Falling Short

What is it about Christmas season that makes me feel totally inadequate? The second I hear the first “Fa, la, la, la, la”, I feel an impending sense of panic. How am I ever going to decorate my house for Christmas when I can’t even see the bathroom floor because of all the laundry? How am I ever going to shop for 127 perfect Christmas presents   when I can’t even remember to get toilet paper at the grocery store? And how can I possibly stock my larder with holiday goodies when my leftovers from Thanksgiving (as  best I can tell, this year’s) potentially knock people unconscious each time the freezer is opened.

     The pressure of this holiday is a killer. Especially coming from a long line of women who are experts at Christmas. As far as I can tell, I am the first woman in my family who is totally befuddled at  Christmafying the house. My mother effortlessly drapes her banisters with pine boughs and voluminous red ribbons, and her mantle displays Santa’s of all shapes and sizes nestled in evergreens and antique toys. The March Hare at her side door (side door!) wears a Santa Clause hat and don’t get me started on her dining room! We’re talking world class lovely, but all I can think about is how long it took her to get it all up, and how long it’s going to take her to get the satin ribbons off the chandelier.

     My sister is just as bad. Nestled deep in the woods, zillions of shimmery white lights   beacon me down her winding driveway. Her little potted spruce trees are swathed in more lights, and one year even her wreath was aglow. The second I open the door, the sweet smell of narcissus mixes with cinnamon and cloves, and the crackling fire casts lovely shadows on her collection of hand-made wooden Christmas elves on the mantle. There is no sign of dirty laundry, toilet paper is in every bathroom and nothing even jiggles when I open her freezer.

     I try to be like these two women who make their houses gracious and cozy and inviting always, but especially at Christmas. I have asked them up to help me, and this is when they finally revealed the truth to me. I’m missing a crucial chromosome essential to the art of doing whatever it is they do to make their houses so wonderful.

     More than once I’ve seen my sister cut her eyes at my mother when they were helping at my house. Once when she rescued the Portuguese planter from the Big Wheel pile, several times upon not being able to identify sticky puddles in unusual places and twice when she picked up   plastic pots of cracked dirt and dried up leaves that were the high point of my entry hall. I caught my mother gingerly holding a dog-chewed and totally mutilated BatMan that I insisted we save, and noticed her rolling her eyes and making gagging motions with her hands when she tried to clear off the top of my refrigerator.

     It’s not for lack of trying. A few years ago I started  Santa Claus collection for my mantle, hoping to emulate my mom’s. The problem is, Santas in my household tend to karate chop one another until beards are torn and limbs are missing, and before too long, all their charm is totally lost. No, I do not set them out within reach and suggest my three boys play war games with the Santas, but they just find them the same way they automatically hone in on the one piece of chocolate in the house that’s on top of the fridge. (Funny, none of them can find their shoes.)

     This year I resolve to be different. I plan on actually wrapping a present in something besides old newspapers, and putting some holiday spices to simmer on the stove. But I think I’ll start by putting toilet paper in the bathrooms, and getting a jump start on the laundry.

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