For the record, in case anyone wonders what happened, it was I who killed the holidays. So, if you’re ever accused of such a thing, feel free to use me as your alibi because I’ll freely admit to having done so.
Growing up, you think that you are your own person. You have these ideas that when you become an adult everything will be easy because you’re calling the shots. After all, you’ll be the adult. The reality is that things are a lot more complicated than that. You’re not just yourself. You become this weird conglomeration of yourself and your parents and any unfulfilled expectations about what you would have wanted to do had you been an adult when you were a child and you were calling the shots.
The husband can be like this sometimes. Goddess help me not to become his mother. She’s kind of overbearing. The one who always gets to call the shots and decide where you go to eat, even if it’s your birthday and what you really want is pizza. She never comes right out and says it straight, though. It’s always through the back door and usually accompanied by tears with a great big heaping helping of guilt.
And if she’s not an easy mother to deal with when you’re the child she gave birth to, it’s even stickier and crazier when she’s your mother-in-law and she doesn’t understand why you might not be interested in all of her shoulda, coulda, wouldas because she never had the money when her kids were young and your child is now her second chance.
I think that’s why she’s scared of me, by the way. I’m not so good at playing the appeasement game. If you want something, then be plain about it. Say what you want, what you mean, and what you think. Make your choices when you have your chance and move on. Use your words. Be respectful, of course, but own your truth. I don’t have any patience for the tears and guilt. I’m not interested in inconveniencing everyone else because one person is used to getting their way.
Nope, I’m not.
Of course, she’s never come right out and told me that she was afraid of me, I heard that (reputably) third hand. Which still seems silly because…me?
But reader, some days I feel like I’m married to my husband, his expectations of what he’d do differently, and his mother because while he’d pretty much always pick me over his mother, she’s always hanging around there in the shadows. The husband is fanatical about keeping everything equal between the kids because he always felt like things were very unequal for him. It doesn’t matter when we start, if we’re putting money away in a savings account, then everyone’s balance should be the same over the long term so that we really should go back and put money into our son’s account because we owe him something like five years of bi-weekly deposits.
Then there’s his long-range goal of giving the kids the freedom to get in a bit of trouble when they’re teenagers, or not, but certainly not running around from sun up to sun down because you’re deathly afraid that they’ll have sex. His mother still thinks she single-handedly prevented her son from having sex as a teenager, which I discovered while having lunch at Olive Garden with my three children sitting at the table. Between you and me, as his wife, once fiancée, and long time ago girlfriend whatever choices he made then had absolutely nothing to do with how busy his mother kept him. And really? No parent can keep their teenager busy enough to prevent that.
And the holidays. He wants to do everything for the kids – all of the things that he didn’t get to do as a child and experienced for the first time as an adult.
Bet you were wondering when I’d get back to how I killed the holidays, weren’t you?
This past weekend we went out to our usual tree lot to select a tree. Mind you, when I left I wasn’t all that certain where we were going to put the tree this year. My living room isn’t exactly what you might call large and it’s kind of become puppy central. Next year when the dog is older, definitely, but this year? Add to that higher prices because of the drought and I wasn’t exactly gung-ho about it.
I’ve lost count of the number of years I have been involved in cutting down a tree for the holidays, so I’m thinking what’s so wrong with not doing that this year? I mean, it’s a tree. The husband, on the other hand, hadn’t ever cut down a real tree until we were dating and he went with my family. Last year we all went and got one together and I guess it made this huge impression on him. I get the feeling he was hoping for the same thing this year because he invited everyone and was so excited.
As a group, when it came time to leave, we left with things like wreaths and for our family the cutest little tree you ever did see, but no tree for the living room and in the van ride home the husband and kids were sending off this vibe that made it clear that I had killed the holidays. Nothing would ever be the same again.
I tried to make my case for why I thought it was the best decision and explained my plans for our tiny tree. I even said we’d buy the outside lights that the kids have been after me for years to put up. It got better when we bought the lights, doubly so when the husband strung up the cranberries, but by the time the orange slices were drying in the oven I had won them over with my Charlie Brown-esque tree and reasoned explanation for why not now and why that’s not the end of the world. There’s enough magic left in the holidays for us all and memories for the kids to make. Did I mention that there were pinecones, glue, glitter, and the nifty little tree skirt that I haven’t quite finished?
It’s entirely likely that in their eyes I’ve still killed the holidays. If that’s the case, my deepest apologies to the future partners of my children. You’re probably going to have to cut down a real tree every year.