The pressure that is put upon us during the holiday season is stunning. I used to love Christmas. I would host a cocktail party or two, and then attend a cocktail party (or four). I would savor my shopping experiences by strolling leisurely through any number of malls while sipping a peppermint mocha, purchasing only the most heart-felt of presents which I would take my sweet, delicate time wrapping in the prettiest of papers and curviest of bows. Come Christmas day, my only worries were what I would drink before noon as I noshed and sloshed my way through the holiday. I would then get to sit down to a fabulous meal crafted by my mother, my only concerns being if the red wine I picked out would complement the meal, and if my Parker House Rolls had properly risen.
But now that I’m a mom? I’m expected to bake at least four or five different varieties of sweet Christmas goodies and cookies; decorate my house; pick out and then trim a tree; buy and wrap presents; take the kids to a tree farm, to a Christmas parade, to the mall to see Santa… all the while keeping a holiday-spirit-has-snuck-up-and-bit-me-in-the-ass-and-I’m-LOVIN’-it smile on my face (shortened henceforth as Christmas Bit Me in the Ass, or CBMA) to set a good example for my children and make lasting happy memories for them, proving that the generous and merry spirit that is in the air at Christmastime is what makes it all possible.
It’s already December 18th. I’ve barely started doing any of the above, and just at the thought of these expectations I am exhausted. I would like to offer a glimpse of the fresh hell that was our past weekend of holiday preparatory bliss. This could take a while, so you may want to grab a cup of coffee and sit down.
In a somewhat delusional state of CBMA, the Badger (my husband) and I decided to take my mom and dad, Nash and Zeke to the Hollidazzle parade through downtown Minneapolis on Saturday night. The Hollidazzle is much like the first ten minutes of the movie ‘A Christmas Story’, where the family stands in the freezing cold amongst crowds of people watching illuminated reindeer and Christmas-themed-floats drift past them in an organized obstruction to traffic (read: parade). It’s quintessential Midwest Christmas kitsch. Having only been to the Holla!dazzle once before in my life and being completely inebriated at the time, I neglected to notice and remember for future years the massive amount of people that descend upon the Hollidazzle which Minneapolis does not have the infrastructure to support.
Again, in my delusional state of CBMA, I wanted to host a meal for mom and dad before we headed off to the parade. With Christmas and grocery shopping on my list of to-do’s for Saturday (as well as a two mile run and a boot camp class), I didn’t leave myself enough time to make any sort of a decent meal. The realization of this at about 3:00 p.m. sent me into a vivid, holiday panic.
CBMA Delusion of Grandeur: A slowly savored Christmas meal of candlelight, homemade artisan bread and oozy, delicious plates of manicotti.
Reality: Out-of-the-Box Macaroni and cheese, choked down while we tried to shovel food into the mouths of two toddlers as they simultaneously threw their sippy cups, silverware and food at each other.
Also in my state of CBMA, I conveniently forgot how long it takes to dress two toddlers for winter weather. Oh my holy hell. We finished eating as mom and I ascended with both kids to their bedroom to get ready. With temperatures in the teens, they had to wear two layers of clothing (Hey Zeke? Sorry that you had to wear your sister’s tights…) followed by a sweater, followed by their winter coats which we simply could NOT get over their three layers of clothing. Nash subsequently decided that this was the day she was not going to wear gloves, or a hat, or leave the house without her dearly beloved, gigantic stuffed tiger named “Mow” and Zeke decided to face plant off of our ottoman nearly knocking out both of his teeth. Ho-ho-ho! Merry Christmas!
We finally made it downtown and found a ramp to park in, but had to drive up to the eighth floor to even find a space. Oh, have I forgotten to mention that we also decided to bring our Kelty hiking carriers and wear the babies at the parade? Brilliant. Have you ever tried to pack a squirmy two-year-old wearing three layers of winter clothing and a puffy coat into a hiking pack?
We finally got them into the packs; I was wearing Nash, and the Badger was wearing Zeke. As we got into the elevator, the Badger looked at me and said “I’m losing circulation here. Can we loosen this thing at all?”, and we loosened the shoulder straps as much as we could. But with a toddler in three layers and a puffy coat, and a dad in a sweater and coat of his own, it just wasn’t going to work out. But we did finally make it down to the Hollidazzle…
CBMA delusion: The six of us in a front row ‘seat’ for the parade as we giggle and bounce the children about in a wild rumpus of sheer Christmas joy and holiday delight.
Reality: A crowd at least twenty people thick before you could even see the street.
About fifteen minutes into the parade, I finally found a spot where I could stand up on a thin, metal partition and give Nash a little bit of a view from the backpack she had been imprisoned in. I had not been standing in this spot for 90 seconds when a lady thrust her husband with a 3-year-old on his shoulders directly in front of us. I couldn’t see anything except her son’s pull-up’s sneaking out the top of his corduroys. I gave the woman a look that could’ve melted the holiday cheer right off of Mrs. Claus herself and said “Well, I was standing here with my daughter…”, but she didn’t take the hint. I decided that getting into a verbal fist fight with a woman at the Hollidazzle was not exactly in the spirit of the parade, so I climbed down off of the metal partition, choked back tears of frustration and exhaustion, and went back to the rest of the homely pack that was twenty deep from the parade.
