I love gingerbread. And hot buttered rum. And the Elf on the Shelf. And the Nutcracker ballet. And Christmas lights. And Christmas ornaments. And A Christmas Story. And THE Christmas Story. And… did I mention gingerbread?
I am a holiday junkie. I mean, I absolutely crave all things Christmas. Alas, I married a man who does not. He does crave egg nog — so there’s that. But I think that’s it for his tolerance of the season. He tolerates me, too — although he does roll his eyes at all my holiday hoopla. In his defense, I may have been known to overdo it just a tad. Clark W. Griswold and Martha Stewart are my inspirations.
The Christmas jonesing kicks into full gear on Thanksgiving night. That’s when I throw off all pretense of self-control and set my Christmas carol playlist on shuffle, where I keep it running loud and proud straight through New Year’s Eve. Carrie Underwood’s “O Holy Night” gets me all teary-eyed. Josh Groban’s “Ave Maria” makes me weep outright. But then, I run the entire emotional gamut. I get downright giddy over Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” and Julie Andrew’s “My Favorite Things,” too.
And speaking of MY favorite things, Christmas cards in the mailbox and my personalized, hand-knit stocking hanging on a peg on the fireplace are at the top of that list. As is gingerbread straight out of the oven. I know I’m repeating myself, but if I’m not mistaken, gingerbread was one of the precious gifts of the magi. There was gold, gingerbread and myrrh. Look it up 🙂 So it’s a seasonal necessity. (And this year, my sister introduced me to a Williams Sonoma mix that is the absolute definition of comfort and joy. We feed each other’s addictions.)
So yes, I love gingerbread and Christmas carols, but I think my favorite Christmas accoutrements are the ornaments. I’ve collected them for years and years and years. People who know me know I take my ornament selection VERY seriously. I will search half a year to track down the perfect one for each special person in my life. I’m an ornament snob, too, so that makes ornament purchasing even stickier. The medium doesn’t matter so much; the ornaments can be anything and from anywhere. I’ve found designer blown glass Betty Boops, Pottery Barn bottle brush squirrels, and Australian handcrafted felt angels. My criteria is ambiguous and esoteric. I just know when I know. And sometimes it takes months and months of Etsy surfing and brick and mortar navigating to find each family member’s certain special something. That’s where my Martha Stewart OCD kicks in. I admit I have a problem. That’s the first step, right? Only I don’t want to be cured.
I love the freakishly sentimental feelings that Christmas stirs in me. I know I can be over-the-top in a way that can be overwhelming to the uninitiated. Especially for someone who is used to quiet, single day, perfunctory family dinners and gift card exchanges. But me, I thrive on the chaos of the season – the gazillion get togethers, the flurry of family obligations, the weeks’ worth of baking and wassailing and all-around merry making. I become a paradoxically highly-charged, gooey lump of blubbering happiness.
Because my absolute favorite thing about the holidays as a mother is being with my babies. All four of them. And this year, as in the past few years since the girls have been full-grown and on their own, that can be tricky. And it can require some creative calendaring, and come-hell-or-highwater maneuvering, to make it happen.
This year my crew is scattered far-and-wide, so out of necessity, we’ve sprinkled our celebrations generously (like powdered sugar on gingerbread) until they’ve coated a two-week span. First up, we traveled over the river and through four states to Caitlin’s house for a grand total of seven hundred and eighty-four miles. One way. A road trip of epic proportions when you have toddler twin boys. In case you haven’t heard, boys don’t like to sit still. But, according to federal regulations, sit still they MUST. Strapped into seats with harnesses at their chests and crotches. For seven-hundred-and-eighty-four miles. So that was fun.
We knew from past experience that the drive might not go well. The last time we navigated the expressways – which are ironically named since there is nothing express about them when you’re packing twin toddlers – the boys were fifteen months old. We had to stop every two hours to let them run around for an hour or so. We felt like Odysseus trying to make it home to Ithaca. I’m pretty sure we entered a Calypso time warp at some point because our twelve-hour journey evolved into a twenty-three hour return trip. I vaguely recall standing in a moving vehicle hanging a boob up and over a car seat headrest at 1:30 AM so I could nurse a boy while he was strapped in because we didn’t want to stop YET AGAIN.
So we entered into this week’s journey to visit Caitlin — eldest daughter, biggest sister, superstar surgeon and all-around awesome human — with tremendous anticipation, but also with tremendous trepidation. Thankfully, though, all our fears proved unfounded. This year, our road trip was SO much easier. This year, our round trip grand total (26 hours) was ALMOST equal to the return trip from last time… so I consider that a HUGE success.
Plus, we had a fantastic time with our Cay Cay, who couldn’t come to us this year – or any year on residency thus far – because she was on 24-hour call. We filled our three days in Dallas with Vitruvian Christmas lights, winter landscaped model trains with super hero passengers, window shopping, real shopping, pasta and wine and gingerbread, and a dumpster dive by Mike, who went rummaging through an entire apartment complex’s rubbish in search of an inadvertently discarded paring knife. We love her super very much a lot, and wouldn’t have missed a second of it.
This weekend, we have a much quicker little jaunt up to Chattanooga planned in order to see Bethany and Baby Bentley and the crew and finish off our Christmas celebrations. It’s only a two-hour round trip trek, but it should prove monumental. We’ll be taking a ride on the Tennessee Railroad. Parker and Tate and Bentley and his big sis Braylen should love it. I can’t wait to see their faces and feel their excitement when that engine starts chugging. Modeled after The Polar Express, the kids will get some sort of chocolate drink and a sleigh bell. And rest assured, I’ll get some sort of misty eyed. Because that close up of that bell in the final scene of The Polar Express… just before Josh Groban begins to sing “Believe,” when the unseen narrator says his final lines… That scene gets me. It speaks to the driving force beneath my unbridled Christmas cravings and addictions…
“Seeing is believing… but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can’t see.”
Things like love.
Like the eye-rolling, eggnog-fueled love of a man who doesn’t get my holiday love affair, but still gets me. Who will drive to the ends of the earth – or at least the ends of the Southeast – to make my mama’s heart happy at Christmas time. Or at any time.
Like the fierce, full love of a mama for her babies. All of them. The ones full grown and on their own, and the ones still underfoot in footed pajamas. A love that will always find a way – come hell or high water or four-state odysseys – to get to her offspring at Christmas time. Or any time.
And like the passionate love of a God who sent his only begotten son as a gift to the entire world at Christmas time. And all the time.
Yep. I am a Christmas Junkie. And I’m not giving it up anytime soon.