Maybe Tomorrow: Stumbling Into Christmas

Last year, we started a tradition of putting up the Christmas tree at Thanksgiving. I can’t remember if it was the Sunday after, when we returned from visiting family out of state, or if it was the Wednesday before. I just remember that it worked out really well. It was to become a tradition. Only… we kind of blew it this year.

We succeeded in getting the Christmas tree – but not the ornaments – down from the attic Monday morning before school. I honestly don’t know what possessed us to do that on the first school morning after a holiday. Maybe I felt guilty for not doing it the day before. Or maybe we thought it’d increase the chances we’d get the tree up that evening.

Well, it didn’t. Hal asked if we were going to but the night was just too full. As was the next day, what with a trip to the nearby metroplex for a doctor’s visit, an orchestra concert, and basketball practice. Wednesdays are always full and Thursday was a Christmas party. Then we were iced in – surely we’d get it done with everyone home from school Friday and the town’s Christmas parade delayed a week.

But the next day was to be Daddy’s big sale and there was still so much to do to prepare. Then Mommy got sick and we spent the day trying to find a doctor willing to write a prescription. All the florists, retailers, and fast food joints were open – just not the doctors or urgent care centers.

The weekend was full with the studio sale and a volleyball championship game and church. The following Monday looked promising but since my sister-in-law and her boyfriend were preparing to move out-of-state, they stopped by to visit and shower the kids with gifts.

Hal asked on Tuesday when I picked him up from school. It’d now been over a week of asking – every day.

“I really don’t think we’ll be able to do it tonight,” I said. “Maybe tomorrow, but I kind of doubt it.”

Tuesday night was already booked with Destination Imagination practice for both of the older kids, a meeting at church for both adults, Boy Scouts, and basketball practice. Oh, and my sister-in-law and her boyfriend were now spending the night at our house since the last of their stuff was now loaded in the POD.

Wednesday fared no better with bell choir practice, Christmas pageant rehearsal, and a volleyball team shopping spree for the elderly women they had adopted.

“Maybe tomorrow,” I said.

But Thursday night, we had to finish Daryl’s costume for the Christmas parade and then there was basketball practice again. Also, some investigations at Lowe’s for flooring solutions in our never-ending remodeling project that some people would call the master suite.

As Thursday revealed itself to be another non-Christmas-tree-assembly day, Hal asked me a question.

“Mommy? Do you remember that day that’s not tomorrow when we put up the Christmas tree?”

At first, I thought he was referring to last year, when we got it all right. Then I realized that he was begging me to not tell him, once again, that we’d put up the tree… tomorrow. See, tomorrow never seems to come.

He soon began to bargain, reduce his standards. “Can’t we just put up the tree and one ornament? Just one ornament? I have one. Sissy took it but I know where it is.”

When we drove past the uber-neighbors’ house – the one with icicle lights on the fence, lights on the house, and a lit, decorated tree in the front window, he said, “See! Everyone else has their Christmas tree up! Why are we the only ones that don’t?”

I assured him that we weren’t the only ones, but he wasn’t convinced.

Friday night availed itself with the cancelling of the Christmas parade due to rain. But we took the opportunity to have a rare family movie night and then it was time for bed.

I felt terrible as my husband and I sat there planning out how much flooring we needed for the bedroom and bath. I was sure that we were slowly suffocating the Christmas spirit in our youngest child. Saturday wasn’t looking too promising. More Destination Imagination and basketball, not to mention a birthday party, meant I would be driving all over town all day long.

The only solution was to make sure we put up the tree so he could put his one decoration on the tree before all the craziness started. Before we left the house at 8:45 in the morning.

I cleaned off the dining room table, collapsed it to its smaller size, and scooted it away from the front window. I swept and mopped. And when Hal came out of his room the next morning, I declared, “Who wants to put together the Christmas tree?!”

We put it together, just the two of us, while listening first to Christmas classics on Pandora, and then to a cooperative viola practice by the older siblings. It turned out to be a pretty special, albeit still quick and a tad bit rushed, morning.

And then he went to go get that one ornament he’d been talking about. He’d said it was his and his sister had taken it. I found him in her room, standing on a chair, taking a porcelain cross down off the wall. The cross that he had given her to put with her collection of crosses.

“Oh, no, dear! That’s not an ornament and it’s not yours anymore and you aren’t allowed in her room without permission.” He began to cry.

