In Defense of “Baby It’s Cold Outside” and Why Grandma is still invited to Christmas

Beep. Beep. Beep.

Winter has arrived and lately, I have been hitting that snooze button over and over and over again. The lyrics to “Baby It’s Cold Outside” are, quite frankly, my inner monologue each morning as I fight to leave the comfort of my bed.

I really can’t stay.

          Baby it’s cold outside.

I’ve got to go away.

            Baby it’s cold outside.

I got a text message from my friend the other day. A week had passed since her annual “Girls Night In” Christmas party and someone wanted the recipe for the Jell-O shots I brought.

Hey, What’s in this drink?

The answer: Fireball.

When “Baby It’s Cold Outside” comes on the radio, I don’t think about that one time in my twenties when someone actually did slip something in my drink, rather I think about my favorite scene from the movie Elf.

giphy-3.gif

That scene, much like the song, captures a moment.

We’ve all experienced moments like this—times when our good sense and reason gave way. When our hearts didn’t listen to our minds.

It’s every make-out session in a car that rubbed our lips raw. It’s every broken curfew of adolescence. It’s the too-expensive Christmas present you buy for a loved one. It’s the ladies at my friend’s Christmas party who put on their coats to leave but then stood around for another twenty minutes talking and laughing (and doing just one more Jell-O shot) before finally heading home.

Last year, I wrote about how I just couldn’t Christmas. This year, I’m thankful to say that isn’t the case. In fact, the one thing that has moved me this holiday season is the music.

I find myself humming a few bars from a traditional Christmas tune while I’m waiting for my students to settle down at the start of class. Like a musical meditation of sorts, it’s helped to calm the frayed nerves of a teacher in December and remind me that Winter Break is on the horizon.

I sing a few verses of Same Auld Lang Syne while blow-drying my hair till I can’t remember what comes next and start back at the beginning. “Met my old lover at the grocery store. The snow was falling Christmas Eeee-ee-eeve.”

I purposefully scan through the radio channels till I get to the one that plays non-stop Christmas music because this month, the cacophony of modern music annoys me.

There are a lot of things we do around the holidays that are antiquated. Mailing cards, chopping down trees, and baking cookies from scratch are just a few, but these things, like the Christmas songs and movies that we’ve grown to love, serve to remind us of simpler times.

The holidays are about traditions and traditions, like my Grandma, are old-fashioned. Grandma doesn’t always say the most appropriate things, but we still love her, just like we still love “Baby It’s Cold Outside” and all the other traditions that make up Christmas.

I don’t think it’s fair to apply the standards of today’s political correctness to the classics of yesteryear.

Rather than analyzing a single line from a song or a single scene from a movie, let’s take a step back and look at the bigger picture. If we criticize George Bailey for his attempted suicide and the way he verbally attacks his family (ugh, and that poor teacher), we’ll never enjoy the moment when he realizes that It’s a Wonderful Life.

wonderful400x300

The last time I handed my grandma a family photo that we’d had professionally taken, she took one look at it and said, “Ooooh, you look like an old lady!” Rather than taking offense, I threw my head back and laughed. “I shouldn’t have said that,” she added. “I’m just not used to seeing you in a long dress.”

“It’s okay, Gram.” I chuckled. Secretly, I live for the shit my gram says. And seeing as how I don’t often get to visit with her anymore coupled with not knowing how many more Christmases she’ll have–or any of us for that matter– I want to cherish every moment.

“Baby It’s Cold Outside” is seventy-four years old. My gram is eighty-eight. Both are welcome in my home for Christmas. I love them just the way they are.

 

FOR MORE LIKE THIS, FOLLOW ME ON READINGWHILEEATING OR LIKE MY PAGE ON FACEBOOK

 

 

 

There’s No Place Like Home

When you pack up all your belongings in a U-Haul and move to the other side of the country, everything changes. Your relationships with family and friends, the way you travel, and especially holidays.

Growing up with a mother who has six sisters, you end up having more cousins than you can count on both hands. There was only a slight age gap between my youngest aunt and my oldest cousin, and each year, our family grew.

From games of Yahtzee in my grandmother’s basement to Secret Santa gift exchanges at Christmastime, family parties were a regular occurrence. There was always lots of food and even more laughter. Family members would take turns hosting; warm homes would welcome us from the cold. Women would cluster around the kitchen table and gossip on sofas while men stood sentinel around the cooler, drinking beers and smoking cigars. Children would run and play games until the time when we’d all load our plates high with homemade favorites, vying for a place to sit. Whether it was Christmas, Thanksgiving, or Easter, there’d be a cake and we would gather round and sing, for someone always had a birthday nearby.

