I’m not generally a huge fan of the holidays. It’s too much emotional build-up, any family/friends weirdness gets magnified, and as a fairly introverted individual, the holidays can rob away that “quiet” that I need to recharge.
Newly diagnosed with infertility and PCOS, even more emotions started to crop up, centering on those annoying tropes about how the holidays “are for the children” and the commercials on TV showing happy, excited children, beautiful families, or stupid jewelry ads that show an adoring man bestowing some sort of sparkly bauble on the mother of his children. I’ll admit, I saw one of those the other week and promptly burst into tears. My poor husband, on seeing this, did his very best to comfort me and reassure me that he loves me. Once the tears had stopped, he pointed out “But you don’t even like that kind of jewelry! And you hate being surprised like that.” I had to give a half-hearted chuckle because he’s right. Set me a budget and send me out to find that amazing 1920s antique art deco piece or design one with a local jeweler that I’ll actually wear, rather than a generic piece from a chain jewelry store. It’s amazing, though, how idiotic commercial expressions of societal expectations for women can sting in a vulnerable moment.
For all the emotional crappiness and getting bad news in the build up to Christmas, the day itself was actually pretty relaxing. We got up, ate breakfast, made coffee, and cleaned up the disaster in the kitchen (I’d made a Buche de Noel, which involves copious amounts of cocoa powder that gets on everything and lots of bowls, the mixer, and a couple of pans). Then we headed to my in-laws and opened stockings and had, in proper Hobbit parlance, second breakfast. After that, it was time for the annual treasure hunt. My in-laws started this when their kids were much smaller, and it’s worth the price of admission to watch the “kids” (who are now mostly in their early 30s and late 20s) go tearing all over the house, code-breaking clues, crawling under tables, and bickering like they’re about ten or fifteen years younger than their chronological ages. The other sister-in-law who married into the family and I don’t typically participate (although we’re always welcomed to do so), we just sit back to watch the spectacle. Then it was time to open presents, which takes a couple of hours given the number of people.
After presents, we decided to break into one of the new board games. It’s a zany one called “Quelf”. My husband had to “recite a love sonnet to the person sitting to his left” which, fortuitously, happened to be me, but bonus spaces would be given to both of us if he could make me cry during this recitation. The card, fortunately, did not specify the type of tears.
I’ve cried a lot in the last few weeks. As in, more tears than I ever thought it was even possible to cry. As in, crying at inconvenient and surprising times. When Arthur got down on one knee and started trying to make up a love sonnet on the spot, I thought, no sweat, tears – I can manage this. There was not one tear, though, at that moment. Instead something else happened – I was laughing. Like, for-real, pee-your-pants, try-not-to-fall-out-of-the-chair laughing. I haven’t laughed like that in a couple of months. Then the tears started to come and they weren’t tears of sadness. I was laughing too hard and trying not to pee my pants at the sight of Arthur turning all kinds of amusing reds and purples and trying not to laugh himself and coming up with some of the most unorthodox sentiments expressed in a “love” sonnet.
It felt great. No big expectations were met. The Christmas we had fantasized about and craved still didn’t happen. At the same time, it was wonderful to sit around a table, think about something else, and laugh until I cried. It’s not the kind of Christmas miracle that movies or books are written about. It’s not going to get written up as an inspiration in a magazine or Reader’s Digest story. That doesn’t matter. I’m glad that yesterday, I got a chance to laugh.