The gingerbread houses that we merrily build together.
The twinkling lights adorning the outside of the house.
The heartwarming tree trim where we listen to favorite Christmas tunes and recount the nostalgic tale behind each ornament and sip hot cocoa in front of the fire.
The advent calendar lovingly filled with special gifts each night.
The letter to Santa.
Magic. A month of magic.
And yet each year I end up somehow much more Mr. Magoo than Martha Stewart. Despite my best intentions somehow things seem to veer into decidedly unmagical territory.
So here’s how it’s gone down so far this year:
The gingerbread houses that we merrily build together turned into the gingerbread houses that we crammed into an hour after dinner one night. I was rushing out the door to my daughter, Sprout’s, conference at school and helped get the kids started on their projects. Sprout had a gingerbread tree kit and insisted that at the age of 11 she was surely competent to put it together herself.
I tried REALLY hard to be cool with that and focused on helping my son, Tater, assemble his gingerbread house kit. He balked at my insistence on hot gluing it together (based on post-traumatic stress suffered due to many icing-based construction tragedies in past years), but eventually agreed. I threw the bag of icing mix at my husband as I raced out the door chuckling to myself about how much he was totally NOT going to enjoy finishing the projects.
I returned to a perfectly decorated tree and house – and no one seemed any the worse for wear. I might have missed some magic there. Darn.
The twinkling lights adorning the outside of the house started out OK. The kids were quite entertained by my ability to fling a string of lights to the top of a tree, especially when I missed and whacked myself in the head with the plug.
We managed to get the bushes covered with lights with few incidents. Our wire deer was retired this year – I still haven’t quite forgiven him for attempting to kill me last year (long story, sharp antlers). To find some appropriate piece of whimsy to replace him we embarked on a field trip to Target where I felt the cheer begin to suck out of my body as the children each chose a different (and sort of hideous) decoration that they HAD TO HAVE. Since they couldn’t agree, I vetoed the whole thing (sorry blinking snowman and scary elf), resulting in much crying, whining, and decidedly un-magical behavior.
After several more shopping expeditions and more than a few more decision-related tantrums, we finally ended up with four huge candy canes and a tinsel-covered star. We are nothing if not subtle and classy around here.
I will spare you the details of the hunt to find appropriate hooks to attach lights to the (metal) columns by our front door. Suffice it to say that no matter how many Lowe’s and Home Depot stores you go to, you will not find outdoor-appropriate adhesive hooks. And staples DO NOT work on metal (CLANG!).
At the end of the day (well, a few days) we finally had it all up and looking fabulous. Magic!! There it was!!
Then there was a big wind storm – the star blew down and pulled down the (apparently not sufficiently attached) lights from the columns, and the lights all shorted out and wouldn’t light at all. Bye bye magic. Sad face.
We managed to get most of the lights back up and semi-magical, but the star is sitting in the dining room and the column lights are dejectedly hanging at half mast awaiting some miraculous solution to the how-to-stick-lights-to-a-cold-metal-post conundrum. Oh Martha…WTF?
The heartwarming tree trim came close to magical, except that our “chief hooker” needed to watch football during the festivities, so we couldn’t play music and we can’t figure out how to light our gas fireplace. But the cocoa was good. And the tree makes everything else look pretty magical. And it is still lighting up (except for the string of lights that went out in the middle, but I am ignoring that).
The advent calendar lovingly filled with special gifts each night quickly devolved into me flinging a couple of Hershey’s kisses in there every morning (generally just after a disappointed child noticed that the little door for the day was empty – oops). Magic is getting a second wind there as I went out and stocked up on advent-appropriate tchotchkes that should get me through the next week in a flash of magical brilliance. There is something to be said for setting the bar low and then kicking things up for a big finish (I hope).
The letter to Santa… Oh Santa…
Sprout figured out the Santa situation. She is 11. She is smart. And now she is so very sad. And sort of pissed off, which is a surprise. How could we LIE like that? Christmas will NEVER be fun again. Oh my.
She wrote a letter, but refused to mail it. Tater wrote his, put it in the envelope, licked, stamped, sealed…he’s not at all concerned that this is a futile effort. He made a copy to keep at home (so he can perform some sort of gift audit, perhaps?) But my girl is sad and disillusioned. Oh magic, where are you when I need you…
But then I realized, the magic is all around us. Because the magic isn’t in getting it all right. The magic is in the mistakes and mishaps and all of the things that make this OUR holiday.
Every plug to the head, flying star, inedible gingerbread structure and electrical catastrophe has it’s own little piece of the magic. The laughter, the family problem-solving sessions, the stories we will tell year after year about how that reindeer tried to kill Mom. Wishing you could still believe in things that you know really aren’t true and believing them just a little bit anyway – that’s the magic.
So I don’t need a wand (or an electrician) because we are overflowing in magic. I hope you are, too :)