Moving to Nevada, perhaps the hardest adjustment to make was redefining the holidays, especially once my husband took a job where he didn’t always have them off.

I remember our daughter’s second Christmas, I sat on the floor in her nursery and rocked her in my lap while she sucked at a bottle. I felt the wetness of my cheeks and I felt the loneliness. I couldn’t put words to my sadness, but it was as heavy as my daughter’s little body on top of me. My husband was at work and we were at home alone. No one would know that we had stayed in our pajamas all day, but we hadn’t gotten dressed for there was nowhere to go. Santa had come the night before so that my husband could watch our little girl tear at the wrapping paper, but even that had felt wrong. That morning, I wasn’t quite sure what to do. I picked at the leftovers from the dinner I’d prepared the day before. Hours spent in the kitchen for a meal for three. There’d been no procession of tinfoil covered dishes, no hotplates plugged into every wall. There wasn’t a line of women with dishtowels ready to grab the next pot or pan as it had been washed. All day long, I talked to family on the phone, hearing the clatter and din of their company in the background, hearing the TV in mine.

Eleven years after moving, I’d like to say that I’ve adjusted. Most years we spend Christmas with my folks and Thanksgivings with my sister. Even when she moved to California, one of us would make the drive so that when we gave thanks, we were holding each other’s hands. Some years, the friends who have become our family have joined us, adding a few more place settings, making it almost feel like home.

DSC02508.jpg

This year, however, things have changed. My sister lives in Florida now, making a Thanksgiving reunion not possible, my friends are traveling for the holiday, and while my husband will be off from work, it will just be the four of us.

Realizing this, I spent weeks musing about what we could do. I felt the need to make the holiday different somehow. I mean, it was already going to be different, but maybe if we did something so unlike our traditions, I wouldn’t feel the sadness I feared. Could we rent a cabin in the woods and get away? I pictured us playing a board game near a fireplace, snuggling into flannel sheets and waking in the morning to take a hike through pine-scented air. Yet I knew that renting a cabin wasn’t really in the budget so soon after our vacation to New York and one month before Christmas, and besides, we could do all those things from our own home. Still, I kept wracking my brain and asking my husband what we were going to do.

“What do you mean, what are we going to do? We’re going to have Thanksgiving.”

He didn’t understand, and I didn’t know how to tell him.

“Yeah, but it’s just us, so like, what are we going to do?”

This need to do was palpable.

If I could come up with a plan, if there was an itinerary, perhaps it would be enough to distract me from the fact that it was just us, perhaps it could thwart the sadness, because if I felt the sadness at Thanksgiving, I most certainly was going to feel it at Christmas when my husband would be at work and when it would, for the first time in a long time, be just me and my girls, because this year, my parents weren’t coming for Christmas, and this year, we weren’t going there either, and I wasn’t quite sure how I would handle that.

I wish I could say that I only wept that one Christmas when my daughter was two, but the Holiday Blues are something that I have felt each year. Sometimes, after Christmas has passed, I begin to cry and it’s days before I can stop. I’ll be standing in my kitchen with a cup of tea, steeped in sadness and shame. What’s wrong with me that I cannot feel happiness at what’s supposed to be the most joyful time of year? Despite combatting it every way I know how, sometimes it’s stronger.

A few weeks into my quest for what we would do on Thanksgiving, I was driving in my car, listening to Pico lyer speak about The Art of Stillness when I realized that I didn’t need to do anything for Thanksgiving, I needed to be. It didn’t matter if we decided to go cut down our Christmas tree or run the Turkey Trot. It didn’t matter if we stayed in our pajamas or got dressed up. It didn’t matter if we deep fried our turkey or went to KFC. Whether there were four of us at the table or twenty-four, unless I could be fully present with my family, there would be no hope of holiday cheer.

You can’t have your body in one place and your mind in another and feel anything but conflicted. The answer wasn’t in the doing, the answer was in the being.

Thanksgiving is a time to be full. Full of food, yes, but also emotionally full. We take time to reflect all that we’ve been blessed with. When I think of my family—both near and far—I know that I have so much to be thankful for.

I can’t say for sure that I won’t end up feeling the Holiday Blues this year. I know that I will miss my sister fiercely come Thanksgiving and that Christmas isn’t going to be the same, but I am going to try hard to remember this: “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.”

IMG_6847.PNG

FOR MORE LIKE THIS, FOLLOW ME ON READINGWHILEEATING OR LIKE MY PAGE ON FACEBOOK

 

 

Dear Soon-to-Be Parents, Choose your Family Traditions Wisely

A few nights ago, my husband was relaying conversations he had with a couple of his co-workers who were either expecting their first child or had recently had one. To the woman who was pregnant and stock-piling Pampers, he suggested cloth diapering the baby, but when he told her, “you know, you can even buy used cloth diapers” she was appalled.

