Friday, December 11, 2009

Christmas Chaos

It's the same all over the world this time of year: If you celebrate Christmas, your life is currently in a state of chaos...especially if you have young children. It's a nice chaos, lots of annual activities that we all look forward to, but they seem to happen all at once.

I think sometimes that I am so crazed I am missing 'it'. In all my disorganized confusion, I trample right past some of the important, meaningful stuff.

Last night the twins had their Christmas ballet recital. My oldest, Claire also had a German course wedged in between school pick-up and the start of the recital. As the minutes sped by I noticed the sound of my voice rising louder and higher. I knew I was being unreasonable ('Mimi! Stop touching every pencil on the counter and just put your coat on!’ and, 'No Camille! I don't know where the Christmas cards for your class are! You signed them, where did you put them?!'), but I was like an out of control avalanche and couldn't didn't stop.

In the five minutes of spare time I had between school, German and ballet runs I threw a bunch of ingredients I had on hand into a pot, slid it into the oven, crossed my fingers and hoped to find something resembling a stew when we got home from the recital.

On the drive over to ballet I apologized to the girls for shouting.

We arrived with no time to spare and jumped out of the car into the frosty, December night. The twins had no tights on, no pants either— their bare, skinny legs were blue and prickly with goose bumps. My friend Sam pulled up along next to me; mother of three daughters about the same age as mine, she is equally harried most of the time, too. This always makes me feel better.

Sam emerged from her minivan with her youngest daughter, Emily hanging from her— Emily's hands locked behind Sam’s neck, her body, bare legs and bare feet dangling as her Momma trudged into the dance hall, scowling.

The sight of this actually made me relax a little.

Sam peeled Emily off of her and sent her into the pre-show room with my two. She and I settled into the last two seats at the back of the hall. At least I have brought my camera, I thought (remembering last year, when I didn’t). I turned the pocket-sized camera on and read in the display screen, 'No memory card'. I sighed, turned it off and stuck it back in my pocket. I mouthed to Sam, 'Will you take pictures of the twins, too?' Her expression changed to one of nausea as she whispered, 'I've forgotten my camera...' We both turned solemnly to watch the show.

Although it took me a few minutes to get out of my head and really pay attention to the little ballerinas in front of us, I soon sat back in my seat and enjoyed this treasured moment. I'd like to say that my girls were the picture of grace and poise, but unfortunately they take after me in the dancing department and were remarkably awkward, even for 4 year olds. Tess fell down twice while standing in place and Mimi drifted from one end of the room to the other, stepping on tiny pink toes as she went.

My daughters were the comic relief of the show, which, in my mind, made it even better.

We arrived back home, opened the door to the house and were enveloped in the fantastic aroma of tomato, herbs and chicken. I had forgotten that I had stuck dinner in the oven before we left, it was a nice surprise. It wasn’t, as I had envisioned, stew—it was even better. The tomatoes, stock, shallots and herbs had melded into a rich sauce.

Nothing that evening turned out the way I would have planned. But ultimately the recital and the dinner turned out to be better than I expected.

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