Fletch and I spent the morning in front of the Christmas tree, watching rainy day movies.
We watched Fletch, actually. I thought he should see it during his formative weeks. My favorite neighbors were kind enough to locate it and the sequel for me. So the baby dog and his monkey and I sat on the floor, and had popcorn for breakfast, and listened to the rain.
Christmas was really sweet this year. There was Christmas Eve music, and Christmas Day brunch, and thoughtful gifts, and family time. Everyone did great. Nobody had a meltdown of any kind. Well, I kind of did, but it was pretty self-contained, and a week overdue. The week before Christmas was mayhem, with a lot of high-maintenance last-minute preparations, and a couple of late nights followed by very early mornings.
Work, last week, was entirely surreal. On Monday morning I had to tell our new employee, entering his third week on the job, that our boss was in ICU after a stroke, that his family was going to have to make decisions about the future of the firm, that the three of us left in the office would be spending the week before Christmas putting out fires on our construction project, navigating the crisis with our clients, and seeing what we could do to support his family. And then our office manager was incapacitated by the flu. Fortunately I’m good in a crisis, and so is New Guy. No tears, no panic, very little dithering. We managed. We left for the long holiday weekend exhausted, though.
When I got to my Mom’s house in Winston-Salem, Fletch refused to sleep. Sure, he napped, but through Christmas Eve night he was up every hour on the hour, and so was I. By 6:45 a.m. he and I were struggling to make coffee in one of my mother’s three coffee pots, and it was not going well. I do not wake up with any visible measure of grace, I am sorry to say, and I was fragile when my mother joined us in the kitchen. At full volume and speed.
“I’m making cheese toast! Want some?” she chirped, as she inexplicably made a second pot of coffee, right next to the one I was brewing. Why three coffee pots to start with? is a question I can’t begin to answer.
“Mumble mumble mumble no cheese on mine please,” I managed.
“I’m putting cheese on these! That ok?”
“Mumble mumble no cheese just toast,” came out.
“Do you MIND if I put cheese on yours?”
“YES I AM ALLERGIC TO MILK AND IF I AM GOING TO HAVE AN ALLERGY ATTACK I’D RATHER HAVE IT BECAUSE OF THE CREAM I AM GOING TO PUT IN THE NINE CUPS OF COFFEE I WILL HAVE TO DRINK TO SURVIVE THE NEXT HOUR,” and then Fletch tried to eat a stray toxic holly berry and then he pooped on the kitchen floor.
Tho thorry, Mom.
So the day did not get off to the most joyful of Christmas beginnings, but we all pulled it together from there. That wasn’t actually the meltdown. We enjoyed a lovely Christmas family day, and Fletch and I came home earlier than planned. Mom was an incredibly good sport about the puppy, and in fact gave him vet bills for a whole year for Christmas. Which is pretty fabulous. However, he was trying to shred her lace tablecloth, and unravel her carpet, and eat the toxic decorations, and generally being unrestful and obstreperous. I can’t blame him. He was anxious about being in a new place, before he’s entirely used to the old place. The holidays don’t always bring out the best in us, what with the pressure to keep everything serene and perfect and Christmas-card perfect and all. It’s wearing, on people and dogs both.
I waited until the dog was asleep in the car before I burst into tears. I wasn’t upset about anything Christmas-related, but I had been verge-of-tears tired for a couple of days, and with all the chaos behind me, I finally let myself think about my boss, the holiday his family had with him in ICU, the way I felt years ago when it was my father in ICU at Christmas after a stroke, the stress our new employee was suddenly feeling, and not least, what this all means for my immediate professional and economic situation. You can always proceed in the short term as if everything is fine, friends, and outrun your feelings and press ahead with what must be done, but when you finally get to a place that’s quiet, it’ll all attack you at once. At that point, the only way out is through.
So, I had a good cry somewhere in Alamance County, and then the dog and I pulled over at a rest stop and he had Christmas treats while I had a dubious Mocha Latte out of a coffee vending machine. It wasn’t bad. I’d go so far as to call it “restorative,” actually.
We got home just as it was getting dark, and were greeted by the Christmas tree lights, and the Moravian star on my porch, and then we went over and had a Zibits robot battle with my favorite neighbors. Fletch crawled into his bed at 9:30, and the snoring that ensued was pretty comical, coming out of something that tiny.
He didn’t make another sound until 7:15 this morning. It’s the first time he’s slept through the night. We slept and slept and slept. Peace on earth, at least long enough to let me put myself back together.
It was a Christmas miracle.