This Christmas tree is so distracting. It’s getting in the way of my desire to do laundry and catch up on chores. I’m having a harder time enforcing bedtime, and snapping orders like “wash your hands!” to whichever grubby little dude is running by me that moment. It’s so festive, and it makes me want to drink hot chocolate and wear a sweater and hug everybody.
Even this week, when things were hectic at work and I STILL did not get a chance to buy stamps, there it was twinkling from the window, like it had been looking down the street waiting for me to come home…tall and sparkly, pretty and happy. It’s close enough to the computer that when I sit down to return emails, or figure out what I want to write about, I usually end up turned in my seat gazing into my fun house mirror reflection on one of the shiny red ornaments. And then of course, I wince when I realize Jacob does this, and I tell him to turn around and focus.
Sure, I appreciate it’s beauty and cheeriness, but right now I can also point at it, and say “Look at that! It’s done. I got something done!” A major accomplishment during a time where I feel like I’m spinning in circles at work and at home, all while fussing and fretting, and talking about how busy I am. Of course, I’m busy, who isn’t? It’s near impossible to find someone who’s not overcommitted or stressed out or even a little grumpy. I’m never grumpier though, than when I run across that person who’s been “done” for a month thanks to the wonders of forethought and online shopping. They’re the worst.
John pointed out that even when you’re a kid, you cannot fully relax until you’ve checked something off your list: face time with Santa. Because up until you talk to him directly, you’re really not too sure if your request has been noted or lost out there in the ether. So yesterday, we sucked it up and went to see Santa to help Zach with his to-do list.
Jake did not want to see Santa. He’s 10 now and has that shag haircut. He reminded me that I promised him last year he wouldn’t have to go again, even if it was just to support his little brother. But there he stood, relatively without complaint, the tallest kid in line and with only the promise of Mongolian BBQ at the end.
The “elf” in the apron who made us very well aware that she hated working evenings and that it was almost time for her break, looked at us like we were nuts for turning down a photo package. This isn’t my first time at the rodeo, you know, I wanted to tell her. We were there on a mission, get in, tell Santa about the “Star Wars book with Luke in it,” and get out – check it off the list. At our mall, right before you get to Santa, you enter a huge snowglobe that, yes, snows on you. The kids go bananas. Laying in it, running their fingers through it and rubbing as much as they can into their hair. One girl even stood under the blower with her mouth open. It took us a minute to remember that this is not in fact, snow. It’s billions of flakes of plastic, possibly asbestos, but certainly not snow. It does not adorably melt out of your hair. It does not taste like the purest glacier water on the planet.
I pull Zachary over to me, and we start working the flakes from his hair and his all-black outfit, including his favorite shirt of all time which is the reason we had to keep him calm – the official World Champion San Francisco Giants, Buster Posey, #28 shirt. Of course, now I see the that this stuff is falling on me too, and I try ducking my head out of the way like I’m being attacked by bees. It’s in all of our hair, but the kid in line behind us is still rolling around in it. I use myself as a human shield between him and Zach when the kid starts yelling “snowball fight snowball fight snowball fight snowball fight!” I dodge and block and duck and swipe, while John shakes his head at me…“You and nature,” he says with a sigh. Now I could have corrected him here, and reminded him that we were still at the mall and not on the frozen tundra, but that wouldn’t have done any good, because this is pretty much exactly what I am like in nature too.
We take our turn sitting on the royal snow palace throne, and when the family who is purchasing 3 separate photo packages is finally done, Santa calls us all over, much to Jake’s chagrin. He high-fives us and asks what we want. When it’s my turn, I lamely point at a sweater in Macy’s window across the way, and we say our goodbyes. Zach looks up at me panicked, and runs back to Santa. “Wait!!”
Santa peeks over the top of his spectacles, “Yeeeesss?”
“What my mom really wants is Twilight: Eclipse on blu-ray.”
“I heard it’s good,” Santa says looking at me, as I slink away, tugging Zach behind me.
Then I realize, as we often do and sometimes too late – this is it. Right here, right now. I will remember this hour of standing in line with the three boys, chatting and dodging that horrific flakey snow, and Zach advocating on my behalf to Santa, much longer than I will remember a fleeting moment of satisfaction from having accomplished something. Why on Earth, would I want this to be done?
We’re reminded from the pulpit on Sundays that Advent is a time of waiting, preparation, and anticipation. But I don’t think it’s the kind of preparation we’re used to – we share this space with other flustered people and their lists and stressers. What if we stopped focusing on the lists, and enjoyed the part where we’re sharing the space with people who love us, or people who need us. This is the part where we really get to help each other…during the waiting that can otherwise seem like such a chore. I don’t need another 17 days ‘til I can care about you, I’d like to enjoy you right now, while we wait.