“I’m not putting second-hand diapers on my child’s hoo-ha!”

He laughed.

To the co-worker who was frustrated when his wife, a nurse with a good salary, took a half-time position because she couldn’t bear to put their baby in daycare, he chuckled.

It’s true. First time parents sanitize the binkie each time it falls; for the second child, the binkie gets sucked clean in the parent’s own mouth before being deposited back in the baby’s, and if you are crazy enough to have even more children, well, you’re satisfied with any old thing they shove in their pie-hole so long as they quit screaming.

I jest…a little, but I am quite serious when I warn new parents: Choose your family traditions wisely.

Just last week I was sitting in a meeting at work when a colleague started passing around a giant bag of fun-sized treats. It turns out that the “Switch Witch” had come and traded out all her children’s Halloween candy for some non-edible toys.

The Switch Witch? I’d never heard of it and I immediately wondered if my children needed one. It would be handy to get all the Halloween candy out of the house, not because my four-year-old just got her first cavity filled, but rather I found myself snacking on it and with Thanksgiving and Christmas around the corner, I didn’t need a head start on all those extra calories.

Still, what was so wrong with kids eating their Halloween candy? Wasn’t that one of the great joys of childhood? Halloween candy could teach one to barter, to trade, and to ration. Yes, my children pestered me for candy before they even had breakfast, but they had worked hard for that loot. And let’s be honest, the idea of spending money to replace the candy they had gotten for free didn’t sit right with me. Besides, I had a profound aversion to buying my children toys starting in September and lasting right up to Christmas. If dear old Saint Nick was arriving within three turns of the calendar, they could wait.

It was bad enough that I had to cough up more and more money each time a tooth was lost. The inflation on teeth is downright alarming! Back when I was a kid, I got a quarter. Did you see what Farrah Abraham’s daughter got?!? Now I’m no Back-door Teen Mom, but still. If the tooth fairy is leaving fivers for all my daughter’s friends, I have to at least leave a couple bucks.

While I successfully talked myself out of the Switch Witch, it was only a day or two later that my aunt posted this meme on Facebook.

12289749_858279457624878_3795261291284403276_n

While I have enjoyed some of the Elf on the Shelf benefits, it is A LOT of pressure. You pretty much have two choices once you adopt the elf tradition: you can either have a slacker elf or a kick-ass elf, and if you choose not to slack, you can never go back. Sure, sure, you can get away with saying the elf didn’t move once or twice because the kids were naughty, but other than that, you’ve got to play the game.

And the game lasts for years.

I have a friend who makes a special calendar for what their elf is going to do each night of the month. For our elf, I try to maintain a healthy balance of “Look what Dot did!” and “He’s in the Christmas tree….again.” And the older your kids get, the harder it becomes. My oldest daughter started critiquing the creativity of our elf’s hiding spots last Christmas when she was only seven. She’s even started remembering what our elf did in previous years. Maybe it would be easier if I hadn’t had to delete my Pinterest board dedicated to elf ideas, but since my daughter started using my account to pin arts and crafts inspiration, I’ve been coming up a little short.

My friend, whose own daughter is in middle school, assures me that it will become fun again once they are older. She and her daughter hide their elf on each other now. One day his legs will be hanging out from the front door when she comes home from work and the next, she’ll tuck the elf in her daughter’s underwear drawer, but when I consider that I potentially have a decade of this nonsense, it starts to feel like a self-imposed prison sentence.

Between the tooth fairy, the Easter bunny, and Santa Claus, there’s enough to worry about. As parents, you’re destined to fall asleep once or twice without slipping George Washington under your child’s pillow. You may be forced to secretly call your mother while hiding in the bathroom listening to your daughter cry and beg her to phone the house pretending to be the tooth fairy explaining how she was slammed the night before and simply couldn’t make it to all the houses. The next time you forget, (because there will be a next time too) you will explain, matter-of-factly, that the bedroom was too messy for the fairy to make a safe entry and use your deception to your advantage. But the minute you start adding in other traditions, you’re stuck with them, and the disappointment that will come with your mistakes.

Think you can decorate their bedroom door with crepe paper and balloons for just a couple birthdays? Ha! Think again! Witness the discontent on your children’s faces that one year a leprechaun didn’t dye the toilet water and the milk green and you’ll understand the severity of these decisions.

Before procreation, couples should discuss more than just how they will handle diapers, daycare, and discipline, for the traditions you choose now will be harder to get rid of than an STD. A good rule of thumb is that in the number of your offspring and the traditions you choose– less is always more.