**cough** **ack** **ehht** damn. pablo sent me off with a cup of coffee on the way to work this morning. that stuff was so strong, not only would it put hair on your chest, it could take it off and have energy left over to strip paint. which was a good thing, as the last few days have been exhausting, physically and emotionally. thank goddess there aren't really 12 days of Christmas. i might be dead by the end of them. you might want to grab a cup of coffee, too, as this has turned out to be a rather longish entry.
the holiday started for me on Friday; remembered to bring a few giftees in to work, but forgot to bring my pocketbook, which i realized when i reached for my passcard to get in to the office. y'all, i leave my pocketbook On The Damn Doorknob. i am not a morning person at all. so i try to set things up to make sure i trip over the essentials (quite literally) on my way out the door. thankfully, my best friend was willing to run me home at lunch. otherwise things could have been ugly, because i wouldn't have been able to get to the bank to get some money for bus/train fare on Sunday. i was not relishing the thought of having to panhandle my way down to my parents, or having to hock the presents to get back.
took a little break Friday afternoon to go for hot cider with one of the guys from the office, and then picked up some last minute baking supplies on the way home. at this point, i can't even remember if i did anything once i got home - things have turned into a bit of a blur. i'm pretty sure i made at least one thing, and then just sacked out. i did call my bro to try and figure out holiday plans, only to find out that he was Sick, with a capital S. he sounded like he was on his last leg, poor guy.
Saturday morning when i got up, i felt a little overwhelmed and frantic, as if impending doom was about to crash my world. called a few friends hoping to hear friendly voices reassuring me that things really weren't that dire, but ended up leaving messages. organized the baking list, and had the oven going for nearly 6 hours straight, with a few breaks for chatting with friends who called back (yay!). at that point, i had to take a break, so i cleaned for a little bit and ran out to the store. shopping at the market down the street from me is a contact sport on the best of days; Saturday afternoon was so crowded, you almost needed to walk over the tops of shopping carts to get anywhere. fortunately, it was a blood sport only because of close quarters, not because anyone was cranky. the staff must have been pretty punchy, too. i laughed out loud a few times, because it seemed like it was amateur hour on the PA system. 'yo, mike, keep it down!' 'could we have a competent deli clerk to the counter, please?' 'hey, mahk [NB: regional enunciation of Mark], yoah turn up heah.' you get the idea...
Saturday night is when i started to lose it. honey came over around dinner time, and i still needed to bake and pack. i'd asked him earlier in the day if he minded that i would still be doing stuff, as i didn't know what his expectations for our holiday night were. if it was my undivided attention, i was going to suggest that he come over a bit later. he was fine with it, tho, and helped me get a bunch of stuff done. by the time i got the bread in to bake, i only had one more thing to do, and it could wait for a bit. so i cleaned up the kitchen, poured myself a glass of wine, and we went in to the living room to exchange gifts.
you would think this would be fine, right? nope. for starters, i felt like i was going to cry at the thought of taking presents out from under the tree. not sure why this was... maybe because it represented so much work, piled up there? because i thought people wouldn't like their gifts? because it signalled the start of the interminable shuffling things from place to place? because ... i was just kind of on the edge anyway, and i was afraid i wouldn't say the right thing? not really sure. all i know is that i was very trepidatious about the whole thing.
we started by doing stocking stuff. i'd gotten two little knit stockings, in earth tone kind of colors, one with a snowflake and one with a tree. i purposely got small ones, because i didn't want to make a big deal out of it, but keep it light and fun. that part went well... then i got nervous because i couldn't remember what i'd gotten for him, or where i'd put the presents. for a second, i nearly toppled over... but then the gifts surfaced. sweetie was quite pleased about little gifts (one was torrone, and i swear there was another one.... ah! a wrought iron sconce. whew.), and very excited about the big present - an 8 inch chef's knife. so excited, in fact, that he tried it out on the gift box, with a nearly manic glint in his eye. i hope he didn't see me inching away from him on the couch. 8) i got chocolate, adorable PJs, and what turned out to be the best gift of all this year - my own domain name.
yup, it's officially geek love. my honey went and registered two versions of my journal name for me. and how geeky is it that this made me all teary happy? truly, he is one of the most thoughtful, sweetest people i know. and he knows the way to my geeky heart. *g*
after that, we finished up one last batch of baking, and then i rather manically sorted all the gifts out by destination. damn... i realized i was going to be a bag lady for the rest of the weekend. good thing i wasn't staying down at my parents, because there is no way on god's green earth i could have managed an overnight bag on top of everything else. we ended up having to make a midnight run back to his house for an inhaler, and while i think i played it down, this made me pretty jumpy. too many people have been sick or hurt recently, and i didn't want for him to be on the list too.
