Friday, December 16, 2011

Do-over: Dec. 10, 2006

The truth about 2006 is that it was a horrendously crappy year for our family. Just hideous from start to finish. My columns from that time reflect it, and this one is the I'm-living-a-crapfest year in review. This woman was really struggling.

’Tis the season for acquisition fatigue
    The decorations are up; the music is everywhere, and the shopping is in full swing. Our 6-year-old has written his letter to Santa in careful, crooked cursive letters. We’re puzzling over how to erect a properly decorated tree that our chronically exuberant 2-year-old (Mr. Demolition) won’t destroy. 

    And my mother wants to know: What do you want for Christmas?

    All I can think of is this: I want peace and health and comfort.

    It’s a lot to ask, I know. But we’ve had a hard year that has included health problems for both my husband and me and a move from our familiar little home of nine years to a big fixer-upper that turns out to be more work than we can handle right now.

    The new job my husband took in the summer of 2005 came with a one-hour commute that has worn away the edges of our mornings and evenings. And, despite neglecting most of the household chores, I don’t feel like I spend nearly enough time just playing with my sons.

    So I don’t want anything for Christmas.

    Absolutely nothing.

    Except peace and health and comfort.

    I used to be a rabid Christmas enthusiast who shopped for months, decorated for weeks and then hit the day-after-Christmas sales to compensate for the post-Christmas letdown. It was fun.

    But at some point I got everything I ever wanted and maybe a little more. Now most of it is in boxes in the basement that we still haven’t unpacked.

    And, as my husband and I struggled through this exhausting year, I found myself wishing all this stuff we’ve accumulated would just go away, that we could somehow start all over with just our two little boys and a set of clean clothes.

    So the holiday catalogs I used to pore over are going straight into the recycling bin without ever getting opened. I’m doing the shopping for the kids’ gifts in a manner I can only describe as resigned. And when my mother (the original holiday maniac) asks me what I want for Christmas, I’m pleading acquisition fatigue and asking her not to buy any stuff for anyone over the age of 6.

    "We just don’t need anything," I say.

    Except peace and health and comfort.

    In 1998, when my husband and I were engaged, my grandmother held my left hand and admired my new ring.

    "May you wear it in good health," she said.

    It struck me as an odd blessing then, sort of a dark take on a happy event. But it makes sense now. My grandmother struggled for decades with health problems of which I was only marginally aware. She knew the value of peace and health and comfort.

    So now I know, too.

    I also know our troubles this year are nothing that can’t be overcome. As my sensible, brutally honest, friend said, "Mary, you have beautiful, healthy children, and you married the right person. Things could be worse."

    She is absolutely right.

    So we’ll handle our health problems the best we can and hope things get better.

    Maybe we’ll fix up this big old house, and maybe we won’t. Maybe we’ll unpack all those boxes, or maybe we’ll just give it all to Goodwill.

    I do know we’ll continue to be grateful that we have each other. And after a long, hard year, that’s all anyone could want.

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