Monday, December 29, 2008

an exceptionally long christmas post

Where shall I start?

I could start a week before Christmas when Emily had her clarinet recital. She had to be there at 5:45. I picked her up after work at 5:25. It was a dark and rainy night. Perfect setting for the horror that was to follow.

me: Where's your clarinet?

Em: *absolute look of despair* "I think I left it at school"

Shit shit shit, of course she did. It's not like she ever forgot it at school before, it's not like I reminded her when I dropped her off that morning not to forget it.

She almost started to cry, but I whipped into action. Let's go, maybe someone's still there. We ran down the halls of the school, in the dark, in the rain, and yes, we are blessed. The janitor was cleaning Damien's class as a matter of fact and was glad to open Emily's classroom for us. Another tragedy averted.

We drove as fast as safely possible on this dark and rainy night and made it to the recital just barely in time. I dropped Emily at the front door so she could hurry and take her place and the rest of us went to park.

Once inside I found a great seat right up front. I gave Cali a granola bar and settled in for the show. I didn't see Em, so I assumed it was the advanced band or some other school going first. After the first song, the teacher announced that it was the beginning band. Oh, my bad, I jumped to attention and started looking for Emily in the cluster of kids and instruments. I still didn't see her and started getting panicky. What if she was in the back amidst all the rest of the band members wondering where her teacher is and where she's supposed to be. I craned my neck through the entire performance looking for her in the band, looking for her in the audience, looking for her to come through the doors confused and possibly crying.
Before the last song the band teacher introduced the instruments individually and when the clarinets stood up I finally saw her. Right where she was supposed to be, holding her clarinet up, looking for me too. She waved, I waved, and I was able to enjoy the final song.
When it comes to band, it's about what you hear more than what you see anyways.
Right? Right.


I could start at 2 days before Christmas. December 23rd. One of my favorite days of the year because for the past 5 years Emily and I get all spiffed up in our best formal wear and drive down to San Francisco for a night on the town. We go to Chevy's and dine on fajitas and margaritas (well the margaritas are more for me than her... but you know).
After dinner, we catch the 7:00 show of the Nutcracker Ballet, performed by the San Francisco ballet company, the first company to perform the Nutcracker in America. Can't get much more authentic than that. It's performed in the War Memorial Opera House, an amazingly beautiful building, with lovely marble floors and floor to ceiling mirrors. This year, my mom came along with us. It was a rainy day and the traffic was a little congested through the city. We had only 35 minutes from the time we arrived at the restaurant until the ballet started so we had to eat fast. I mean fast fast. Thankfully, our waitress was very acommodating and we juuuust made it, with no time at all to spare. Our seats were on the balcony level in the very front row, so we could look down on all the people below. To the left of me was an older woman, sitting alone, looking not altogether comfortable. I don't know her and I don't know her reasons for going alone, but I smiled at her and was thankful that I had loved ones to enjoy the show with me.
At intermission Emily and I went in search of the gift shop. It was 3 floors down, and we took the stairs the entire way, in our heels. Phew. But, I was on a mission for the Nutcracker CD. I couldn't find it at Target or Walmart or the mall, so what better place than direct from the source. They had them stacked up right on the counter, EUREKA! I expected to pay a little more than usual, maybe $20? $25? I asked the woman how much.

"40 dollars"

me: "yikes"

saleswoman launched into her pitch: "It's the entire ballet on a 2 disc set, performed by the San Francisco orchestra...."

She could have saved her breath, I was buying it. $40 or not. It even came with a little souvenir book holder. Neat. Back to our seats.

As usual I watched Emily almost as much as I watched the ballet. There's something amazing about experiencing something like the ballet through the eyes of a child, especially your own child. I remembered back to our first year, when she was 5 years old, where she was so short, she had to sit on the arm of the seat just to see. That first year she danced through the lobby, a tiny blond pixie in her floor length gown, making strangers smile, telling everyone she met that she was going to the ballet and thanking me over and over for bringing her.
I looked at her now, almost 10 years old, leaning over the balcony, helping to conduct the orchestra, still making strangers smile, still thanking me, and felt intense fear at the speed of time and overwhelming pride at the person she's growing up to be. I also looked over at my mom, watching me watching Emily. She told me how happy she is that I could give these experiences to my daughter that she wasn't able to give to me....and I was so glad she was there to share the moment with us.


