Fa la la

I was thinking about this post from the archives as I reflect on just how little I celebrate Christmas, and what a welcome change that is.  It's taken a few years for all of the obligations to melt away, and I'm just left with the core of goodness -- a meal with my kids, a walk with my dog, and a few moments here and there with loved ones.

Twenty five years ago, I was creating a handmade tree skirt for the Christmas tree, and making all manner of baked goods to give out to people who were probably watching their diet, and shopping to procure the mound of gifts that everyone expected to be under the tree.  Now, I do none of that.  I haven't purchased a gift, decorated, or baked, and I'm grateful that my kids understand that this isn't about being a grinch, but rather, trying to take better care of myself and the planet than I have in the past, and being able to really enjoy the magic of this season:  time together, glimpses of sun on the dark days, the bright full moon, and crisp mornings in the woods.

Much love to everyone.  And if you're a mother putting on a Christmas show for everyone else, my hat is off to you.  Be kind to yourself.

Many of the mothers are on the edge today, the brink of Christmas. There is still a mountain of chores to do. It's time to take a breath and enjoy the season, but instead of a breath, it's a sharp inhale, more like a sob.

It's with these women that I've had the most fun, talking, crying, laughing, admitting the toll of the season. This, I've discovered, is what matters.

Yesterday, I cracked. I snapped at my kids, went into a giant tirade about how they should help me more, be more considerate, how Christmas isn't fun at all for me. I was in a huge rage that I couldn't squelch. it started slowly, over several days. By yesterday afternoon, I said, hey, I need a nap. I'm at the edge of my rope. I'm going to lie down for an hour. But as soon as I began to doze off, loud metal music started to blare through the house at top volume. I laid there for a few minutes, hoping there had been a mistake, they didn't mean to make it quite so loud, hoping that someone would correct this. But it continued. I got up, realizing that my tiny window for a nap had just disappeared.

That's when I cracked, and started a passive aggressive tirade that began like this:

"Children, would it be considerate or inconsiderate to blare music when someone who has just claimed to be at the edge of her rope is trying to sleep?" I was sobbing as I said it, though, an emotional wad of angel hair pasta -- fragile and tangled in such a way that unravelling things would definitely involved breaking strands.

I don't know if my kids would call this my most memorable losing it moment. I think if we held an election, they'd probably vote for the time that we were back-to-school shopping in Target on a gorgeous August day, and I suddenly got so repulsed by us walking around in that horrible store throwing plastic things in our cart amidst that smell of food and people in polyester sweating, not good sweat but nervous indoor sweat, with that garish fluorescent lighting making it look like nuclear winter in the middle of August. I felt like we were in the fast consumer part of Koyaanisqatsi, and it was urgent that we get out of there right away.  Every cell in my body was screaming FLIGHT!  FLIGHT!  I felt a ridiculous urgency, as if survival of the species depended on me, right then, to put a stop to all of this shopping. We abandoned our half full cart, and left, to my kids' dismay. We drove home with nothing, wasting half a day, and I made us all go swimming in the lake. I think they'd vote for that as my most memorable losing it episode, and I'd be outnumbered, but I'd still vote for the pre-Christmas nap sobbing incident.

Fortunately, the story doesn't end there. I pulled myself together, we all apologized, blah blah blah. But the damage was done, and I was embarrassed and sorry that I allowed myself to get to such a place.

But I take perverse comfort in this: all of the other mothers are also losing it. I got a phone call from a friend, crying. She's upset at the same things that are bugging me. Another friend stops by and starts to cry as she thinks about how little help she's received in preparing for the holiday. As another mother drops her son off to play with mine, and I see her tear-stained face.  She asks, "are you always calm, or do you yell at your kids around the holidays?"

At any rate, I don't feel so frazzled around this time of year anymore, but I think there is some collective tenderness out there, especially in these northern dark places. Be good to yourselves, my friends. Enjoy your people.


  1. The older I get, the more I wonder why we continue to follow all the traditions of the season. I think you have reduced it all down to the important elements. So - enjoy your people, too, and Happy New Year, Betsy!

    1. Glad tidings of the season! May the year be full of wonder and goodness for you and yours.

    2. We tend to keep it simple for just those reasons. It is a day like any other, but with a bit of gift exchange in the morning and maybe an expensive cut of meat for dinner. A lot of lollygagging during the day with a nap thrown in for good measure. I did go out for a walk to pre burn some calories.


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