Have you noticed that my posts are a bit less bookish lately? I apologize for focusing on details of my life that are interesting only to me and to other family members. Christmas in a house full of children demands that one focus on Christmas and children — the anticipation, the wonder, the joy, the numerous activities, the helping of others, often to the exclusion of other things.
We had seven boys over here playing after the school basketball tournament yesterday. A fire crackled merrily in the fireplace. Bowls of popcorn were spilled on the living room rug. Soda pop was consumed. Huck played the drums (Yes, I am a glutton for punishment. Huck has a drum kit and I allow him to play it in the house). Couch cushions were converted into a fort. Stinky boy socks and basketball shoes were on the floor. A fine time was had by all. That’s Christmas season to me. Work commitments, even pleasurable bookish ones, tend to fall by the wayside in favor of celebration.
I never wanted to be one of those mothers. You know the type. The ones that spend the days leading up to the big holiday in a frenzy of anxious housecleaning, cooking, and shopping. The ones who insist that everything go according to their plan. The ones whose days end in several pomegranate martinis at a holiday cocktail party. It’s easy to let family and Christmas and obligation do that to you — to feel as though you have to perform, to have the best children, the cleanest house, the most beautiful decor, and the most delicious food. I certainly want those things, but I’ve learned to relax a little, with my end goal being that I hope my children and Thoughtful Husband and I have happy memories of their childhood holidays here at home.
It’s a goal. It’s not always the reality. There have been years where I have been one of those mothers, except you can replace the martini with See’s chocolate. It’s not a pretty sight. In fact, when they were babies, my husband used to just take the boys and leave for the day while I prepared for Christmas Eve dinner. “Get them out of my way!” I’d demand, forgetting in the hubbub that it’s their house, too. I was a whirling dervish of stress and martyrdom. Look at me — I cooked, I cleaned, I wrapped presents all for you and your relatives. And you all have no appreciation for me. Pass the chocolate buttercreams, please, and cry me a river. When I look at it from the distance of a few years, I wouldn’t want to celebrate Christmas with a mother like that either. And I banished my own kids from the house so I could make it look the way I thought it should. What a #$*&@!
While Christmas with lots of extended family members does take work and planning, and I have had my years of being very high stress about it, I am trying to evolve into a mother who wants her children to learn to enjoy the holidays and to focus on the happiness of others and not just themselves. Chores are chores and they aren’t enjoyable. Cooking is not one of my favorites either, truth be told. (I do love baking, though.) What is enjoyable is a holiday where we get to see the enjoyment of others. So now we all do this cleaning, shopping, cooking, etc. with the end result in mind — we’re getting the chores out of the way so we can enjoy the good times and so we can give others the opportunity to enjoy good times with us. I don’t banish my own children from our home; in fact, I’m happy to have the basketball team over after the game, even though the clean-up after is a lot of work. If something doesn’t get done on time, it doesn’t get done. As long as we’re together, we’ll have a good time. I’ve learned to ask for help when needed, even if it comes with some grumbling from the boys.
Now, if any of you are battle-scarred Christmas cynics, let me assure you that I’m no fool with starry-eyed visions of a perfect home or a perfect family or a perfect Christmas. I realize that two boys, ages 7 and 9, will have no appreciation of my attitude toward Christmas preparation now or any time in the near future. I just hope I am planting seeds for the men they will ultimately become. Having been a high school teacher, I am well aware of the fact that a principle or idea I’ve taught or modelled may not be understood or implemented by a student until years later. To be a teacher and a mother, you need to get over the idea of instant gratification. You need to do your job and hope that the rest will take care of itself. You need to be hopeful rather than cynical, so that is what I choose to be. Sometimes I get disappointed, but sometimes I also get pleasantly surprised.
The same is true for antiquarian booksellers and book collectors. We are willing to delay gratification, to wait and to search for years, if necessary, to get what we want. Outsiders look at us and think we are obsessed with details, research, and searching for holy grails. We know that our work and patience now may pay off later. (Hey, I couldn’t do a post without at least a little bit of a bookish connection!)
I hope you’ll understand that in an effort to be the kind of family member I want to be during the holidays, I am going to take a blogging break until New Year’s. And when I come back, I’ll be ready to be bookish again! Will you still be here? I sure hope so. If you’re new to this blog, and you like what you’re reading or, conversely, if you’re enjoying laughing at me, read through some of the archived posts. There are all kinds of bookish things.
See you in the New Year!
Coming in 2008:
-Evaluation of one year in business
-Business goals for 2008
-Writing a business plan
-More book fair fun
-More lunacy and the arrangement of books
-And lots more antiquarian bookseller adventures!