Great Expectations

In the dark of predawn I lay in bed, tucked snugly beneath my downy comforter, sleet pinging against the windowpanes in soft yet fitful waves. Against all odds associated with parenthood, no one under the age of eight burst into the room to announce that the sky was falling. Translation: my husband and I had had the presence of mind to skip setting the kids’ alarm the night before, in anticipation of inclement weather almost certain to arrive by daybreak. So for a time, all was silent in this good house—except for the ticking of clocks and the tiny taps at the window.

As the not-so-surprising news of yet another school cancellation reached my ears in the wee hours that day, I was filled impossibly with hope. Hope that I would enjoy a morning devoid of the madness I had known all too well since September. Hope for a day abundant with hot cocoa, kindness and good cheer. Hope that I might finally summon the strength and ambition to take down the blasted Christmas tree. The one that has been standing very nearly straight in my living room for the past 63 days, mocking me as I addressed my cache of shamefully belated holiday cards.

The tree had to come down. It would come down. It was January 28th for Pete’s sake. Besides, I was tired of its condescending glare, as if it were looking down its boughs at me, judging my every deficiency. Shaming my inadequate core.

Moreover, with my army of helpers that would likely be at my disposal ALL DAY (since no one wanted to frolic in the freezing rain), I banked on being able to pack up and stow away each and every jingle bell, snowman, Santa likeness and string of garland-y foolishness in the entire house. To reclaim my space. At least until Easter.

Needless to say, lots of people here agreed that it was high time. “Mom, you know we’re going to get arrested, don’t you?”

“Arrested? For what?!”

“Because January’s almost over and we don’t even have our Christmas tree down yet! We’ll all be thrown in jail!”

“Whaaaaat?! Who’s going to throw us in jail?”

“The Holiday Police.”

“The Holiday Who?!”

“The Holiday Police. They arrest people who don’t do stuff right—like taking Christmas trees down BEFORE Groundhog Day. Helloooooooooo.”

She had a point.

All I had to do was glance at the calendar and then at the muddled mess surrounding me. Remnants of the holiday season were everywhere. The Christmas lights were (and still are!) completely shrouded with ice and fused impossibly to the trees and shrubs outside. The stockings were still hung—and shockingly, still laden with beloved items that had been tragically forgotten since Santa’s celebrated arrival. Gifts of every size, shape and hideous stage of disarray lay like carnage throughout the house and under the aforementioned evergreen, gloriously bedecked with enough ornament-age for a forest. Legions upon legions of festive-looking dishes, alarmingly bare except for the smarmy trail of cashews and the red and green fleckage of holiday M&Ms, still rested upon my tabletops, whispering without end, “Cleeeean meeeee.” Santa’s cookie plate begged to be returned to the cupboard, the crèche longed to be back in the attic and quite frankly, the mistletoe was tired of hanging around.

What’s more, I noted that the kids had been swiping stuff from the tree for weeks—like the reindeer, now chummy with Barbie’s horses and sharing a corral, and the snowmen, warmly adopted by a family of Lego people. I even discovered a few sparkly ornaments dangling precariously from the rooftops of doll houses. Icicles maybe?

That said, it was way past time to begin the arduous process of un-decorating. Clearly, the snow day that had been bestowed upon us was a window of opportunity and perhaps the spark that would ignite my drive and determination to succeed in spite of myself. At least that was the plan.

But it was not to be. My great expectations for the day were shot by 10 am and my hopes for a tidier living room were all but dashed. For all intents and purposes, the thorny pine had become rooted there, a glaring reminder of my ineptitude as a putter-away-of-holiday-wares. Instead we frittered away the time, putting six puzzles together, littering the house with Barbie dolls and dresses, devouring books, stuffing ourselves with chocolate-chip pancakes and lounging in our pajamas till it was almost evening—at which time I sent my brood outdoors to play in the snow that had FINALLY begun to fall in big, feathery flakes. A consolation prize for my efforts.

Then again, maybe my reward was the delicious chunk of time I spent fishing for puzzle pieces with my kids, eavesdropping on their Barbie powwows, listening to the ice hit the windows—safe and sound in this good house.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (and where the Holiday Police are destined to arrive).

Copyright 2009 Melinda L. Wentzel



Filed under We Put the Fun in Dysfunction

6 responses to “Great Expectations

  1. What a terrible mother you are! You choose rambunctious and rowdy over weary and dreary. Get your priorities straight!

  2. Indeed, putting away the holiday decorations is definitely an arduous task and like yours, my kiddos have frequently run off with various aspects of the festive decor in order to festoon their own spaces with glitter, glam, and holiday glory. Well, really just to let Mickey Mouse ride on the ornament sled down the roof of the gingerbread house and land in the creche to make the baby in the manger laugh. I did find garland wrapped around the doorknob of one child’s bedroom, but I think that was more likely used as a colorful albeit festive lock for the door. I hate finding and gathering, categorizing and storing them all away. It is way more fun taking it all out! Inevitably I find something left from Christmas in June or July anyway…

    I think you spent the day in the most heavenly way….*sigh*

    If my children would sit and finish a whole puzzle in one shot it would be a miracle and completing a game through to the end (without someone crying) would be a dream come true! Remember, I have two with some processing issues and definite mood disorders, so each task/game can be a huge challenge, but I LONG to be able to spend a day like that with them. 🙂

    I look forward to reading your posts M, as you create stories that are witty and relatable. In addition, you enable language to flow from the page with an enjoyable rhythm, I consider you a linguist to be admired. I am no lit. crit. nor was I even an English major. I just love the way your writing feels.

    Thank you for being there, and for making me smile so often.


    • WOW…my head is now the size of a small planet thanks to you. 🙂 Glad you were entertained and could relate to my world (i.e. sounds like your kiddos give you the same sort of grief over the notion of un-decorating). As far as the putting-together-of-puzzles and playing-board-games-sans-tears, it was a fluke I assure you. Invariably, someone beneath this circus tent experiences some sort of meltdown when we gather together to play. Apparently, the gods of inclement weather were smiling upon me that day. Good thing. 😉

  3. Ruth Fidino

    The Holiday Police just sent me an email. They plan to be at your place mid February. Seems there are other offenders who need the prompt sooner. Apparently there’s a lady in Cleveland who decorated her tree with witches and brooms. She’s the target for tomorrow. They are planning a large intervention.