Long time no see! Come in, have a seat. <pours coffee>
And how was your holiday?
Yeah, I know the holidays were more than a few
days weeks ago. But since my tree is still up, it can’t possibly be too late to talk about them. Right?
But there are some reasons for that.
I wasn’t always like this. When I was a kid, we celebrated holidays in the expected fashion. The extended family would get together for the Big Three – Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, where we’d gather ’round a seasonally-appropriate roasted animal and stuff our faces. Pretty normal.
After dinner, the family would split into two groups: One set would schlep the dirty dishes and the decimated carcass off to the kitchen, where they’d begin the seemingly endless work of cleaning and putting away. The others would lazily saunter off to the living room and either watch football or play video games.
Don’t look so surprised. Yes, we had video games in the 80s, when most families were either Team Atari or Team Intellivision. Atari’s user interface was a little simpler, consisting of a joystick and one FIRE button, but it was Intellivision that possessed CLEARLY superior graphics and more complex game play.
Have a look. Atari:
And the highly sophisticated Intellivision:
Not impressed? Rest assured that this was top-of-the-line gaming back in the day. Plus it got me out of doing the dishes. So I got really good at Burger Time (a food game…the irony is not lost on me) while my brother whipped my butt at Football. Mom was KILLER at any and all space games – she’d routinely score a million points or more on the one above. (I should also mention that your parents’ generation didn’t have any of this overcoddled candy-a$$ “beating” of a game. It just kept repeating the action faster and faster until you perished. You never, EVER won. Nowadays kids get a freaking parade for managing to wear shoes on the right feet for three days in a row. Gaaaaaah.)
Anyway. It wasn’t until I was quite a few years older that I realized that it was the WOMEN who did the dishes and the MEN who retreated to the sofa. I was the sole female exception. I remember commenting to my mother that this seemed like kind of a raw deal – to which my mother said, “but we women had such great conversations and bonding time.” That’s…nice, but I have ESPN and a dishwasher, and I’m quite certain I’d bond just fine with Tom Brady and Donovan McNabb if you left me alone in a room with them. Hubba hubba.
Plus, after the kitchen was clean, the ladies would sit down to play “cards.” This game consisted of about eight decks of cards, and looked like a group game of solitaire, but the object appeared to be to fling cards in the middle of the table while yelling, jumping out of your seat, and slapping everyone blocking your path to victory. (Good thing they started this AFTER the knives were put away. If that’s “bonding,” then you have no right to mock my dad’s love of WWE. I mean, they play with chairs, too, right?)
So holidays were pretty nice for me.
Until I got married.
I wed into a family with “traditional values” – and the unspoken expectation was that if you needed anything, you as the wife would be obligated to make it yourself. The paradigm shift surrounding the holidays was absolutely jarring. If I reminded my spouse of an upcoming birthday, I’d sometimes get a card, usually late and not particularly heartfelt. Bake your own cake if you feel like you need one; but you’ve been putting on weight since we got married, so….
Valentine’s Day? Well, the candy’s half-price the next day, so here’s something grabbed from what was left in the clearance aisle at Wal-Mart on the 15th.
Christmas? You, the wife, plan the getting of the tree, and while the MAN would set it up, it’s up to you to decorate and water it, and it’s STAYING there until YOU figure out how to get it to the curb. You, as the house matriarch, buy all the presents for the kids and BOTH sets of parents, and do all the prepping, cooking, and wrapping. If you’re lucky, you might get a present. My favorite “surprise” gift:
We already HAD a waffle iron, of course. His logic was that now “we” could make waffles TWICE AS FAST. The saddest part about this gift was that it didn’t contain the letters I needed to spell out my true feelings. (Well played, Black & Decker.)
The tipping point on my anti-holiday stance came on my second official Mother’s Day.
