We got the tree…and shit.

We are in the home-stretch of the trifuckta – Halloween, Thanksgiving and Chrismakkuh. Yes, the holidays are great. They are awe-inspiring and wondrous. They are fun, but, they are also incredibly, utterly exhausting. October through December is like a presidential term. You cram 15 pounds of living into a 5 pound bag; meanwhile, all of your delegates hate you and ask for things you couldn’t provide even if you wanted to. And, most of the time you have no interest in providing anything at all because the delegates are always screaming. No one wants to give screaming people a damn thing. So, we exit the term looking 15 years older and possibly with a drinking problem or, we retreat after a highly publicized scandal when you fly off the handle at a PTA meeting after setting a budget spreadsheet on fire. I mean, allegedly.

I have decorated for every holiday. The main ingredient I use to make it all really dazzling is love. The second ingredient is screaming, “Don’t touch ANYTHING!” over and over again – losing it just enough to make them properly dysfunctional for their future families. It’s a tough job, but, somebody has to do it.

Yesterday, we got the tree. We put it in our house. We put on the lights. Everyone cried. Today, we put on the ornaments with friends, we had hot chocolate and…yep, everyone cried.

We made paper rings. They cried.

I bought the gingerbread house and…you guessed it, everyone cried. It wasn’t the village. How dare I not get the village? Insert “it takes a village!” joke here.

I made macaroni and cheese – their favorite! I put turkey in it – they cried.

Effort and tears. Effort and tears. It’s the story of my life or, a really good name for a Lilith Fair compilation CD.

Norman Rockwell’s images are deployed by my neurons every year. I want the smiling faces around a tree. The soft, warm living room – slippers and cocoa while a quiet snow falls covering bare branches. I want something that doesn’t exist. Because life moves and children cry and ornaments hang lopsided. Life isn’t perfect – ever. Not even around a fat, jolly tree. Finally, I’m starting to accept this.

This is the first year I did not re-decorate the tree after the children went to sleep. I left it in “as is condition”. This afternoon, they approached with their ornaments as if rabid. Flying paper and in 15 minutes it was done. I left it full of holes – some limbs heavy and some untouched. The most hideous ornaments are proudly gathered up front while the gorgeous, heirlooms hang hidden on the back. A crumpled tree skirt and a very visible extension cord. Normal Rockwell doesn’t live here, but, we do. And this is what our Christmas looks like. Heavy branches, lots of tears and a frazzled mother doing the best she can to live inside our reality.

When they look back, I just want them to be able to say, “It wasn’t picture perfect, but, we loved it anyway.” And, “Someone get mom a drink before she redecorates the tree.”

Merry, Happy Everything.


  1. This REALLY made me laugh. I moved the ugly ornaments. You know, so the *cough* tree doesn’t fall over (like it did that one time).

  2. The kids actually did a better job with the ornament distribution this year. I didn’t bother with many of the really pretty or delicate ones (and I put those few on myself, up high where the boys couldn’t reach). The real problem this year is our 5-month old kittens who are determined to eat the fake tree, play with ornaments and lights, and climb around inside it, making it wobble precariously. Our elf was set last night, holding onto the star on top of the tree; however, this morning, he and the star had toppled 1/4 of the way down the side of the tree thanks to the little beasts. Luckily, the boys took it all in stride and told the elf he should pick a better place next time.

  3. This is perfect. Our weekend of decorating was so perfectly dysfunctional that Mark and I finally looked at each other and just started laughing while everyone was laughing/screaming/throwing ornaments. We even took them swimming SWIMMING! and they all cried the whole way home because we didn’t buy the foot tall candy filled candy canes at the pool exit.
    Somehow we really still do love Christmas though don’t we? This is why we are crazy or mothers.

  4. You’ve inspired me – I gave up on my Good Housekeeping-ready silver and red twinkling tree, but this year I’m going to try to let go of redecorating, too. After all, there’s only so much I can do with those popsicle stick reindeer ornaments and glitter bomb-splosions, anyway.

  5. On Friday, my mother-in-law came over to babysit. My son immediately began lecturing her on how she could only touch the ornaments with one finger. It’s the one Christmas thing I got right. 🙂

  6. I love you and your crying family. As you know, I hated our tree decorating day this year, but now, three days later, I am enamored by our tree with a face only a mother could love. Time heals all irritations, or something like that. Turkey in the mac and cheese? Girl, you crazy!

  7. Oh the tree. The poor, poor tree. Ours is lopsided and the kids put at least four ornaments on the branches they can reach (which is THREE); a former vision of my Christmas self would have cared, but you’re right: my delegates’ cries and demands are driving me crazy so instead I’m focusing my attention on what matters: cookies.

  8. Thank you so much for this post!!! This is the first time I also didn’t redecorate the tree. I really had to stop myself and my 4 yo keeps moving the ones on the bottom. You’re right… it’s about the memories but good lord I could have used a drink after the tree. It took us all afternoon.

  9. The great thing about being a sole Hannukah celebrator, is our family is now done with all the fucking joy. It nearly killed me.
    Love this and you.

  10. I do Hannukah too and DO NOT MISS the Christmas! NOT ONE BIT. EVER. Just so you know. Cry for 8 days straight, I dare ya. Here have a cookie. And a donut, it’s jelly filled! OH and a latke. And there is setting things on fire! And gloating loudly over beating the snot out of a relative (at dreidel) and getting paid for it in gold coins! Did I mention chocolate? IN the gold coins? Don’t mess with perfection people, come to the Maccabee side…did I mention we have cookies?

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