All in all, it went just fine. Dad (grandpa) in all the wisdom that fathering two children and surviving that process can give you, put Nash up on his shoulders and the Badger did the same with Zeke so that both kids had a birds’ eye view. It was a Christmas miracle!
After the parade, we made our way back into the parking ramp entrance and stood in yet another crowd, waiting for the only two operating elevators for a nine-floor parking ramp. Nash and I wound up smuggled into a mass of people in an elevator without the rest of the family. My last glimpse of my son, the Badger and my parents was a half-hearted wave and the words “We’ll meet you up there!” over the dull roar of the crowd. The elevator doors closed and I was left with my daughter to try and remember where we parked.
We finally all reconnected by our car and got the kids tucked into their car seats. I pulled out the only snack that my mom had thought to bring, despite my words of “Oh, we don’t need any snacks for the kids, we’re only going to be gone an hour…”. We got into the car, the kids happily munching on their Jammy Sammy's, threw ‘er in reverse, and subsequently sat still for the next hour and fifteen minutes just trying to exit the parking ramp. Remember the two elevators for nine floors of parking? Try one cashier for those same nine floors.
About twenty minutes into our parking ramp descent, now on the seventh floor of the ramp, a nice looking family of four walked in front of us and began to get into their SAAB which was parked just to the front of our right bumper as we sat in the line. They were all very well dressed and I remember remarking that I liked her jacket, and that he must be a doctor because of the pager on his hip. It was simply a kind remark about her fashion and surmising on his career – not a classicist statement. At least, not yet.
At this same time, a family of five was in a mini-van and had just backed out of their spot to our left, and I had let them go in front of me. I even backed up a little bit to let them in! It’s Christmas, we’re all waiting in line, you can wait in front of me if you want to. Go right ahead, little family in the minivan! In fact, Merry Christmas!
But as this minivan crept forward and we then crept forward, the SAAB, now at my right front tire, put on their reverse lights. The way-too-thin-to-be-a-mom-to-two plunked her skinny little ass out of the passenger side of the SAAB. She did not bother to look at us or acknowledge our presence. She placed her body directly in front of my car, put her back to us, held her hand out to us as if she was stopping children at a crosswalk, and started to furiously wave her husband back out of his spot.
Even as I type this now, three days later, my blood is boiling. I could literally hard boil an egg in my veins.
The Badger uttered something to the tune of “What the [expletive deleted] is THIS?!” and at precisely that same time, I rolled down the window of my nice, hard-earned Nissan and said (read: screamed) in the most pierced, fish-wife tone that I have ever mustered “EXCUSE ME???", and in what will go down as one of my finer moments, she and I proceeded to get into a three minute verbal smack down, my final and proudest statement being “Well, I’m sorry that you drive a SAAB and wear size four jeans and therefore think that you are entitled to wave your husband out in front of me without waiting your turn. But you and your size four jeans are not!” I still fight like a New Yorker, even though I haven’t lived there in nearly ten years. Having been put in her place ("Merry Christmas!"), she waddled back to the passenger side of her SAAB and I wedged my car as close as possible to the minivan in front of us ("Fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la!"). The SAAB had to wait their proper turn ("Season's Greetings!") and pulled out behind us for the very long and uncomfortable wait all the way down to the cashier. I proceeded to let every possible car that could come out in front of us ("Silent night, holy night!") as I smiled and generously waved them on for the entire next seven levels of parking ("Deck the halls!") while the SAAB honked at me every time ("It's the most wonderful time of the year!").
About 45 minutes later, we pulled up to the cashier to pay our share of parking ($7, for which i had a $10 bill). I said to the Badger “We ought to pay for their parking, just to surprise them…”, thinking of all our kinder friends who are infinitely nicer and more elegant under pressure than I, who a) would not have gotten into a verbal fist fight in front of their children, and b) would have paid for the parking of the person behind them. His response was “We will do no such thing!” and told me what I should say to the cashier instead...
As I pulled up and handed the very nice cashier my $10 bill, I said what I was instructed to say.
“If you will kindly tell the people in the car behind us to go f*ck themselves, you can keep the change…”.
He laughed hysterically. So did we. ("Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!")
I hope my children have now learned how NOT to behave in a parking ramp at Christmastime. I’ll leave my Sunday story for some other blog post. Let’s just say it includes two toddlers who did not nap, a "I'm-just-going-to-run-out-and-pick-up-some-Christmas-lights-for-the-tree" shopping trip involving six, count them, SIX different stores who were all sold out of lights, and one mommy who finally snapped under the Christmas pressure and ripped down the half-burned out Christmas light strands from our undecorated tree. Have I mentioned yet that it's December 18th?