The best thing that happened to me in the days leading up to Christmas this year was getting pulled over by a state trooper. Seriously. That was the best thing. But not because everything else was somehow so bad that getting pulled over was awesome by comparison. Not at all. Everything was great. Fabulous. Spectacular even. At least…I think it was. I was kind of too busy to notice. The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas blurred by and I was in fast motion trying to get everything done that I had convinced myself I needed to get done. I tried to enjoy the season when I could, in bits and spurts here and there. I was vaguely aware of chestnuts roasting on an open fire and pine cones and holly berries scattered about. And I did notice that even the street lights blinked a bright red and green…but that was about it. I wasn’t really enjoying it. I was just sort of watching it happen. At one point I even came to the conclusion that Christmas carols were annoying and that Charlie Brown was such a downer he could seriously use a solid six months on a strong anti-depressant. So the day before Christmas Eve as I was barreling down the road heading home from the mall with two of my kids in the car, the only things on my mind were all the things I still had to do. And then I got pulled over. The blue lights went on and I was like, shit! I’m getting pulled over! Ugh, I don’t have time for this! But, like it or not, I pulled my car over to the side of the road. It was a pretty typical pull-over as far as pull-overs go. She asked for my license and registration, and I handed them over. Then she walked back to her car and I sat there waiting to get arrested for murder. (I’ve never murdered anyone, by the way. But for some reason I always think that there will be some weird mistaken identity situation and I’ll be arrested for a murder I didn’t commit, Shawshank Redemption-style.) So as I’m sitting there mentally wondering if, before I’m cuffed and stuffed, she’ll let me make a phone call to my husband to come get the kids, or if they’ll instantly become wards of the state, and then wondering if I’ll get a jail cell to myself and if the bed will be comfortable enough for me to take a nap, and then thinking that taking a nap in a nice quiet cell sounds pretty great… she walked back to my car and told me why she had pulled me over: “You need to slow down.” (So, I won’t be napping in a jail cell, then?) She wasn’t all Mother Goose about it, of course. She wasn’t patting my hand and being all sweet like, “oh, honey, I know you are in a rush, but slow and steady wins the race, don’t ya know.” No. She pretty much told it to me straight, “You’re going too fast. You have kids in the car. There was a mac truck next to you. You need to slow down.” She was right of course. And she was nice enough not to give me a ticket for it, which I thanked her for. But I should have thanked her for more. This officer cared enough about me, enough about my kids, and enough about the other drivers on the road to pull me over and tell me to slow down. She had no way of knowing if I was a lunatic (I had just come from Christmas shopping at the mall after all). She had no way of knowing if she was going to get hit by an out of control car as she stood by my window on the side of the highway. She put her safety aside to ensure my safety. That’s huge. That’s amazing. I should have thanked her for that, but I didn’t. I regret that I didn’t. I hope that the next person did. That person up the road whose car had broken down and who I saw her pull over to help. I hope he thanked her for what she did, and for what she does every day to keep us safe. And as for me? Well, I slowed down. And sang Christmas carols (loudly, and off key) the whole ride home. (I still think Charlie Brown would benefit from some therapy, though.)
The Advent Calendar hanging on my living room wall is out to get me. My kids walk by it and get all giddy, “ONLY 5 DAYS LEFT!! Whoooo!” When I walk by it grabs me by the neck and tries to strangle me. How did it become less than a week until Christmas? That’s not a rhetorical question… I really want to know how that happened. It was just Halloween, like yesterday. Seriously. Did we even have Thanksgiving? I vaguely remember eating turkey and stuffing at my sister-in-laws, so I guess, yea, we did. But now…now it is already December 20th and I’ve barely scratched the surface of what I need to get done before the big day. I don’t even know if it is going to be humanly possible to get all the crap done that I still need to get done. Like, not even possible no matter how hard I try or how little I sleep. The monogrammed sweatshirts certainly won’t be making the cut this year, that goes without saying. Two weeks ago my friend told me to get on that. TWO WEEKS. I was like, “are you insane? I have plenty of time!” But she was right. And I was wrong. I don’t have plenty of time. I have no time. None! I literally haven’t even STARTED shopping for some of the kids yet. And the one that I thought I was done with snuggled up to me so sweetly last night and just before she fell blissfully asleep she murmured in my ear that she couldn’t wait for Santa to get her the Easy Bake Oven. The easy bake WHAT?! My blood ran cold because you know that I didn’t get an Easy Bake Oven for anyone this year. And you know that now I’m going to have to try to remember to get the freaking thing, and they probably won’t have it anywhere except in a completely remote Walmart in the wrong part of a small town that I’ve never even heard of. And my husband and I aren’t the kind of strong level-headed parents who are like “she’ll get over it.” No. We are the saps who will actually drive 3 hours in each direction to buy the only Easy Bake Oven left in the entire state of Massachusetts, and even though the box will be dented and it will look like it’s been opened, tampered with, and re-taped shut we will still fork over our last red cent for it. It’s clear to me now that I should have started my shopping a long time ago. But I didn’t, and so now I find myself, once again, running around Target whipping stuff into the cart and wondering if the giant sized Rice Krispie Treat they sell could count as Joey’s “big gift” this year. (The thing is HUGE, and he seriously loves Rice Krispie Treats. Don’t laugh because I’m still considering it.) And the problem is that every present I buy reminds me of other presents that I have totally forgotten that I still need to buy. There seems to be no end in sight. No light at the end of this tunnel of holiday madness. But then…then I see it. The light that reminds me that this crazy rush will soon be over. Of all places, I see the light at the end of the tunnel in the seasonal aisle at the grocery store. There it is in all it’s heart-shaped pink and red glory. Shelves and shelves of it. Valentine’s Day candy. Seriously.