A Very Pregnant Christmas (Gestation: 22 Weeks, 4 Days)
Ahh, the Christmas season is upon us yet again. Stress on earth, general resentment toward men. I’m related to Ebenezer Scrooge. Paternal fifth-cousin once removed.
Last Year’s Resentment Litany:
1. Having to find the perfect gift for twenty plus people. I ended up standing in the lingerie section of Nordstrom Rack overwhelmed by choices muttering, “I get my boxer shorts at Kmart in Cincinnati, Boxer shorts, Boxer shorts, Kmart.”
2. Spending our first-born’s college fund on a good photographer so I could get a picture where Henry, Clare and I didn’t look like Orcs from Middle-Earth.
3. Having heated dialectics with my husband about which were proper Christmas tree lights; he said the blinking colored single strands, I said the non-blinking white nets, because the blinking ones can cause cerebral seizures and cardiac infarctions. Henry stared blankly at me, grateful he didn’t live in my head.
4. Struggling to wrap misshapen gifts; i.e. cardboard cutouts of Edward Cullen (one of which I kept for myself).
5. Driving on the 405, the 101 and the 10 freeways a.k.a. The Axis of Evil to visit family. They love us, which seems pretty inconsiderate.
6. Knowing Christmas is about Jesus and struggling to honor that while climbing over grandmas with walkers to get to the sale rack.
Cut to: Present Day. With a sense of dread ritual I ride shotgun with my husband and child to pick up our tree at Le Chauvet Christmas Lot in west L.A. (Apparently there’s a vertically integrated French contingent cornering the Christmas tree market, but who can be bothered with trust busting at this time of year?). It’s an unfestive, butt-sweating, skin-prickling eighty-five degrees out as we choose our seven-foot Noble fir, shoot it, bag it and bring it home.
Clare is suffering from a mild ear infection and an inflamed case of Father Preference. I’m left awkwardly alone with her and the tree on our front lawn while Henry parks the car. It’s like being on a double date with someone who only has eyes for your best friend. “Wes daddy?” she says, “Wes daddy?”
When Henry emerges from the car he carries her, like Nefertiti on her litter, into the house and I follow behind dragging the tree (okay, Henry came back and got it).
I’m neither spiritually nor physically in the proper mood for holiday home decorating. I think this might be a good time to call George Clooney and ask if he’s ready for a real woman.
Instead, while Clare naps, I accost the house with bearded Santas, stuffed snowmen, acorns and pine accessories. Outside Henry cuts back the neighbor’s encroaching fichus hedge, something he’s wanted to do for months and something I don’t think he needs to do right now, especially when I’m inside trapped under a tangled mass of non-blinking, white-light nets.
(Yes, I’ve won the Light Wars, but at what cost?)
Clare wakes up from her nap crying, which she’s done since she turned 18-months old and her personality took a detour into Death Valley. We take her to the park and chase her about in a somewhat lackluster fashion, then go shopping for patio furniture to grace our newly landscaped backyard. I volley for the outdoor space heater. The volley is not returned. (I buy it two months later on the down low).
At home Henry and I wait for Clare’s bedtime to finish decorating because she takes the ornaments off the tree faster than we can put them on. She holds them up one at a time for our perusal and asks, “Who’s that guy?” (If I offer her an unfamiliar food its, “Who’s that guy?” If a stray cat slinks by, “Who’s that guy?”)
When Clare finally falls asleep Henry and I trim the tree like Cleaners with the Ukraine mob, silent, pitiless. Unaccompanied by mugs of steaming, marshmallow-laden hot chocolate. No holiday cookies to nosh, mistletoe to smooch under. No eccentric Preston Sturges-esque guests to provide witty banter. Just Henry and me feeling old, exhausted and over-extended.
Finally, the work is done. Henry digs up some Christmas CDs and lugs our kitchen BOSE into the living room. We slump on the couch, listening to Charlie Brown Christmas music, looking at the lights on our tree. We gaze at the ornaments from the year before; one with a photo of Clare on her first Christmas. She was six-months old, a chortling, fat, naked cherub, newly minted. Next to that ornament is another with a picture of Younger Henry and I one Christmas in Maui. We embrace in front of a waterfall on the Hana Coast, Henry looking a little chubby and me blessedly slender. Both of us in love.
Unexpectedly tears come to my eyes. Henry takes my hand and kisses it. I rest my head on his shoulder as we sit on the couch in front of our tree and our daughter sleeps just down the hall and our other daughter sleeps in my belly.
I realize something strange. I’m happy. Funny how you can be happy and not know it.
Have a very pregnant Christmas!