Well, Christmas was interesting.
I didn’t wrap presents until the day of Christmas Eve. There’s not much privacy in a one-bedroom apartment, but I managed to lumpily wrap the gifts on the bed, checking every now and then to make sure my scissors didn’t slice up the unmade comforter.
There was the usual embarrassment that my handwriting hadn’t improved in the past decade, and that (lately increasing) realization that if I still lived at home, I’d have free, unlimited bows and tags and wouldn’t have to trek back to Walmart every time I realized that, once again, I didn’t have a basic Christmas necessity (like tape).
There was also the typical what-if-they-don’t-like-it panic, multiplied by 10 since I was shopping for in-laws, and varied with new thoughts, like, “Should I give the more nicely wrapped one to so-and-so because I love them more, or should I give it to such-and-such, because I don’t know them, and want to make a good impression?” and “What cover story can I morally get away with for not buying so-and-so anything for Christmas, and does that make me a horrible person?”
(I think, during this whole time, I was also pouting after an argument with Erich. We argue chiefly during special times, like our first Christmas together. We’re setting a record for how many newlywed milestones we can ruin with bad memories.)
There were no good Christmas movies on Netflix, and my sister (who was visiting) refused to watch anything with Santa Claus, so we spent the day watching Notre Dame de Paris, a French musical adaptation of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. (It’s amazing, and it has lots of Christmas themes — marrying off teenage girls, homeless people, priests, Ave Maria….)
When that finished, I remembered I was supposed to make dinner…and have the dinner rolls thawed hours before. The speed method of sticking them in a warm oven took an hour, which meant I couldn’t put in the ham (which took an hour and twenty minutes) until an hour later, which meant we weren’t eating until much later than planned.
Everything went downhill from there.
Don’t ask me why, but the oven rack was on the highest rung, and the rolls were on that rack, touching the oven top, and burning straight, black lines onto every other roll.
The bourbon maple ham glaze called for real maple syrup, but I used Great Value’s original syrup (which made a difference), and required orange zest, but I used orange peel (because what’s the difference?)(and that made a big difference). It made so much of a horrible difference, that it cancelled out the other problem — placing the ham face down, rather than on its side, where the glaze could dribble between each slice. Since the glaze tasted so orange-ily bad, it didn’t matter in the end that it puddled only on the top and bottom.
Erich rescued the mashed potatoes with two sticks of butter. (The milk had gone bad a month ago.)
But the green beans…oh, the green beans. I painstakingly chopped off the ends of every individual green bean, until Erich noticed and gently pointed out what are you even doing and you can chop them all at once, like this, see? I got carried away with how many green beans I could chop at once, and chopped all of them, and put them all in the steamer. When the steamer dinged, the green beans, being a great many, were carrot-stick crunchy.
We spent our Christmas Eve dinner busting out laughing every time somebody took a bite of green beans.
So much for dinner. (Thankfully, Welch’s sparkling white grape juice rescued the night.)
Then came the delicate process of stuffing Erich’s stocking.
He stayed up until past midnight reading his book about animal whispering assassins. Fine, I’d go to sleep and wake up early. The next time I woke up was around 2 AM, and I didn’t feel like playing Santa at 2 AM, so I went to the bathroom instead. An hour later, I woke up, but Erich made a noise. Abort! Abort! The next time, an hour after that, I tried to leave, but he rolled over.
Apparently, seven months of marriage had synced up our Circadian cycles and left me unable to sneak out of the room and stuff his stocking without him knowing.
Then I remembered that he was twenty-two-years-old, for goodness’ sake, and who cares about being cute and secretive when sleep is on the line? So I tried to cram too many stocking stuffers in his stocking, knocked over his stocking holder and broke off the jingle bell, and couldn’t fit a big box of Hello Panda creme filled cookies into the stocking without ripping it. It occurred to me that if I really cared, I could dump everything out and try a different stuffing arrangement, but I, who just wanted to go back to bed, didn’t. I just left the Hello Panda creme filled cookie box bulging out the top of his stocking, and climbed in bed.
But it was worth it when Erich woke me up a few hours later, a quiet, giddy little boy happy on Christmas day.
“I feel bad,” he said, grinning at the Hello Panda creme filled cookies and the Pokemon dress socks and the touchable bubbles, “that I didn’t get you anything.”
Not quite true — he’d started a homemade gift at the last minute, but couldn’t finish it because he kept injuring his fingers and getting blood all over the gift. It’s still under our bed. I paid for the materials myself during our last Walmart trip.
“I’ll just go out tomorrow and get you a bunch of things.”
“No need, babe. You can just buy me random things throughout the year. ‘Merry Christmas!’ ‘Happy Anniversary!’ ‘Happy Birthday!'”
“Don’t I do that already?”
And that, dear reader, is a real life, newlywed Christmas.
How was yours?