Tuesday, December 9, 2008

(Worst = Best) Xmas

Just to get you in the holiday spirit, here's a little tale to warm the cockles of your heart.

Although just why you have cockles in your heart, I do not want to know.

Hopefully you have full medical coverage.

It was December of 1996. Mr D and I were living just north of Baltimore, with our four children, ages 13, 10, 8, and 6. In November, we'd learned that we were being relocated by The Company (a large global corporation that shall remain nameless, in the interests of Mr D's continued employment therewith).

And not only were we being relocated, but we were moving our entire household for the fourth time in four years. From Philadelphia to Raleigh in 1993. From Raleigh to Chicago in 1994. From Chicago to Baltimore in 1995. And now Baltimore back to Chicago in 1996.

The particularly galling thing about these moves was that this time, we'd heard through The Company grapevine, the following genius comment from two different sources: "Oh, but it's easy for you to move, isn't it? You homeschool!"

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Easey peasey. That's because we're weirdos and we don't have any friends or any belongings, so we just fold up the teepee, tie the worldly goods to the horses, saddle up the six of us and ride out of town. No problemo! We have to sell the goats and rooster but we can always bring the bee skep with us. The kids cry a little tiny bit, but the suffering's good for 'em. Builds character.

Needless to say, I wasn't a happy teepee-folder.

In fact, I was steamed. We'd homeschooled for seven years, partly for the flexibility in case we had to move, but mostly so I could rationalise the purchase of $10 bazillion dollars worth of educational books and toys. Nothing like re-enacting the battle of Gettysburg with Playmobil figures to anchor a lesson plan!

Anyway, when it became clear that the move back to Chicago was a "go", I sat Mr D down.

"Fine. I'm totally fine. Really."

Burning red eyes shooting flames, hair standing on end, crackling with electricity.

"Really. I don't mind. I don't mind at all."

Mr D was looking worried, as he could smell sulphur in the air. He felt the floor trembling slightly as the earth began to crack open in the back garden and the gaping maw that was the Gates of Hell glowed darkly red from the widening fissure...

"But I have two things I'm going to tell you."

The fissure narrowed again slightly.

"One. The kids are going to public school when we get to Chicago. Homeschooling? Done. Finished. Over."

"Oh, well.... okay. Yes. It's your decision, really, since you're the one doing it. It's down to whatever you think is best."

"And Two. I'm not doing anything for Christmas this year. If you want anything Christmas-y to happen, you'll have to do it yourself, 'cuz I'm not playing."

"Oh. Okay."

The sulphur smell dissipated as the fissure snapped shut. Hellish disaster barely averted. Mr D wiped his brow, relieved to get off so lightly, and stood up.

With that, the discussion was pretty much over and Mr D flew off to start the new posting in Chicago while I stayed behind and homeschooled and cleaned carpets and picked Lego out of heating vents and supervised packers and shut down utilities and wrote change of address cards and gathered medical and dental records and paid bills and ... and... and... tried not to lose my mind. I muttered under my breath as I scrubbed cupboards and I cursed as I mopped floors and I ground my teeth as I corrected multiplication times-tables and I cried myself to sleep every night.

As one does.

We moved into our house in Chicago one week to the day before Christmas, on the coldest day of the century, naturally. And we took off a few days later to spend the holiday with my parents up north.

On the morning of December 24th, Mr D turned over and said, "You awake?"

"Mmmm hmmmm."

"You were just kidding about not doing Christmas this year, right?"


"You were kidding, right?"


"You didn't get anyone any presents?"


"The kids? Nothing for the kids even?"

"Uh uh."


"I told you. I meant it. I'm not doing Christmas this year. I've bloody well had enough."

"But we can't not have Christmas! I mean, what will the kids think? What ... it's just not right!"

"Whatever. I don't give a damn."

Mr D was suddenly up and out of bed, on his feet, getting dressed.

"We can't not have Christmas! We can't! Come on, have a heart! I know you feel awful and sad, but they're not gonna understand "No Christmas!"... Hey, you. Really. Get up. Let's do something about it."

Oh, that bossy, bossy Mr D. We all got up and had breakfast.

"Come on, kids, we're off to the mall. Hurry up, we want to beat the crowds!" (Most enthusiasm ever displayed by Mr D about mall-going, before or since.)

Even I was conned and took the bait.

So we went off to the mall on the morning of Christmas Eve and we bought one present for each of us. Each person chose their own, so everyone got what he or she really wanted.

We only had to suffer through one morning of Christmas shopping, and we spent the rest of the day wrapping those presents and baking some Christmas cookies.

Best, most relaxing Christmas ever.

The run-up was Hell on a stick though.



Iheartfashion said...

Wow, that's rough.
Anyone who thinks moving with 4 kids is "easy" must be insane.

expateek said...

Yeah, those corporate guys are a laugh a minute. Fortunately the moving has slowed down a bit, so our average has gone from once-per-year to once-every-other-year. Bleah! I jettisoned children along the way though, so we travel lighter now. Something had to go...

Nimble said...

Oh my god. Good for you for sticking to your pronouncement. I'm gently eyeing the possibility of moving from our humongous house. And it's got me shivering in my boots.

Mr Farty said...

Jeez, that's rough. Pretty neat way to cut down on the Xmas shopping hassle though.

expateek said...

Nimble-- Good luck with that. Maybe you'll act more grown-up than I did. Here's hoping. Moving does give you a good opportunity to get rid of stuff. Not that I ever did a particularly good job of it. I still find pre-1999 coupons in little stashes in the office. Ugh! And I never even used coupons in the first place. Ever.

MrF -- Yes, and I've never felt the same about xmas since, to be frank. I lie back, close my eyes, and think of the Thatcher years and that pretty much erases any urge to celebrate by buying. Altho the stock market crash of 2000 and today's economic climate are just as good for destroying one's inclination to spend. I plan to start hawking all the children's Playmobil figures on Ebay very shortly. See? Still lots of Scroogery in the ol'girl!

Kitschen Pink said...

Until we had our son our rule was always no prezzie shopping until christmas eve. Of course there were less children in the family altogether back then so there was less to do, and we made a lot of stuff too. But somehow, now, I like to have it sorted before the decorations hit the stores and just leave a special few to the last minute. I don't feel like I'm being sucked into a buying fest that way. Just take my time to find the right thing... also taking advantage of the summer sales! Oh good grief! I'm turning into my mother! arrrggh! t.x

Anonymous said...

I. hate. it. This year I have evaded it by making sure we are abroad, somewhere they don't celebrate christmas, but I can't afford that every year. My youngest (14) is a trainee buddhist; I was thinking of investigating their festivals to see if I could find a replacement.

Christina said...

Thanks for posting this personal and heartfelt story. I was feeling a little weird about our first Christmas abroad this year and that I'm just not up for it, so you made me feel like I'm in good company.

expateek said...

Kitschen -- you're way more intelligent than I am, because if I shopped way ahead I'd hide the prezzies and then forget where I put them and would have to go buy more. Eek!

Alienne -- Good strategy. Hope you're not going to Thailand right now tho! Let me know if you come up with a new festival, we're all for multi-cultural celebrations over at expateek's house.

Christina -- Hope you settle in well... the UK has some lovely Christmas traditions, so hopefully it won't all seem too strange. Be sure and buy some xmas crackers for the Christmas dinner table. They're lots of fun and nice and noisy!