Sunday. third day of Christmas. up at what felt like the ass crack of dawn to truck on over to the bus station with a kajillion pounds of gifts (not that many things, really, i apparently just shop heavy), which i was going to do by T. sweetie was a sweetie and offered to take me over... thanks, hon. this let me have perhaps the most peaceful few hours of the weekend. having gotten there in plenty of time to make sure i'd make it on the bus (and if i had missed it... well, let's not talk about the panic that would have ensued), i wandered off to get a cup of coffee. there was an older gentleman sitting nearby, strumming Christmas carols on his guitar and whistling softly along with them. the bus was blessedly empty, and there was no traffic headed down Cape. i got to sit by the window, with both seats to myself, soak in the sun, and re-read Harry Potter, with nothing else to think about for nearly two hours.
then it all started up again. i was apprehensive about meeting up with my sister and her husband, as it hasn't been exactly smooth sailing between her and me recently. maybe the tension was all n my side... who could tell at this point? and it wasn't outright tension; things were quite pleasant on the surface, as we went to brunch and then over to my grandmother's. but at least on my side, there was an undercurrent of 'what's the happy face hiding?', and this was sort of the theme for the day. i was particularly thrown when we got to gram's. she's more fragile than ever, physically, and her speech is more garbled than it has been in a while. it's got to be frustrating for her, as it sounds fine in her head, but comes out as nonsense. and it's frightening for me. how do you respond to a string on nonsense words? i love her, i don't want to hurt her, i can't interpret some of what she says, i don't know how to behave.
that notwithstanding, it was a nice visit. the three of us got there, and my bro, his wife and my niece showed up about a half hour later. gram told some funny stories about us as kids, and we all took turns sitting and chatting with gram, as there were a couple different conversations going on and she finds that hard to follow. hell, so do i some days. it just broke my heart to see her, tho, and know that she's a little less the person i grew up with each time. damn... hang on a sec, will you? i can't imagine that crying on the keyboard is any good for it. ... okay. *sniffle* wiped my eyes, got some hot chocolate. *deep breath* where was i? oh yeah.
headed over to my parents' after a bit for Christmas dinner. dad came bounding out to meet us, and he looked pretty good. [NB: there is no implied 'for an old guy' in there, i swear! *g*] mom looked pretty, and fragile. it seemed like she was a bit overwhelmed by the day, and us showing up. **clamp** out comes the patented family emotional vise grip. while it is usually better to be open and honest about one's feelings, this was one of those situations where that seemed wrong. so i kept on the happy face for mom (and also for dad), hoping that she couldn't see the work going on. tried to help dad with dinner, and realized that staying the hell out of his way in the kitchen was really the best thing to do. we did most of the presents before dinner, with dad playing Santa in between runs to check the roast or put the potatoes in the oven. i thought mom was going to cry every time she opened a present. my niece had a grand old time, and was especially pleased with some 'feed me' baby doll that had overtones of Tamagotchi - if you don't treat it properly, it wails until you get things right. this, i found creepy. mom thought it was... well, i don't know what she thought it was. but she seemed sort of fixated on changing and feeding the doll. maybe just as a way to connect with my niece? erm. there's some more processing to do on that one; i just don't know yet.
the funniest present was the Rock Lobster, which my dad gave my sis. it's an animatronic lobster on a hunting trophy plaque, and it sings. a lot. and loudly. and dances. i couldn't tell if sis was amused or horrified, and she wasn't sure either. dad, on the other hand, laughed more than i've seen him in ages. clearly, he was tickled by the whole thing.
of course, the moment where i did something wrong finally happened. during dinner, i made some unthinking comment about how gram may as well have been speaking Arabic when we first got there, which says more about my dis-ease than anything. well, didn't conversation at the table come to a grinding halt over that one? and i'm worried that it worried my mother... generally, just a stupid thing to have said. at that point, i couldn't finish dinner fast enough to scoot outside for a cigarette. which, naturally, gave rise to a host of uncharitable comments about my addiction. i just couldn't be diplomatic. 'so i want a smoke. your issue with that would be?' 'nothing, really.' 'then why make a comment?' eh. i was getting more prickly by the minute. did i mention that it was colder that a witch's left teat the other day? the wind chill was somewhere in the -10 range. which of course made me even more cheerful. and (oh, yeah) i had been feeling fat all day (not all in my head - i've put on 10 pounds in the last month), and had been fussing with my shirt all afternoon, because it kept gapping in the front, or at least i imagined it was. i had gotten a lovely sweater from my bro and sis-in-law, which i promptly changed in to to alleviate the problem, but the self-image thing was still going on.
