When I was a child, my favorite Christmas ornament was a golden egg, encrusted with faux rubies, hollowed out to stage a miniature manger scene. I loved this ornament. For thirty-nine years I loved this ornament.
Until this afternoon, when I unwrapped it—oh so carefully—from its tissue paper cocoon, feeling the old glee rise inside me, and holding it up for my three kids to admire. “This was my favorite ornament when I was a little girl. See how tiny the Wise Men are? Look at the baby Jesus. His head is the size of flea!”
“Fwea!” my two-year-old sang, jumping up and down. “Fwea!”
“Careful,” I warned. “It’s very fragile.”
“Oooo,” my five-year-old said, leaning in for a closer look.
And, or course, knocking it onto the floor.
Where, of course, it shattered.
This was, as every mother knows, one of those defining moments. I could yell. I could cry. Or I could give Ben’s shoulder a gentle squeeze and say, “Don’t worry, buddy. It’s not Christmas until somebody breaks an ornament.”
How can you not choose #3? You have to choose #3. Especially at this time of year, when there is such a frenzy of maternal guilt and mass consumption it makes your head spin. Listening to the mothers in my midst, you would think that a kid who is not getting an iPod Touch or a Wii—or both—for Christmas is somehow deprived. That a house not perfectly scrubbed and wreathed and gingerbreaded is somehow unworthy of Santa Claus.
Well, I say nuts to that. I say bring on the homemade presents. Bring on the broken ornaments. Bring on the burnt cookies. Bring on the dog eating the advent calendar and barfing all over the rug. Bring on the paper chains and the glitter adorning the counter and the grilled cheese for dinner again. If I’ve learned anything from motherhood it is this: ease up. Some of the most perfect moments are the messiest.
After my five-year-old breaks my favorite ornament and my eight-year-old punches him in the arm for breaking it and my five-year-old cries, and the dog gets in on the action and tackles my two-year-old and she cries, the UPS man arrives.
He comes bearing diapers. And packing peanuts.
“Can we dump them out, Mom? Please?” The boys have stopped pummeling each other and are looking at me with soulful eyes.
They know how I feel about packing peanuts. Five minutes of fun; five hours of cleanup.
“We want to make a snowstorm,” the eight-year-old says. "A nor'easter."
“Well,” I say, “in that case . . .”
And when the packing peanuts hit the air, there is a blizzard, right here in our very own living room.
For a moment, there is peace on Earth.