just the partridge, please

Posted by on December 18, 2013

From The Twelve Days of Christmas, illustrated by Laurel Long.

From The Twelve Days of Christmas, illustrated by Laurel Long.

An Old Christmas Greeting

Nursery Rhyme

Sing hey! Sing hey!
For Christmas Day.
Twine mistletoe and holly,
For friendship glows,
In winter snows,
And so let’s all by jolly.

* * *

I said I would not post again in December but it is hard to stay away from Poetry Wednesday. I said I was going to have a slow and lazy December, and I’ve done that, but I also miscalculated my need for productivity, and well, that tricky, ever-nagging need-for-balance problem. Yesterday, in a semi-manic burst of reactionary energy, I decided to continue the abandoned project of painting the girls’ room pink– the color they begged for and which I began painting the room over a year ago, but then quickly abandoned because I became alarmed at the intensity of the color once I saw it on the wall. Over the course of the many months, however, the lone blob of pink has grown on me, especially in the evening when it seems to glow with a good warmth. So I decided a long time ago that I might as well finish using the gallon of pink paint now sitting down in the basement. But a year passed and I never took up the task.

I am not sure how painting a room fits into the spirit of the days leading up to Christmas. It doesn’t. I am sure that more sensible people who celebrate Christmas are all making their final preparations for gifting and travel, not embarking on messy home improvement projects that involve moving a bunk bed into the middle of a small room. But somehow it lifted my spirits tremendously to throw myself into the task, and the girls were so excited to see their room being transformed in a pinkwardly direction, while they got to watch an untold number of Mr. Ed episodes in the next room. The day before I spent a large part of the day shopping for cookie ingredients and then baking six dozen gingerbread stars for a cookie exchange. Maybe my tolerance for the anti-pragmatism of things like cookie baking is less than I thought. I seemed to urgently need the semi-enduring sense of achievement afforded by applying paint to walls after all that fooling around with a rather stubborn recipe for gingerbread dough that was strangely difficult to roll out repeatedly.

I also added a bookshelf to the girls’ room that I have been meaning to bring up from the basement for ages. (It is an Ikea bookshelf that comes apart in three different pieces, so it was easy to move by myself.) Now things are a lot more organized and sane in their room and I feel less stressed about adding whatever things that Santa Claus (by which I mostly mean Mimi) might add on Christmas morning.

When I was working part-time and the girls were both in school at this time last year, all I wanted was less structure– no structure– for us all. I was ragged from running around in the car and had no time or energy for hobbies, projects around the house, or leisurely activities with my girls. Unfinished projects around the house haunted me; I felt disconnected from my children; my resentment toward the imposed structure on my life built up to the point of bursting. But this month, after taking a break from homeschooling for just a few weeks, I feel a little crazy the other way. I am burdened by the lack of an imposed structure, and the responsibility of creating structure singlehandedly day in and out, without the cushion that a little bit of disposable income might afford– the options and outlets that money can buy. I know that by staying at home, I am giving up an income that could make life as a stay-at-home a lot more pleasant, which of course, does not make any sense. It would be lovely to afford, for example, dance lessons or other programs that could give the girls an occasional break from one another and from me. But as we all know, anything you want to do in life, along those lines, takes money and more money. I don’t have that cushion, and I know that if I went back to work, the cushion of extra income would be offset by busyness so that it would turn out not to be a cushion at all. So, I cast in my lot–I made my bed–as a stay-at-home mother. Now I have to lie in that bed and play the hand I dealt to myself. This means beginning each day anew, creating order and balance again each morning, single-handedly, using only the materials that are already available.

When reading the Twelve Days of Christmas with my youngest, I asked her at the end if she would want all of those things for Christmas– the ten pipers piping, the collie birds, the maids a-milking, and so forth– all of it. She deliberated a moment and said: “Mmm, maybe just that partridge.”

So I am looking forward to the fresh start known as January. Christmas is wonderful, of course, but after the teas and cakes and ices– and skirts that trail along the floor and this and so much more– I want the colder, brisker, starker air of the New Year to come and sweep through our rooms, drying the paint on the wall, airing out the fumes of leisure, bringing something a little more regimented, a little bit checklist, a little bit calendar, a little less pajamas and pear tree partridges– into our days. This while the needle-shedding tree sits naked out on the curb.

Poetry Wednesday