My mom and I get into Christmas pretty hard core. We run into Christmas every year face first with all our traditions and "must do's" and such. The difference between us is that I've learned over the years to dial it down a bit. When I was younger I would get so geared up and have this list of shit that I had to get done and it had to get done perfectly or CHRISTMAS WOULD BE RUINED and I would get really stressed out and upset if something didn't happen exactly how it had happened last year and when Christmas was over I would collapse into a strung out depressed mess for about two weeks, mourning the demise of the best time ever(even though it really wasn't) and sobbing over the fact that I would have to wait a WHOLE YEAR to experience this magical time again(because if it was any sooner it would likely kill me).
Now I actually enjoy Christmas for real instead of forcing myself to experience the crap out of it. If I don't feel like listening to Christmas music I don't listen to Christmas music and I don't feel guilty about it because I ONLY HAVE 4 WEEKS LEFT TO LISTEN TO CHRISTMAS MUSIC SO I BETTER LISTEN TO IT AS MUCH AS I POSSIBLY CAN. Or Christmas is ruined and stuff.
I don't send out Christmas cards because I hate doing them and I've honestly put about 10 years back on my life by not worrying about when should I send out the Christmas cards? Now? Should I send them now? How many should I send out? I don't want to leave anyone out so I should send them out to every single person I have ever talked to in my life right? But I don't have all their addresses. SHIT! I don't have all their addresses! I need all their addresses! I'll just hand deliver them. But what about work? Should I just give them to my friends? But what if people feel left out? I'll just give one to everyone. Even that guy in accounting whose name I don't remember. I'll just put Merry Christmas in that one without a name. Yes. That'll work. And I have to make sure I write something super unique and meaningful in all of them because what if they show each other and they're all the same and what's the point in doing Christmas cards if you don't make them unique and meaningful right? CRAAAAP! I'M RUNNING OUT OF TIME!!
And this is why you won't now, and never will, get a Christmas card from me. I don't even do the email thing anymore because the one time I did that when I was married I sent my Mother-in-law one without including my husband's name at the end and she thought we were getting a divorce. Seriously. And I was like, "Are you fucking kidding me? Wait a year."
So, as I was saying, I've thankfully, for my sanity and the sanity of those around me, learned how to love Christmas and all of my traditions while, at the same time, understanding that if something doesn't get done or isn't done perfectly it's not the end of the world.
My Mom, on the other hand, hasn't quite hit that point in her life yet. And, as a consequence of that, one of our family traditions has now become "talking my Mom off the ledge" and it usually happens on more than one occasion during the festive season.
Now, to be fair, my Mom has a lot on her plate over Christmas and she gets so excited about me coming home and wants everything to be perfect and great for me and I get that. I know she misses both my brother and I living there and being there and misses how Christmas used to be for us as a family. Also my brother has never come home for Christmas, and I think she's started to resign herself to the fact that he probably never will, and she tries really hard to keep a stiff upper lip about the whole thing while also trying to make everything perfect. And, really, when something doesn't go as planned on a regular day she loses a small piece of her sanity so when something doesn't go right during CHRISTMAS which is her time to shine, that piece is just slightly larger.
For example, almost burning the house down on a regular day in, say, July would upset you a bit. Almost setting the house on fire during CHRISTMAS is something that precludes a small to medium sized breakdown. Especially when it happens twice.
So, on Christmas Eve Day, 4 hours after she told us not to turn on the oven because the cinnamon buns were in there rising, when I heard her cry of despair while preparing supper I briefly considered grabbing my coat and running out the door. But I didn't. Because I'm a good daughter. Or something.
What I did do was walk into the kitchen which was full of smoke and contained my poor mom who was holding a blackened dish towel which had previously covered the rising cinnamon buns, and gave her a hug and tried my best to convince her that she had not, in fact, ruined Christmas. Nor did she even ruin the cinnamon buns. And even though she didn't now know how long to cook them for because they were already partially cooked, she could probably figure it out. (Yes you could. Because you've made these before. Several times. But they're NOT ruined. They're not even black. No, you didn't ruin Christmas. But you DIDN'T burn the house down. Yes, I'm sure that was your favorite red dish towel but I think you're just grasping at straws now.)
Now let's set the scene for Christmas Day:
Back story: My parents decided long ago that, rather than cook a turkey because it's a great deal of work, we would have chicken for Christmas. Which is fine with me because I like chicken and, really, I'm not making it or paying for it so who the hell cares what I eat.
Ok, here's the scene for real: My dad has just put two chickens on the BBQ because it's unseasonably warm in the Arctic province which I call home. My mom and I are in the kitchen peeling potatoes. Now, it needs to be said that my Dad, quite the opposite from my Mom, is a pretty laid back kind of guy and very rarely swears and actually often chides both my Mom's and my potty mouths. This needs to be said because it will allow you to better understand my surprise when I heard him yell from the living room, "JESUS CHRIST" and run past us faster than I have ever seen him move, out the patio doors. But then I saw the smoke, oh lord the smoke. And I was surprised no longer.
Although, it turns out oddly enough, that in a moment of crisis that is not my Mom's fault, she is as cool as a cucumber and she promptly got a couple of large plates on which my Dad brought in the fully blackened chickens which were shortly before, both on fire.
I waited for the tears. I waited for the breakdown. But, surprisingly, I waited in vain. My Mom continued peeling potatoes and my Dad painstakingly picked all the black off the chickens because "no one eats the skin anyways" and put them in the oven. And they were delicious.
While my Dad was picking off the skin I asked if I should also start something on fire to complete the tradition.
Oh, too soon?