We’re headed “home” for the holidays tomorrow. Home (in this case) meaning Pennsylvania, where I have never actually lived but where my folks, my sisters and their families and my eldest daughter will be waiting with coats and boots and hugs enough to keep us from freezing in our flip flops.
Yesterday, while packing and cleaning the fridge and making ready last-minute, it occurred to me that most of us, whether coming or going, preparing for departure or anticipating a hungry houseful are carrying extra stress right now, not necessarily because we HAVE to be, but because we think we should.
We think we should bake cookies for everyone’s teachers.
We think we should buy a little something special for our boss, our girlfriends, the guest bathroom.
We think we should clear “unsightly” evidence of life from our kitchen counters, the laundry room floor, the backdoor coat rack.
And while I get it (I mean, I don’t care to come home to moldy leftovers either) the idea of my people stressing out in anticipation of my arrival — of ME — kind of bums me out.
So, I thought I’d clarify a few things before heading north:
I don’t care that your bookshelf is shoved full of un-filed papers and half-finished projects. I like to see the way you live.
I probably won’t even notice that your pantry is a wreck, and if I do, I’ll smile knowing we have one more thing in common.
I don’t mind stepping over your dirty clothes pile to get to the toilet. I do it every day.
And if your bathrooms aren’t clean yet by the time I get there, just point me toward the scrub brush and give me twenty minutes. I’m pretty good at it.
What I do mind is that you might be a bit of a mess right now on account of me. That instead of holiday cheer, you’re living the all-popular holiday hell just so you can be sure the halls are decked and the pies pretty. What I do mind is that you’re stuck in traffic instead of warming your toes by a fire with a hot mug of sweetness. And what I do mind is that your kids see you stressed in order that I might see you calm and collected.
I realize there’s not a single photo of a dirty sink or a messy mudroom anywhere you’re shopping or looking for last-minute inspiration, which can leave you feeling like you’re the only one whose house doesn’t feel like a gingerbread fairytale right about now.
Here’s a thought: maybe it does. Maybe the sweetest gingerbread houses have laundry stacked on every horizontal plane, just like at our house…
Maybe the fairest of all forget to take out the compost, too…
Maybe a crowded coat rack is just a journal of our journeys…
And abstract yard art a tangible twist in the tale…
Everyday normalcy need not be hidden or rushed through in order to get to the good stuff. Everyday normalcy is the good stuff.
And so, dear loved ones, what do you say we make a deal? I promise not to look under your couches or measure your worth by the height of your laundry mountain, if you promise not to forgo making a merry mess or taking a needed nap on account of me.
Because the truth is, all I want for Christmas is time together, and nothing you can buy, make or bake is worth more to me than your peace, your joy and the quality of your NOW.
Have a beautiful break, my friends. Sending love from my home to yours.