Luckily, there were two paper Santa ornaments that he and Daryl had made a couple of weeks earlier. He placed them on the tree with great care. He’s still on my case about getting the tree fully and properly decorated, but at least we got started. And I won some bonus points, after getting the boxes of ornaments out of the attic, when I took out a large nativity scene and set it up by the TV.

Maybe tomorrow we’ll get the lights and ornaments on the tree. Maybe tomorrow.

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Truly Seeing What’s Before You

Jane couldn’t find the Chai Latte mix this morning. They had purchased some at the grocery store the day before. She came to our bedroom to ask her daddy where it was. When he told her it was in the big pantry, she said she had looked and it wasn’t there.

He clarified by telling her there were three boxes on the top shelf in the big pantry. She left to check again. When she returned, she insisted that there was no Chai Latte in the big pantry. Her dad said “I’m sorry” in that tone that I recognize to mean It’s not my fault you can’t see it. It’s there and if you can’t find it, then it’s your own problem. As usual, she took it to mean not an indictment on her search skills but an indication that her father didn’t care if she starved to death.

“What am I supposed to have for breakfast then?!”

“There’s boiled egss and cereal and milk and toast…” She left the room in irritation as I rattled off the list of breakfast choices.

The specificity of his description of the location intrigued me. He obviously knew exactly where he had put it, so why couldn’t she see it? Who was right? I dragged myself out of the warm bed to go investigate. I glanced up at the end of the top shelf as I walked into the laundry room, where the shelves we refer to as “the big pantry” are. There was nothing there. I turned the corner to face the shelves and scanned the top one. I immediately spotted the three boxes on the lefthand side and took one of them down.

Jane was standing on the porch, watching the dog use the bathroom. I opened the door just enough to show her the box and comment that she should be careful who she gets mad at – they were exactly where Daddy said they would be.

I’m assuming that Jane had developed tunnel vision, looking for that distinctive logo on the front of the carton. They were turned such that their unmarked sides were facing out. They were still obviously the Chai Latte boxes, but she couldn’t see them. If instead of scanning for the logo, she had deliberately looked at each item on the shelf and identified it in her mind, she would have found them.

When I returned to the bedroom, I remarked to my husband, “You know, if people would look at what is in front of them instead of for what they want, I bet they’d find what they are looking for.”

I meant it as a statement about people’s search skills when they can’t find an object. It seems that people frequently fail to see what they are looking for even though it’s in plain sight. I think it’s because they have an image in their heads and are blindly comparing the objects in front of them to that image without actually seeing the objects themselves. I soon realized that it was also a metaphor for much more significant things: jobs, friends, lovers, homes, life.

How often are people looking for that perfect mate they’ve envisioned, discarding everyone they come across, instead of taking a good look at what’s right in front of them? I’m not talking about settling for a poor match. I’m talking about actually taking the time to see the people around you instead of moving on when they don’t match the template in your mind.

How many men are looked over because they are too short? Women because they are too fat? Too dumb? Too poorly dressed? Too quiet? Too loud? Too tall? Too athletic? Too bookish? Too boring? Too plain?

Do we even see these people before we dismiss them as not matching that ideal image of the person we think we want to be with? Wouldn’t we be more successful if we started with getting to know the person and then examining the quality of the match instead of the other way around?

Maybe we should take a good look at that box of Chai Latte mix before we move on, claiming it was nowhere to be found.

Oh, Yeah?! Well…

We have a big event for my husband’s business this weekend for which I always provide refreshments. It’s usually a big deal and has almost always included a particular cheese ball that my family is quite fond of.

This year, however, a winter storm is moving in. I am concerned that we may have a very low turnout. I’ve also been ten times busier than usual and want to keep it simple. So I told my husband that I was avoiding any dishes that needed to be kept cold.

“That sounds fine. As long as you make that cheese ball.”

“Honey, the cheese ball is a refrigerated item. I wasn’t planning on making it.”

He and Jane both looked shocked.

“Well, if you don’t make the cheese ball, I’m not weed eating,” he said, referring to a task I had asked him to take care of before the event.

“Ooh!” Jane said, turning to look at me expectantly.

“Then I won’t be here Saturday.”

“Ooh!” Jane’s head whipped back to her Daddy.

“Neither will I.”

“Ooh!” She turned back to me.

“Well, good. Maybe if you go out of business, you’ll have time to actually clean house.”

“Ooh!” Back to her Daddy to await his response.

“We’ll lose a lot of money before that happens.”

He flashed me his best grin. He knew he had won.