finished up dinner, packed up stuff (again), and headed back to bro's with him so i could catch the train from there. i had a nice moment with my niece, and read her Olive, the Other Reindeer as her bedtime story. but downstairs, the Guinea Pig Saga was unfolding. turns out Buddy munched on a poinsetta the other day. 'well, it didn't hurt him the first time that happened!' ummm... you're just damn lucky it didn't kill him that time. so small sick child keyed up about Christmas might possibly be confronted by dead pet in the morning. what to do? put it out of it's misery? hope for a miracle recovery? hide it and hope she doesn't ask? i don't envy my brother that little crisis one bit. and when i checked with my best friend, it turned out i was going to get back too late to come over. for some reason, this was devastating to me. i had been so looking forward to that, and was dragging the extra presents along so i could go right to the house. but i was going to be too late for it to be fun for anyone. i told her it was fine, but really it wasn't. maybe because i needed a warm, safe haven, and wasn't going to get it.
bro scooted me over to the train station in time, altho i nearly didn't make it on to the train, because all the crap i was carrying was just too awkward. and then, on the way home, i started crying. emotional exhaustion? realizing that i can't protect those i love? knowing that Christmas will never again be as perfect as when i was 5, hanging my special stocking and putting out snack for Santa, waiting for the beauty and warmth of that day? or maybe all of those. the proverbial straw was walking from the T station to my honey's house. i'm taking baby steps in heels, laden down by 5 bags of stuff (did i mention i got two pieces of Le Creuset? that shit weighs a ton, and should be registered as a lethal weapon.), trying not to slip on the ice, when one of the bags bumps into a pipe jutting out of the side of a building. i stopped, stomped my feet, and burst out in tears. i only had another half block to go, but it felt like an eternity. i was hoping that when i got inside, sweetie would be there to hug me and help with my bags and make everything alright, but he wasn't. i called his shoe phone to see where he was, and when he asked if i was okay, i said no and hung up, knowing as i did it that it was probably going to fuck up his night, but that i couldn't stay on the phone without falling apart.
and this is where the big meltdown happened. i went upstairs and sobbed hysterically, getting all red and blotchy-faced, and snotting all over the pillow, and not caring. when honey came in, all i could say was 'please leave me alone'. i couldn't even look at him. things felt so shitty at that point that i didn't want to show my face. the aftermath is really fodder for another entry (thank god, you're probably sighing, 'cuz there's already a lot here!), but let's just say that while i was able to clamp down long enough to enjoy the house party, it got messy again later.
i'm glad i did hold it together for the midnight house party, tho. it was fun, and people liked their presents, and i was suprised to get giftees from so many people. it was a Sally Field kind of moment to realize that they thought about getting me anything at all.
and after that, Christmas Day itself was just really long. apparently, i got all the tough family stuff out of my system the day before, and it wasn't nearly as difficult to be with everyone on Christmas Day. i think it's because the expectation level is completely different outside of my own family. sure, i still want to do the right thing and have everyone enjoy the day. but it's not the same level of paranoid performance anxiety that i get with my own family.
being emotionally wiped out from the day before didn't help with the tri-house tour, for sure. dinner at my sweetie's mom's house was nice, complete with big long nap - and mj giving the best damn reaction to a present yet, whooping it up and doing the happy dance when i gave him a whole bag of nut tarts. then off to sweetie's dad's house, which was low-key. we left the car running the whole time we were there, because we nearly got frostbite running from the car to the house, it was so cold. and then off to my best friend's house for dessert, gifts and silliness. one of the gifts, some tangle puzzle thing, was termed 'an IUD for a giraffe' - gives you an idea of the company. *g* and! and! and! i got one of the Eddie Izzard videos! chica's brother had them dubbed into the right format (this started on the trip to London, if you want to troll thru the index for the back story... i'm too tired to explain more), and she and i negotiated a joint custody settlement where i got Definite Article, which makes me deliriously happy. phew. i'm tired all over again just from trying to make sense of this past weekend. i think i'm gonna go home and watch Eddie, and crash. see y'all tomorrow.