A lot has happened around here since I last posted about cleaning and fussing. To say I'm a whiner would be an understatement. To say if I would just keep things picked up on a regular basis I wouldn't have to go through the trauma of a major pickup would be a "Duh!"
I'm reminded of a program Robert and I used to watch when he was about 2 - The Big Comfy Couch. If Loonette the Clown didn't make a mess in the course of the show then her doll Molly did. At the end of every show the camera would pan out as Loonette viewed her surroundings. She always had the same reaction. "Who made this big mess?" she'd ask, knowing that it had to have been her. Then she call for a "10 second tidy" where everything got stuffed under, into or behind the couch. I think if I had more 10 second tidies, I wouldn't be faced with 24 hour cleaning marathons.
For the record I give myself an A+ for my purification efforts. The couch's smelled more like Febreeze than cat pee. Except for the hard water spots that seem to have become lodged inside the double pain glass and look like science experiments, the windows glistened when the sun shone through. The fruit and cheese and crackers luncheon was colorful and just enough. And, to top it all off, when dad asked, "Mary, did you put guest towels in the bathroom?" I was able to answer proudly, "yes!" incredulous that he'd even ask the question. Who could forget the monogrammed guest towels? Not ME! Chalk one up for this hostess! I felt proud of my efforts, happy to present a warm and welcoming home for my father, and blessed that the company felt comfortable. I think that must mean that the old homestead was clean enough to be inviting but dirty enough to be enjoyable.
In between visits and eating I've had a little time to ponder some of the emotions that popped up during the cleaning jag. I think a good deal of my angst came from having expectations that far exceeded the reality of the situation. As usual, I placed myself in a position where everything that was going to happen had to be top notch and anything less than that wasn't going to be good enough (for ME). I also appointed myself judge and jury of how everyone else was going to perceive things. In my head it became my job to make this visit between Dad and Eugenia nothing but the best. The best of what is anybody's guess. All parties had to be happy or my efforts would be deemed a failure. A lot of pressure on me and no regard for others' thoughts of feelings.
That my friends, is a pretty good description of co-dependence, with a little narcissism throw in for good measure.
Upon reflection I had a vision of Christmases past when when my kids were small and Texas Jimmy's (TJ for short) approach to the holidays was altogether different from mine. I, of course, was all about expectations and preparations for the perfect Norman Rockwell Christmas morning scene that could be captured through the lens of a camera and live on in everyone's memory. TJ, on the other hand, looked towards Christmas morning and everything that led up to it with as much delightful anticipation as any kid under the age of 5.
I would shop and wrap and try to form perfect bows on each package. TJ would shake and manhandle each neatly wrapped gift til he could guess what was inside and spoil any kind of surprise.
I would bake and clean and decorate. TJ would eat and drink and be merry.
I dreaded the month of December. TJ and the kids began counting the days til Christmas as soon as the Thanksgiving turkey carcass was in the soup pot.
By Christmas Eve I was exhausted and cranky. TJ was filled with anticipation and excitement. We were a holiday train headed for a major collision. It rarely failed to happen around 10:30 pm on the night we were either supposed to be feeling a sigh of relief or the holiness of the season. When all I wanted to do was go to bed, TJ, aka Santa Claus, sat in the living room next to a tree with twinkling lights and a cardboard box filled with bits and pieces and nuts and bolts. Most of his toolbox lay beside him, screwdrivers and wrenches strewn across the floor. When I asked in a voice that no longer even attempted to sound cheerful, if he needed to read the instructions to figure out how to connect part A to part B, etc. TJ replied, "Ellington's don't read instructions," and threw intricately drawn Chinese diagram over his shoulder. Indubitably, year after year, tempers would flare; our Christmas spirit sagged.
By 5am when all I wanted to do before the festivities started was to grab a few more precious moments under the covers with a pillow over my head the alarm clock would blast away the last vestiges of sleep. TJ would jump out of bed as if called for emergency flight ops. He would busy himself in the kitchen making orange juice and Sara Lee coffee cake, then set the stage for our version of A Christmas Carol. Every year I asked myself the same question. Could the holiday named for the child of love turn my Scrooge persona back into a mom that the kids would want to hug? With the lights on the tree softly twinkling and carols playing on a 24-hour holiday loop, TJ would open the front door, slam it shut, shout hohoho and wake up the kids so they could catch a glimpse of Santa and his sleigh leaving the neighborhood. (The fact that we'd just spent a month trying to convince the kids that Santa would not get burned or stuck when he came down a chimney and the reindeer would be fine on the roof never had much impact on the door slammer. And now, years later, I have to agree with his logic - it must have been a whole lot easier for Santa to leave via the front door than trying to cram everything he toted back UP the chimney.) Whether I was ready or not the household would be awake and the holiday would begin.
I thought of all of this as I waited that last hour before Eugenia arrived. I began to realize that, as with Christmases past, my desire to make everything "perfect" and the subsequent feelings of anger, resentment and exhaustion, were the results of my own anticipation of something over which I had no control of the outcome.
And like some of my best holiday memories the last two days have been beautiful examples of how life moves ahead on a path of its own making and usually turns out way better than my uptight projections.
Hopefully this lesson is beginning to sink in. Maybe next time we have company I'll be the one sitting at the kitchen table doing crosswords and just waiting for the good times to roll!
Patting myself on the back,
P.S. Stay tuned for a recap of Miss Eugenia's visit.