Or, I could start with Christmas Eve... which was not quite the fun filled evening I imagined it to be, in which we starved the children and I went to church twice, and Patrick not at all.
I worked until noon and grabbed some chinese food on my way home. It was quite busy in the restaurant, but the orange chicken was calling to me, and besides it was quite busy everywhere. I needed to make one more stop at the grocery store since Patrick had drunk all of the egg nog and I had forgotten a few other things. As you might expect, it was a madhouse. I had Caliana with me and I'm lucky she didn't get lost in the fray. You could barely move. I will never, vow NEVER go to the grocery store on Christmas eve again. Mark my words. Go ahead, mark them. I tell no lies.
We got back home an hour and a half later and Patrick was impatient to get to his parents house. It was another crummy rainy day, and we all got wetter than I would have liked. Emily almost dropped the two pies we were bringing on the floor of the car and we were all basically feeling pretty tightly wound. We did have a nice visit though and then afterwards fought our way through traffic to church. They had daycare for the toddlers only so Damien and Emily sat with us in the church. Five minutes in, the pager they gave us at the daycare room went off. Patrick went to get Cali and we didn't see him again for the rest of the service. Which was a very nice service. Except for Damien trying to have a sword fight with the glow sticks they gave them and both Emily and Damien thinking it would be fun to climb on the hand rails.
At the end, we made a mad dash through the Patrick and Cali, outside....again no Patrick and Cali. So we booked it across the puddle filled, dark rainy parking lot a mile away to the car where I just knew they had to be. Nope. Back through the parking lot. Emily is upset because she stepped in a puddle and her pants and socks and shoes are soaked, Damien is losing his mind because it's 7:00 and they haven't eaten since lunch, unless you count the candy and cookies everyone is handing out, which I don't. We eventually found them, still in the daycare. DOH.
3 cranky, hungry, wet kids and 2 grumpy adults all finally packed in the car, and did we do the smart thing? Did we go home? Did we find them some food? No, we went to Patrick's sisters house to bring them their presents, because we were like already over on that side of town and everything. Needless to say we didn't stay long. We went to my mom's after, where she was having real food, drinks, and karaoke. I was the only adult who got up and embarrassed myself, I mean sang. But she had an 80's karaoke cd and I can't pass up the chance to sing along with WHAM.
Long story short, we wore those kids out, there was no chance they were waiting up for Santa, they were just glad to be dry and warm in bed. I caught a midnight candlelit service at our regular church with a couple friends which was just lovely and got me back in the Christmas spirit. And when I got home I sadistically added ribbon to every single one of the presents I placed under the tree and headed off to bed, for 3 hours at least.


Christmas day, ahhh Christmas. The glow of the tree never looked so bright. I'm definitely not one of those parents that moans and groans when the kids wake up early on Christmas and nudge you out of bed. It is the one day a year I am actually up before everyone. Except Patrick. No one can beat him, so he doesn't count. I'm all jittery with excitement, wondering if it would be cruel to wake the kids at 5:30 am after they were up so late. Emily and Damien made it down first and we let them open their stockings, but they had to wait for Cali to do the rest. It was a lovely morning of gift giving, gift receiving, and gift frustration since Mom put ribbons on every single damn box.
One of my gifts to Patrick even made him tear up which in turn made me tear up. Sniff Sniff, I just love Christmas.
We finished off the morning with the giving of the Wii. We saved it as a surprise gift after everything else was opened and the wrapping cleaned up and the kids were looking over all of their goodies. And it WAS a surprise. It was a surprise that I remembered to actually go get it out of my closet and give it to them. They were appropriately enthusiastic, but I couldn't stick around to bask in it since I had some serious cooking to do.
Normally I am not the host. I don't do the whole....stay in the kitchen slaving all day, and I mean ALL day so that everyone else can have a glorious Christmas and I can have two burns on my hand and one on my arm. Nope, that's not usually me. But this year it was. We all have our burdens to bear.

BUT, I was pretty excited because I had no less than FOUR brand spanking new recipes to try out and I was just going to wow everyone. And did I ever. I wowed them with a $300 meal, that was ready 2 1/2 hours late, which by the time it was ready I was so stuffed on sampling carrots and mashed potatoes straight out of the pan, that I was barely able to wolf down 3 pieces of rum cake.
When all was said and done, we had a ton of guests, a ton of SATISFIED guests, I had a few too many glasses of champagne and played Apples to Apples. There was farting, name calling, and I even grabbed a cookie from a little girl and chucked it all the way to the kitchen. Beat that with your Christmases.

I'm just glad I didn't try out Guitar Hero until after all of my Christmas duties were finished. We might not have eaten at all.

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