it was handmade. That took a little time. I never felt it was too nice for the dog, clearly. But I used to take it off before I sent him outside to pee. Not anymore! Now Wensley can keep it on and stave off the shivers even while making yellow snow, sweater be damned!
I was having lunch with my girlfriends, most of whom are mothers. Someone ventured down a urinary tract of conversation (insert comedy drum sound here).
“Obviously, I wouldn’t trade my kids for anything, but…” This is, of course, the phrase that launched a million bitches. All totally valid, I’m sure. Children are tyrants. But she went on to say that she was walking uphill when someone or something made her laugh and she “like… peed. Just a little! But, yeah.”
The other mothers in the group shared their own similar stories. In addition to funny hills, there are other situations that my friends admitted to avoiding. Squats, lunges, anything that involves a kettlebell, and sneezing. “I just wear sweatpants all the time,” one Mom shared. “They dry faster.”
I could have sat there, quietly and smug. Implying with my silence that my childless state has left my bladder intact: an impenetrable platinum fortress of pee. But that would be a lie.
“Last week, I was filling up my bird feeder. I went to lift it back onto the hanger and I couldn’t quite get it on the hook way above my head. Then, I suddenly realized that I had to go, and I wasn’t going to make it.”
My friends all laughed, and someone asked if I dropped trou and watered my lawn. I didn’t. I actually did make it back inside. (My snow shoveling session last weekend which has brought this conversation to mind did not end as successfully, damn you snow pants!)
“My point is, maybe having kids made it worse, but I think it’s also just age.” My one other childless friend at the table concurred, but declined to share details.
I’m only 41, for God’s sake. I’m not ready for depends! These are the moments that I remind myself that if I were living in cave times I’d be dead. Or used as bait on big hunts, at the end of my usefulness. Instead I’m lamenting the sunset of my fruitless fertile years and hoping I saved enough for retirement. That’s progress, right?
At some point in the week, a truck (I assume?) came through the neighborhood and collected the discarded Christmas trees. I didn’t see it happen. One day I saw the trees lying in the gutter, a corpse in front of every home, and I thought of the Monte Python line, “bring out your dead!” Then the next afternoon they were gone. One final Christmas magic trick.
My holidays were a whirlwind. As a new step parent, I am learning that Christmas with a child is much more fun, but so much more work! It is possible that we over-do it. The kids don’t need the dozens of elaborate recipes executed to perfection, for instance. They are so focused on Santa and toys and chocolate… and… and… and… But it all feels so important! Who knows what will stick out for them in the decades ahead? What smell, taste, or activity will come to symbolize “Christmas” when they are my age and looking back on it all? That is what we are trying to accomplish here. We simply aren’t baking cookies and roasting turkeys and instigating sword fights with the spent wrapping paper rolls. We are constructing memories! We are making happy childhoods! What could be more important?
I can’t pretend it is only for the kids, I suppose. I always put way too much effort into Christmas. I always expect too much from the day. And I nearly always ruin it for myself by trying too hard and indulging too much. It’s a character flaw of mine, and it burns brightest during the holidays. Do other families have that person, too? The one who goes overboard, wanting everyone to feel her love vibrating through her gifts? The one baking up a storm, wearing light-up earrings, and wearing everyone else out with her enthusiasm? I hope not. I’m exhausting. I wouldn’t wish myself on anyone else’s family, either.
At one point before my family arrived, I started a blog post, but I didn’t finish it in time to post for the holidays. There never seemed to be any TIME! I was too busy putting antlers on things (see below). I’m finishing it now and posting, belatedly. Just in case there was someone else out there who found, once the trees vanished from the street, they weren’t quite ready for Christmas to be over, despite it all.
Every year, I take note of the holiday honking, but then I quickly forget about it. What is that all about? Most of the year, I will occasionally hear someone honking their horn at another car, usually for truly bad behavior. But between Thanksgiving and Christmas, an epidemic of honking breaks out. People are in a hurry, and they are self-absorbed. Everyone has end-of-year deadlines for work and a shopping list the length of their forearm and no time for your bullshit. Each day it hear multiple people honking at cars for making legal maneuvers too quickly or too slowly, or just for existing in space and time. Someone honks at every light the second it turns green. People honk at jaywalkers and bollixed pedestrians wandering aimlessly though a parking lot as if concussed, trying to make sense of it all. Don’t we all feel a little shell-shocked? Can’t we employ a little compassion?
No. This is not the season for compassion. It is the season for douchebaggery. And for grumbling over the line at the post office, at noon on December 19th, when what in God’s name did you think you would find going there on your lunch break? And it is the season for treating retail workers like foam stress balls to be crushed between the fingers and the palm because we are human and therefore terrible.
I was in line at the grocery store’s post office and the woman in front of me was glaring at a the lady at the scale, who was wearing a name tag that said “Hello! I am in training!” I looked over the shoppers shoulder to read the message she was typing on her phone, which said, something to the effect of “OMG, I’m NEVER getting out of here!”
I quickly saw the problem. They woman was trying to save time by posting a package at the grocery store. No big deal. Same thing I was doing. Only this woman was sending something to Myanmar, or Somesuch. And the poor lady behind the counter (who was in her fifties, at her first week of this new job, thinking she was going to be selling eggs and deodorant), was furiously trying to learn how to fill out the customs form. She was asking for her co-workers to help her, but they didn’t know either. Because this is a grocery store! You take complicated crap to a real post office! Especially two days before Christmas! After the woman sent her text, she looked back at me and rolled her eyes with luxurious indignance, inviting me to join in the shaming of the proletariat in the apron. I declined, gazing behind me, as if to see who she was looking at. The man behind me had a shopping cart full of packages; I counted fifteen. This is another shipping mission that, at least during the holidays, should be saved for the real post office, in my opinion. I tried to tell him so with my eyes, but I don’t think he got the message.
After I mailed my small package to an adjacent US state, I wandered back into the store to pick up some chocolates and eggnog flavored salt water taffy to fill up stockings. I stopped at a table for a free sample of brie and sour cherry preserves on a lemon flavored cracker, and as I licked every microscopic crumb off my thumb and index finger I asked myself, “what is wrong with everyone! It’s Christmas! It doesn’t have to be ‘every man for himself!’ Just don’t be an ass-hole. And take deep breaths. Especially in long lines. Keep your sense of humor and we will all get through it together!”
I was still thinking this as I walked out through the sliding glass doors and out to my car, when I passed a white haired lady and her male companion, probably her husband. “Oh, my!” She said to me, and I stopped. I thought maybe she was going to ask if she knew me. I have one of those faces and I get that a lot. “You have a beautiful, smile!” she exclaimed instead, making my day, my Christmas, and my year.
“Thank you so much for saying that!” I said, deciding at the last second not to hug her. “Merry Christmas!” I said to her and her fellow, and I walked to my car.
Here is my Christmas wish for everyone: be that lady. I know, Christmas is Carnage. It is exhausting, and it will kick your ass. Especially if you are a Mom. (Sorry guys, but that’s what I have witnessed. See this Onion article for reference.) But you can focus on the smiles, and call them out when you see them. And if possible, instead of making cashiers go home in tears, make someone smile.
The weird thing about not having had children is that I don’t have a very accurate sense of the passing of time. I just bumped into a friend and I asked how his baby was doing. Apparently his baby is playing lacrosse, now. Which is funny to picture. “Didn’t I just come to the baby shower?” I think. And realize that if by “just” I mean twelve years ago, then yes. I “just” did that.
You would think this would make me panic, but instead the thought that occurred to me was, “It’s so crazy how everyone around me is aging and I’m not.”