They are all gone. Off to have breakfast at Mimi's, an act of which I strongly disapprove. I would disapprove regardless; as a life-long penny-pincher, I find breakfast out an extreme extravagence. But after weeks of hemorrhaging Christmas money and my husband's employers handing out a $20K paycut in December, I am strongly against a budget-blowing sit-down breakfast. But keeping my mouth at least semi shut is part of being the new me so I'm sitting here, trying to type diligently, despite the multitude of crumbs that lurk in the keyboard crevices. Thirteen years ago I drove one husband away with my kill-joy ways (spending Christmas with me and our new baby apparently enraged his girlfriend; he made it up to her by taking her to Mexico for New Year's) and these past few months showed that the next one was already halfway out the door. So the new me sits here, enjoying the peace and keeping the objections to myself.
New Year's Day is always a brutally hard day for me. I spend the entire day de-Christmasizing the house, the sudden vacancy of nutcrackers and nativity sets leaving it looking fresh and uncluttered and full of clean possibility. However, it was three years ago, when the girls were ten, five, and twenty months that I realized, while putting away the decorations, that I would never, ever have a baby of my own at Christmas again. In every other New Year's Day of my life, even during the single mother years, I either possessed a baby, was pregnant, or hopeful of having a baby in the future. Now, on New Year's Day 2009, I had reached the end of the line. Babygirl was on the cusp of two; on New Year's 2010 she would be nearly three, not a baby at all. My family is complete; I do not yearn for more children. These three girls are My Kids, utterly and completely mine. I have no need to add to my brood. But no baby in the house at Christmas, ever again! The first time it happened, I was laid low.
Ever since then, putting away the Christmas decorations is a forceful reminder that, when the time comes to put them up again, the girls will each be a full year older. The thought pierces me with melancholy; I am struck nearly breathless with the sadness of it as I wrap each ornament in a scrap of newspaper and tuck them into a wine box (the cardboard dividers are so handy!). "Slipping Through My Fingers" by ABBA, blares through my mind as I cart boxes to the attic, my imagination jumping ahead five years, when The Teenager will be well into her freshman year in college and not living with us at all. I think of the cookies left undecorated, the Christmas cards unsent--I blew all of my discretionary time making elaborate gingerbread houses instead. I think of my propensity to nag and yell in frustration and lose my temper and I hope that those are not the things about me that my children will remember.
What will they remember instead? My insistence on rolling out fresh pizza dough, topped with homemade sauce? Hot chocolate from unsweetened cocoa powder, milk, crushed peppermint, and freshly whipped cream? Those too, are things they shrug off with impatience, wishing they could have pizza delivered and cream squirted from a can. My legacy sometimes seems one of futility. I can only hope that it is like the time one of my former high school students wrote that although he hated the time I made the class watch "Citizen Kane," he credits me for turning him into a classic movie buff.
But I had better go. Any time now they will be back from Mimi's with the husband who hasn't left me...yet. And I need to be ready to take one last picture of the girls in front of the tree, at ages 13, 8, and on the cusp of 6, this year's nutcrackers clutched in their growing arms.
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