Today is the only day between now and Christmas Eve that has no agenda, just one big empty block on my Google Calendar. What on earth will we do? For days leading up to this momentous occasion I have pondered in spare moments how we might fill this time. What activities around town could we see, what can we do, where can we go?
I even thought I might pull out my previous advent activities list to see what options I haven’t covered yet. There are plenty things I know I haven’t done this year–no ice skating that’s for sure, no cookie baking or cutting or decorating, not even Christmas shopping with them this year since they had their Santa shop at school. I don’t even need a list; look at all we have yet to do!
These weekends when I am alone with the kids, I tend to psych myself up for the impossible to prove to… someone… that yes, I CAN do it all, and I will! Watch me take my kids out to lunch and to the museum and to the park and to dinner and to ice cream and then get bathed and make popcorn to watch a movie with hot cocoa and marshmallows and then sleep, almost on time!
That is fun! See how much fun! I am using exclamation points to emphasize the amount of fun!
Okay, so I like feeling all-powerful and capable of trotting three children all over town without losing my mind. I am drawn to the Super Mom suit on the weekends because most of the time I do not feel Super. I feel like the villain in The Incredibles, pretending to be Super with some fancy flying pack and jet-fueled boots. But if I can only make this suit fit for a little while, even if it is really tight in the thighs, maybe we will have the most awesome time and create an awesome memory because we have done the most awesome things all at once, all in one day.
To this plan for today I say a big fat NO.
By nightfall, I am haggard and worn. Mostly I dislike my children by the end of those jam-packed days because they didn’t operate as complacent and obedient talking dolls, “Yes, Mother,” and “Okay, Mother,” and “No thank you, Mother, ice cream disagrees with me, Mother.” No, no, no, that is definitely not the way it goes. Imagine instead the slouched pouting middle child angry in the backseat that he didn’t get to pick the ice cream destination. Imagine the eldest child turning around and scolding everyone for everything every second of every day as if she wrote the rule book and has any power whatsoever to enforce it. Imagine the youngest child, exhausted and with no ears to hear freight-training his monologue over everyone else as loud as possible then whining that the middle child looked at him. Imagine it. Just imagine that glorious, Super scene.
We have a museum membership to the Museum of Natural History in University Circle in Cleveland and we’ve been a couple times this year, enough to justify the pass’s purchase. When a commercial for the Science Center came on the TV at the hospital, Mom asked if we had taken the kids there. We share the Super Suit psychosis and often attempt these Awesome Days together with my urchins I mean children. I said no but elaborated about our museum pass and how it was reciprocal at museums across the country, as long as they are a certain distance away from your home museum.
“Like the one we visited in Baltimore, or COSI,” I mentioned, the science museum to the south of us in Columbus.
“We took you guys there once,” Dad said.
“Really?” I half-smiled, “I only remember going with my class.” The truth is I have no memory of Dad suggesting a museum visit let alone willingly going. Dad has never struck me as the museum-going type. Memorials? Yes. Race tracks? Absolutely. Flea markets? Name the time and place and we’ll be there. Museums, which are planted inconveniently in the middle of buzzing metropolises? Where’s Dad, you guys? Oh there he is, at the antique tractor show!
Okay, I exaggerate. I have one vivid memory of visiting the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Wax Museum in Niagara Falls with my family in middle school. I’d post yet another embarrassing photo of that era of my life, but I’ve hit my quota for junior high glasses-and-braces pictures this year.
“Yeah, we went,” Dad said about COSI, seeming a little offended that I hadn’t conjured up the memory. “Maybe you were too young to remember.”
I supposed that was possible.
What I do remember about this time of year is making a construction paper chain so long I was sure we’d beat the Guinness Book of World Records, cutting strips and stapling or taping and draping it all throughout the house with Mom at least one Christmas. I remember helping Dad play Santa in the dry heat of the excavator’s shop, tossing rolls of paper and tape back and forth in the late hours of Christmas Eve, readying gifts for my younger brothers in the morning. I remember watching Mom fold a shirt into perfect tissue paper poofed in a garment box just so, then tape the edges, then align the gift with the straight edge of the paper, then crease the ends and tuck them in so clean and neat it looked as if the box had come pre-wrapped that way, then with the scissors–how Mom could take something meant to cut and use it to spiral curl the ribbon with one swift motion after twisting the strand in a magic flip-and-twirl fashion that always left just the right amount of ribbon at just the right length for the curl. And then how she always had a bag of bows nearby to go with every present. The Country Christmas CD played on repeat in the background as we wrapped and wrapped, me working to mimic her folds, her creases, her curls.
There was no advent activity calendar. I don’t recall the places we went out to eat during this season or even many gifts received or given unless it was recorded in a home video from the era. But I remember the texture of that paper, how it hid and held so much.
I think we’ll take a Sabbath this Saturday and drag the box of paper and ribbons and bows up from the basement. I think we’ll wrap what’s left of our gifts together, listen to some music, and be present for one another.
“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”