It was a sunny, beautiful Sunday. We had just come home from church, and my two-month-old son was down for his post-drive nap. I was exhausted, and desperately wanted to join him. But my daughter, nearly two, wanted to go outside and play. I happened to glance out the back window, and saw something that turned my stomach: a wild rabbit had apparently been chased by a neighborhood cat or dog, and had horrifically and painfully lost the battle. The poor bunny was completely destroyed in our backyard. It was a gruesome scene that I absolutely did not want my daughter to see.
Tearfully, I asked my husband to please go outside and take care of it so our little girl could play.
He sighed heavily. “Maybe after my nap.”
He went to bed, and broke my heart.
Resolutely, I plopped my baby in front of Elmo and told her we’d go outside in just a few minutes. She happily waited while I found a large coal shovel and marched to the backyard. I did my best to heave the rabbit innards over the embankment, and raked the soiled leaves into the runoff creek so she wouldn’t see them.
Happy Mother’s Day to me.
It was the finishing touch on a valuable life lesson: If you have no expectations, you don’t get disappointed.
When I periodically forget this, and experience minor disappointment at, say, a forgotten birthday, all I have to do is conjure up the mental image of the gutted rabbit, and the day looks a little bit brighter. How could it not?
Fortunately (?) I married someone who’s perfectly fine with not making a big fuss over the holidays. We’ve established minimal expectations – a card on your birthday, and one for the anniversary. If we remember, that is. Witness our fifth wedding anniversary:
Me: <arrives at work, quickly logs into Facebook. Sees message from brother>
Brother <via text>: Happy Anniversary, Sis!
Me: <thinking> Oh $#!t. Is that today? <grabs phone, texts the hubs> Happy anniversary, babe! I love you!
The Hubs: <via text>: Oh $#!t. Is that today?
We’re clearly well-matched in that department. HAHAHAHAHA
For Christmas, we’ve never actually exchanged gifts. We instead use the opportunity to buy stuff for the home. This year, we were on a mission to replace our mattress – last year we invested in a really nice bed frame and comforter, and our mattress was as old as our marriage. So we trekked out to the local furniture warehouse to see what we could find.
While we spent WAY too much money that day, there were several things we didn’t buy. These end tables, for example:
The LAST thing I need is an excuse to hoard more clutter. But I sort of want to trap my cats under them and play zoo. (And now you do, too, don’t you.)
Sensing danger, the hubs “steered” me in another direction:
Not entirely sure what they’re going for here. Is Cowboy Bling a thing? I guess I just do not understand art. Especially when it looks like something you’re forced to hang on the fridge when little Kate Junior brings it home:
Or this disturbing piece….
A little modern for my taste. And by “modern,” I mean “WTF is this crap?”
So on to something more useful. A sofa! For…a hobbit? A spoiled dog?
$500? !? I’m not sure I love my cats enough to spend $500 on their medical care. Forget frou-frou furniture. (Besides, they’d just sleep in the box anyway. Or on my bladder.)
Later, from across the store:
The Hubs: Hon! Come QUICK! I just found chairs with HUGE KNOCKERS!!!!
I scamper across the store, where he proudly shows me:
I got even, though, when we encountered this display:
Me: Look, hon! Candles!
The Hubs: Cool. Are they scented? <sniffs, looks puzzled>
Me: Yes…but just PEAR-ly.
We did, eventually, find a great mattress. And, because it was the holidays, we gave our wallets a workout and splurged on a new kitchen table and chairs, to replace the set we bought for $80 from craigslist ten years ago:
And a new sofa and loveseat, since our old one’s “genuine leather” was flaking in a weird psofariasis kind of way and I was getting tired of sweeping up cow skin.
And one more thing, just because it looked cool:
I figured if I (meaning “the hubs”, of course) sawed off the base, it’d look amazeballs on my kitchen wall. What do you think?
Only $20, and it makes me smile. Well worth it for the blast of color and joy it brings.
It’s the bow on my gift. Merry Christmas to me!
I’m so worth it. Aren’t we all?
We’re not traditional, but I’m (usually) OK with that. At least I get exactly what I want. Now bring on Valentine’s Day – Momma needs some new jewelry. 😉