When mom was young, trimming our tree was never a good day. It was never ever pleasant, or warm, or caring. I have so many memories from those years and I will spare you the details, mainly because I can't bear to recount them. But, I will at least tell you things like it was only me, zia, and nonna. Nonno was always working and I cannot recall even one time that he was there with us. We didn't start early to decorate. Nonna was not into it, she didn't love her home dressed up like that. But, she had kids and she did love the religious part of Christmas so of course she went with it.
It was always always bad. Always.
So, I wanted to make sure ours was different. And I took all of that bad and I bundled it up into a ball. I filled it with pressure and expectations that cannot be met, and I just handed the enormous ball over to our family. And you all, tossed the ball back to me because it's my stupid ball after all. I hold it tight and I keep inflating it as we go.
So decorating our home for the holidays is never bad. Ever. I have actually tried and managed to make it sweet and many a year, you will catch me smiling and laughing at a movie we have on. We stay in jammies, we trim and watch, dad sometimes makes hot chocolate. There are very tender moments. Eventually, dad gets frustrated with how much time it's taking. And then I panic that for a second anyone is not blissful and the pressure mounts as I inflate the ball.
You guys watch a ton of movies, you're in and out of helping. Someone ends up crying, there's a small fight somewhere, and I am turning the ball around in my hand, and the pressure mounts, as I inflate the ball.
Something breaks, I try really hard to make it not a big deal, but someone is upset. Patience starts to become this thin delicate fragile line, and the ball gets bigger as the pressure mounts, as I inflate it a little more. Eventually, the ball I'm trying hard to hold pops and so do my emotions. I either go silent, cry, or throw the pieces of the ball in someone's direction. And all the memories come flooding back, I am now covered in fragments, and it's all my fault.
So, for this one year, I just didn't. I didn't put expectations on any of it. I just let it unfold, I let it all be. You are getting older and older. One of you is sitting in the in-between and the other is full of little, and our time together is starting to slip away from me. So, I changed the day.
With one-hundred percent honesty, all of the pressure and expectations come from me. That's the only reason the ball gets too big. I am the only person that can change the day, the memories. It is only up to me and no one else is to blame. So, this year, no expectations. Just get the house done. If there's a fight, that's life. If something breaks, I'll let anyone be upset about that and tell them that I honestly don't care, because I never did. If tempers get out of control, I'll walk away and realize we are all human. I won't make it about me or my past or what was. I'm way too old for that and we are not that, so I will stop pretending like I need to prove we are not.
And of course, it worked. The day was so pleasant I didn't even have to pretend that it was "going fine". The ball, I did not inflate it and it never ever blew up in my face, it didn't even show up. You guys did your ornaments, anywhere you wanted. You really did do one amazing job. Dad put up the trees, did some trimming, made sure the lights worked, moved things up and down the stairs for us, praised me for how nice the house looks, set up our outside stuff. And when all was said and done, Anna, you hugged me hard, told me that the trees are so pretty, took a late-night walk with me, and really fell in love with the feel of our home. I was slow. I walked slow. I placed things with purpose. I didn't argue any part of it.
When it's your home, your traditions, your decorating, your tree trimming...it will all be as is. Cole, you will most likely go cut down a tree and decorate your house with "real" trees. Anna, you will most likely stick to the fake (it's just easier you'll say). You may use some of our traditions, you may throw them out the window. You may or may not remember that for the first few years, mom was tightly wound and on edge and really had dad all wound up too. You may or may not remember when I stopped. I just let it all happen and I didn't put any pressure, no expectations. I didn't inflate the ball.