I’m in the line at a T.J.Maxx property, waiting to purchase one more thing for my baby for Christmas. Her last-minute request for a “fancy, fluffy blanket” will do that to this mother’s homebody heart. After this, I’ll go by the market and consult my final list for the extra eggs, sugar, butter and eyeball sprinkles we’ll need for bake-a-thons. We’ll also need a back stock of my baby’s favorite sour cream and chive waffle crisps, Magnum ice cream bars and mini marshmallows. At home, there’s fresh flannel sheets on the bed and a batch of cookies baked to eat while we bake the others. The wall over the breakfast table is decorated with the photos of my baby taken with Santa, and the Christmas mugs are out.
The energy and the things to do are the same here in Southern Germany as it would be if I was still living in the neighborhood I grew up in. I’m a Mom, and in just a few short hours, my baby is home for Christmas. (!!!)
It can be songs or movies or favorite places we go – traditions we can make for ourselves outside of family – but the sense of home we all make for ourselves this time of year warms me. Our winters are as cozy and bright as we make them for ourselves. Last year, I went home for Christmas for the first time in years. After over 24 hours of travel, I walked in carrying Heidi over my shoulder to my favorite hot Christmas dinner on the table, at 11:00 p.m. It felt so good and novel to feel like someone’s kid on Christmas.
I love how, for some of us, this week is centered around a pause to coo over a sweet baby. Babies make me want to be reverent, soft, warm and thoughtful. They remind me how difficult it is to spoil anyone with love and thoughtfulness. Somewhere along the way of growing into being my baby’s Mom, I discovered how much more satisfying it is to be the divine feminine/Ms Claus/Queen Mother doling out love to all my babies, floating over the paper scraps covering the floor and serving up kisses and whipped cream any chance I can get, than it is to look to anyone else to receive it.
“I am just so, so happy my baby is home for Christmas!” I say over my shoulder as I head back to the kitchen as I get her another snack, a little melody beginning in my voice as I start to burst into the “Baby’s Home for Christmas” song I wrote a few days ago and now sing every morning.
I understand, technically, that by being in the third grade my daughter is required to spend Christmas with me. But, there’s a lump in my throat even admitting this to you now, that this will not always be the case.
Not only could her attendance at Christmas cease to be required one day, but I have an adventure girl on my hands. I fully expect this little cherry blossom to call me nonchalantly from Japan one day, or let me know she’s spending her summer tagging sea turtles in Belize. I would never cage my beautiful songbird. I want her out and in adventure and happy every day of her life, and I want that little butt I washed in my sink sitting at the table for breakfast on Christmas. Lord, hear my prayer and work through my humble hands to make it so. I ask for one week a year, the Sacred Week of Baby Being Home.
I think of the wild early years of this child’s life. When she finally walked into school after the pandemic, I felt so much relief to know we had made it, that she would be able to spend her day in group learning with friends and have proof that things work out. But the last nine months flashed before my eyes. What mother doesn’t dream of having her baby home? I thought of how many times the stress of the pandemic turned to important child care conversations that ended in us feeling worry or stress over the pleasure, intimacy and love that I want our time together to conjure. That time is so forgivable, but it taught me too how time is so fleeting. It fueled me to align my year where this final week is always its own special time. When my daughter thinks of turning herself towards home, I want her mind’s eye to see my arms wide open. She can be down and out and, I hope, know if she calls me with a “Mom, can I come home?” I’ll be grateful to see her face and then we’ll work the rest out.
The Sacred Week has its own sacred rhythms. The royal guest wakes at her choosing, upon which she enters the space in her plush robe, blanket and selection of stuffed animal court attendants. She will settle into the specific corner nook of the sofa and get to work watching funny dog videos. Do I think her brain is rotting? Probably not. A week ago, she was walking in the dark through snow to school. We are now in the deep Yin. This is official loaf work to take off the year and be ready for the Best Day Ever in the days to come. We mustn’t impede the process. When I look at her now, just feeling so happy to flop down and take the weight off, I hope her exhales continue to be on my sofa the week before Christmas as she matures and only takes more and more of the world onto her strong, capable shoulders.
The sun rises and we eventually do too, for another round of snacks, fresh pours of coffee, making the bed and putting our “people clothes” on. There’s a little elf work to do each day, accompanied by movies and snacks. This is the year we did all the decorating and wrapping while binging Wednesday.
I love working on my little formula to make each year feel like it’s everything from before, even better. I run a causal data analysis on what cookie tins empty first, what is mentioned throughout the year in memories and the little things I like around that remind us that, even as everything changes, it’s always been and always will be us. The switch flipped for me recently though, that I think it’s less about what I have around and more about how it feels to be around me.
It’s only one week a year, but it’s a long work week. It’s a steady triathlon, no sprint. My focus gets less on what we do and more how we keep it in the Peak Happy Fam zone. Along with the snacks and smooches, I dole out a lot of reminders about being agreeable this time of year. We discuss, more than I find it necessary, the importance of wearing a coat and the goal of doing so without tears. I meditate in the morning in hopes to approach the day with the unflappability of Ms Claus or Mary Poppins. And mark my words, I’m not doing it all. I’m on a sabbatical from sending gifts and Christmas cards. We did not see any pre-ticketed events this year. I’m experimenting with the idea that it’s the vibe, not the things we do, that is the siren song luring the babies back to the nest every solstice.
The best way I’ve found to sustain the vibe is when all The Girls are treated like Christmas royalty. The Queen Mother serves well because she serves herself well. I monogram my own Christmas pajamas first. I will lock the door of our only bathroom to get myself together in the morning with no thoughts of guilt. When I emerge, it’s easy to understand it’s for the greater good. Santa is so good to the Queen, too. And most importantly, I cannot take your work call because, I’m sure you understand, the babies are home for Christmas. My baby who calls me Mom and the cute girl in me that deserves, after a year of grown up stuff, her own week of loafing and crafting and brushing Barbie hair.
All the kids are home for Christmas, and we’re having so much fun.