January Stock Pot

8 Jan

My husband travels a lot for his job, and he takes one particular trip every year in early December that lasts through a weekend. It’s a hard time of year for him to be gone so long (although he follows it up with a two week staycation during the childrens’ winter break from school that’s reliably cozy and fantastic, so we get our reward for persevering.) One of the practical concerns raised by the timing of the trip is when to put up our Christmas tree. If we put it up before he leaves it means getting a tree right after Thanksgiving, which is an intimidating amount of tree maintenance and clean-up seeing as we leave it up until New Year’s Day. But if we wait until he gets back it’s only a couple of weeks until Christmas, and that doesn’t seem like quite enough time to savor the anticipation with our beautiful tree to assist us. So in the end we always err on the side of putting it up early.

This year we got the tree up so early that it was several weeks before anything came in the mail to put under it. This state of affairs bothered the children. A tree with no presents! So naked! So uncelebratory! It spawned in them a deep, and deeply messy, desire to craft the emptiness away.

For five days straight they spent hours a day hand-making this and that, “wrapping” the results, and stacking the booty in shaky piles that spilled all over the front hall, got stepped on, inadvertently watered when we were trying to reach under the tree, kicked, crumpled, etc. There were little snippets of paper and puddles of half-dry glue and scraps of felt and embroidery thread everywhere all over the house, plus arguments about who spilled the beads and who peeked at whose present and who used the last shoe box, and basically the whole thing was driving me bonkers. At one point my son had made sixteen presents for me. And he is six, so I just knew all the presents were pieces of felt that had been scribbled on with marker and scotch-taped together. It was going to take us forever to open all these things! And what in the world would we DO with it all? Disappointment and hurt feelings and bickering seemed inevitable, and I got tired just thinking about it.

So I laid down the law–“It’s enough with the presents, guys. Too many presents. Such a sweet thought, but it’s too much.” My husband backed me 100%; we joked, maybe even in front of the kids, about their irritating largesse, and reminisced about famous childhood non-presents of other Christmases, like the time my brother gave every member of the family 3 wooden blocks wrapped in yellow legal paper and messily taped to themselves.

Christmas morning was pretty great this year. The kids are still fully invested in Santa, so their excitement was sparkling bright. They waited until 7 am to wake us, as requested, and I cuddled with them in our bed and read one of the Little House on the Prairie Christmas chapters, a beloved ritual from my own childhood, while my husband put the finishing touches on the downstairs and made coffee. They were very happy with their loot, and we spent an enjoyable hour or so looking at it all. Then we had breakfast and treats, and found we still had plenty of time before we were expected at my parent’s. The timing was perfect to tackle the many kid “presents.”

They took turns presenting us with their surprises, explaining the creation of each, anxiously scanning our faces for signs of our pleasure in receiving them. And it’s true, I did receive a lot of fancified felt. But I also got an armful of pipe cleaner bangles (each wrapped separately.)


My husband got 2 paintings of a waterfall, one from the perspective of each child. I got a wooden box that had been painstakingly decoupaged with scraps of origami paper. “It’s for your treasures,” my daughter said. “I didn’t rush, I took my time finishing it.” They worked together on a collage of hearts for both of us using all different papers. As they told us about making it, I realized my husband had tears in his eyes.

When we were debriefing that night we agreed that the best part of the whole day was the parade of handmade treasures from the kids. As my husband observed, their efforts embodied the “spirit of Christmas”–they gifted us with their time and consideration and loving thoughts, things the holiday is supposed to be about. It killed me that I had quelled their spirits and enthusiasm. Why didn’t I understand I should celebrate and support them? Why didn’t I get how loved and special I would feel to attend Christmas lunch with a stack of homemade baubles?

So here it is January once again, and the routine is up and running. The husband’s on a trip, the kids are at school all day, I have the quiet house to myself. I’m not really one for fresh starts and resolutions, because deep down I believe that wherever you go, there you are; new year, same old shit. But I’m telling my scroogey heart that 2013 is the year to expand three sizes. Look, listen, notice, feel the happinesses I am so lucky to have in my life. Appreciate them, nurture them. I’m not too worried about being able to dance like no one’s watching, but I want to be sure to watch when the people I love dance.

4 Responses to “January Stock Pot”

  1. Casey January 9, 2013 at 3:40 am #

    Very touching Miller- and so true. I love your last line about taking the time to watch the people you love dance. Caught a moment of that seeing my three squirrelly boys wiggle and eat up their donuts at the coffee shop late this afternoon (a treat since Greg is gone :)). They were so happy and thankful and I was too. xxoo

    • amomynous2 January 9, 2013 at 1:22 pm #

      Oh, I love that! Lee’s out of town, too–boy would my kids love some doughnuts. Have to look into that. Thanks for reading, love you so. XOX

  2. Tim Murray January 18, 2013 at 5:22 am #

    I love this post. I love those kids of yours. Gratitude for what we have is everything.

    • amomynous2 January 18, 2013 at 1:35 pm #

      Aaaahhh,thanks. Love that kid of yours, too. And thanks for reading. 🙂

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