Thursday, 2 January 2014

" Have a Good One, Cat Lady"

As we approach the finale of Christmas revelry, there is time now to reflect a bit on this holiday season. Our home was full. We had all 3 of our sticky children home. They actually overlapped for 2 nights and my father-in-law was a very welcome addition to our Christmas tradition.  What I did not fully anticipate were the feline guests.  I fear I may be reaching a point in my empty-nesting life when people start to wonder if "maybe Mom needs another cat to keep her company".  I am hesitant to speak of the solitude of my home.  I do not want to be "the woman with all those cats".

We already have a very uppity, self-centred cat and a pathetically needy dog.  We thought we understood them.  The cat hates everyone.  The dog loves everyone.  I was talked into a friend's cat by Bridget, who pointed out that it would make a good blog post.  She knows me too well. When visiting cat #1 arrived to party down at 26 Elm Avenue, we fully expected that our cat would meet him with disgust.  We were shocked with the territorial nature of our happy-go-lucky dog. 2days later Katelyn arrived with her mild nannered cat, Myles Davis  He is a member of our extended family.  For the next few days it was a madhouse with arched backs, hissing and pouncing.  Our children behaved much more civilly as far as we could tell.

 These are our 3 children who are no longer used to living under the same roof.  There was lots of eye-rolling.  People napped everywhere.  All 3 kids are now of legal drinking age, so the back up Christmas wine supply dwindled quickly. There were shoes of every size blocking the front door.  Bathrooms were shared.  Beds were shared. Meals were "every man for himself".  3 cats and 1 high maintenance dog bolted around the house like it was a free-for-all. We were fortunate to have had power, as many in Ontario were hit harder by the ice storm than we were.  I can't imagine how we would have faired otherwise. My father-in-law sat back and observed our family at its finest.

"Hand-made" Shirts for Daddy
Pre-Christmas preparations went relatively smoothly compared to those of yesteryear.  No longer do we try to fit in children's Christmas parties, school concerts, chopping down trees, parades, Christmas cards, Santa visits with cute matching outfits, countless updates on letters to the North Pole,  participatory Christmas baking, seasonal crafts, teachers' gifts all while trying to instill a sense of the meaning of Christmas.  I endeavored to show our children that Christmas was a time of wonder and joy, but I fear I did this from behind a fog of cranky exhaustion.   I now question what I might have "let go".  How could I have simplified the season.  I hope my children have fond memories, but I know at times Christmas seemed like a project to be managed.  Why I didn't embrace on-line shopping in 1995 is beyond me. Why I didn't drink more is a mystery.  Did I find humour the small things as I do now, or was I just too busy?
Gotta find this funny

For those of you reading this and adding to the list from your non-fading memories, do you find this both melancholy and liberating?  For those of you still in the trenches, we understand.  We remember.  We also admittedly miss these days.   The smartie-stained finger-prints just got higher and higher and then they were gone. I can reiterate the age-old advice "to cherish these days as they pass so quickly". I am sure someone said this to me when I was searching for the perfect a candle for a teacher or a Red Ryder BB gun, so I am afraid I missed it.

Things are certainly easier now.  I am trying to keep it simple.  However, I am still a disorganized person trying to live in an
Keeping it simple
organized world. When my life becomes overly chaotic, like around Christmas, it is reflected in my purse.  I have a "thing" about purses.  It is everything I can do not to replace each with a new " perfect one". At Christmas time I pull out my the purse that has the greatest volume.  As December progresses, this bag just fills and fills.  I pile everything in and never pull anything out. When the kids were little, my purse was filled with sticky Santa sippy cups, fluff-covered candy canes and films to be developed.  Just recently I looked at the post-Christmas state of my purse this year.  Among the countless receipts and unsent Christmas cards, I honestly found a pair of underwear and 2 toothbrushes.  I am not sure what this implies about my character, but it seems obvious that I had some pretty high expectations of the Christmas season.  

Christmas morning was lovely.  If we do one thing well here, it is Christmas morning.  Our traditions have
blossomed over the years.  We spoil each other like there is no tomorrow.  Each year I proclaim that "this year will be different".  "This year we are toning it down".  The kids then remind me that I say this each year.  Of course I then reply "yes, but this year I mean it.".  To this they just smile and nod.  Nothing much has changed since they were tiny.  We wear a stocking cap and distribute the essentials.  This year gifts included toothpaste and soap, cutlery and placemats in an attempt to keep the kids clean and civilized in their Toronto lives.  Granddad joined right in, admiring his new travelling shoe horn.

Christmas dinner included 12 of the O'Rourke clan.  I keep it simple and do what I can ahead of time. In the true spirit of helpfulness, my brother-in-law showed up with potatoes and ham. With the sheer volume, I could have just opened a couple of cans of corn and that would be that.  I cannot express how much I appreciated this. I have been married to an Irishman for over a quarter century but I have not yet embraced a love of peeling potatoes. I will leave that to George from now on and will be eternally grateful. Christmas pudding was made by Granddad and Derek.  It was a great first effort, with better ones to come.
Pooped Pup

Kevin had to work on Boxing Day as Future Shop waits for no man.  This saw me actually dressed on my favourite  pajama day of the year.  Toronto was bedlam with some power still out and absolutely crazy shoppers.  After a short visit with my mother, Pierrette, I headed back home to put on my new PJs and watch Love Actually.  It was perfect.   Granddad enjoyed his first "chick flick" in a very long time and had no problem keeping up with the permutations and combinations of storylines.  Derek was a bit lost.  His Dad said "Cmon Derek, get with it".

Grand'maman with her group

The rest of the season continued to unfold.  We have visited with an entire group of Wells grandchildren.  Grand'maman was surrounded by those whom she has loved and literally cared for over the past 25 years. There are stories of the antics of each of the grandchildren, both in Toronto and on Florida visits.  These visits allowed my parents to get to know their grandchildren for better and for worse. Grandmaman continues to try to keep up with their evolving lives.  This, however, cannot be done through Facebook.

The "children" somewhat willingly posed for a group photo that has not been taken since the girls' eyebrows were unshapen and the boys' faces were unshaven.  No one made a face or bopped anyone over the head.  We drank wine and played Bingo.  Nothing like a drunken bunch of gamblers.  My father would have been proud.

Over the Christmas season it has been debated in the press and between people, just what is the appropriate salutation for our diverse communities.  Some maintain "Merry Christmas".  Some have branched out to "Happy Holidays".  I think "Happy New Year" is pretty safe.  One universally "appropriate" salutation seemed to be adopted by some.  On more than a few occasions, I was told to "Have a Good One".  I am not sure if this is an example of an attempt to maintain peace in a multicultural society or just a reflection of the age of the cashiers at Zehrs.  

                                                                                                                            So now as we return to our homes and to our jobs and to the routine of our January lives, we can lookback on another holiday season gone by.  No matter what holiday that may be or what traditions are practiced, when we wonder just what this season was all about, hopefully we can honestly feel it was Love, Actually.