Monday, December 3, 2012

Great Expectations

 It’s that time of year – the lights, the carols, the shopping, the drinking….

I have an image of Christmas in my head. Norman Rockwell painted it and Bing Crosy gave it a soundtrack. It’s been boiled down to a single hazy, childhood memory – a composite of all my young Christmases and it smells like pine, tastes like ham, and sounds like off-key singing.

This weekend was my favorite weekend of the entire year – the one where we get the tree. We hike through the snow, holding hands and singing. No one cries. No one poops. No one yells. We pick out the perfect tree that is effortlessly sawed down, and easily transported home, where it practically uprights itself. Cut to carols and hot cocoa and hanging ornaments and kissing under mistletoe.

The reality is a bit louder. L, 4,  hides in between the trees giving everyone a ten minute heart attack. A, 2, squats and poops so that we must now fast forward the tree hunt because we’re in a race against diaper rash. Both kids cry and I yell. Just get that one, I don’t even care anymore, I’m sure it’s fine. Mr. Beaker grumbles: the saw is too dull, the tree is really heavy this year for some reason, why are we here on the coldest day of the year? We’ve somehow managed to hike about a quarter of a mile from the drop-off point and the hayride looks like a small speck in the distance. I stomp off because…well, because this is supposed to be fun and it’s not and of course that means it’s Mr. B’s fault. 

We haul the behemoth home and it doesn’t fit in the house. It’s Christmas Vacation come to life. When I said I wanted picture perfect Christmas, I wasn’t thinking of Clark Griswold. Literally, we can’t stand it up – we’re off by feet, not inches. It also doesn’t fit in the tree stand. Mr. B. has reached a breaking point and both the kids are crying. Christmas is ruined forever!

I am fed up: this was not the image in my head. This is not how it’s supposed to be.

And right there, that’s the crux of it. I’ve just given Christmas a “D” – failed to meet expectations. In my fuming drive to Home Depot (to purchase a chainsaw and an extra large tree stand), I have some kind of cheesy ephiphany. Like my own self-contained ABC Family holiday special. The problem isn’t the reality. Reality is what it is, I have very little control over it. The problem is the expectation.

I find the tree stand and a fantastic tool called a Sawzall (hey, it saws all! Well, that seems kind of fun, actually), which we needed anyway. Suddenly, things don’t seem that bad.

By the time I get home, I’m the Grinch whose heart grew three sizes that day. My family is sitting on the couch, watching Mickey’s Christmas Carol, and as I peek through the doorway, they are laughing. They’ve been PJ’d and their teeth are brushed and they’re snuggled under a snowflake blanket. The lights are off, and the tree is laying in the middle of the living room, taking up all available space but in my absence, they’ve all somehow become the Hallmark card I’ve been trying to force them into all day.

I think that sometimes, the easiest way to be happy is to let go of your anticipation. To quit forcing everyone to conform to the script in your head. To enjoy the imperfect moments for what they are: real.

Scale: Husband is over six feet tall. What were we thinking?