Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Tight Christmas

At some point, it must have made sense to host Christmas here. Perhaps it was one of those decisions made during the few weeks after Kyle's birth, when we were awake at 3 a.m., changing diapers and wiping off whatever our son projected onto the nursery's curtains. After feeding Kyle, putting him down, gazing at his little sleeping face and his formula-stained pajamas, one of us must have said to the other, "Let's have Christmas at home from now on." The other person, now certifiably crazy because of the lack of sleep, then replied, "Great idea! And let's have all of Kyle's grandparents over, too!"

Our new Christmas tradition continued this year with the arrival of Jennifer's dad on Wednesday. My parents came two days later, on Christmas Day. We technically had space for everyone, since we have a decent-sized apartment by New York City standards (thank you, craigslist!), a fold-out couch, and an air mattress. There was also enough room to walk around if we all sucked in our guts. My brother and his wife visited for the day on Saturday. We had to put them out on the fire escape and pass them beer through the back windows. Up until the frostbite, they seemed to enjoy themselves.

Having done this sort of thing before, Jennifer and I were well-prepared for this busy weekend. We had a loose schedule of what we wanted to do each day, and a menu set for each meal. We had enough food in the fridge, enough liquor in the cabinet, and enough post-alcohol headache medicine in the bathroom. We had fold-out camping chairs to seat our guests, and plenty of burn cream in case we needed to use the radiator as a seat. We had lots of paper plates, plastic cups, disposable diapers, and trash bags. We made sure we knew where the fire extinguisher was, just in case of an accident in the kitchen or an eruption between family members. Fortunately for us, everyone in our family gets along just fine. The one thing that caught us a little off-guard, oddly enough, were the gifts.

Kyle first alerted us to the growth underneath the tree Christmas morning. He pointed at the colorful boxes and shiny bags immediately after entering the living room, signaling there was something wrong with that corner of the room. Yet it was just a small pile at that point, as the gifts under the tree were mostly from Santa, Mom & Dad, Grandpa, and Jennifer's sister, who wasn't able to visit. There were more presents on the way. Kyle dug in, but only opened a few gifts before he became distracted by a toy he received on his birthday six months ago. That would end round one of unwrapping. This sort of thing continued into the next day, as my parents and my brother and sister-in-law arrived and dumped more gifts under the tree. By the time we reached round twelve of Kyle's gift-opening, the tree was surrounded by more than fifty pounds of presents, wrapped in enough paper to cover the Empire State Building three times.

Our apartment was shrinking faster than Tiger Woods' reputation. The space we used for the couch cushions when we folded out the bed was now gone. Toys were scattered all over the dining room and kitchen. Our walking space went from limited to almost non-existent, especially at the weekend's peak. At times I would be trapped in between rooms, with a parent in one room asking me to help him put away the dishes, and another parent in the next room asking me to help get the air mattress set. In these cramped quarters, Jennifer and I were often tugged in several different directions, including downward by our son, who always wants attention as long as somebody else is getting it. I'm just glad that, with all the craziness, we never had a mix-up where one of the dads received a straw cup of milk and Kyle a beer. There really was only one true moment of confusion, when my dad did accidentally gave all the adults glasses of brandy and whole milk, which he had mistaken for egg nog. My father-in-law's drink was made so strong, though, that he didn't even notice the difference.

Still, as hectic and cramped as it was, the weekend was full of yuletide cheer. We laughed, ate well, shared life stories, and watched syrupy Christmas specials on TV. It's not everyday that we are able to have so many family members under one roof, and it's certainly a blessing that we all enjoy each other's company. We know not every family has that, and we do not take it for granted.

Yet, after a weekend like that, I also do not take for granted the moment I am having right now. I am sitting on the couch, typing on my laptop with my feet on a nearly empty table. A good chunk of the toys have been put away, and the wrapping paper and boxes went out with the recycling. All I hear is the noise of the baby monitor, and the occasional clang from our centuries-old heating system. Not a creature is stirring, not even a mouse... and St. Nick won't be returning until next December. Our home is our home again.

Have a wonderful New Year's Day. See you in 2010.

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