This is a story about Christmas Giving and Giving Up. The last two weeks have been filled with family, food and holiday festivities. Our adult children came by air and car to celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year’s Eve with us. We prepared many delicious meals, watched football games, videos and a lot of kid shows involving princesses. There was not a single ugly scene that is standard in holiday tales—no angry shouting, no tears or recriminations; it was a truly wonderful time.
But… I enjoy living in clear, clean spaces. A clutter-free house gives me a sense of peace. It is impossible for seven adults, one 4-year-old and two cats to live together for two weeks and maintain the clean, clear ideal. I know this. I want our children to remember the holidays at our house fondly, so this year I gave up trying to keep the house tidy while they’re visiting. No one but me is bothered by the crumbs on the rug, the sticky spots on the kitchen counter, or the ornaments Kamiko stripped from the tree and used as characters in made-up stories she told herself aloud, complete with dramatic but weird conversation: (“I’m a princess!” she exclaimed. “I love cats!” he gasped.)
It has occurred to me that cleaning up instead of enjoying the moment may be my way of avoiding intimacy, much like spending the holiday in the kitchen cooking rather than, say, sitting down with my son-in-law and asking him about his life. But there is a difference between cleaning and cooking. While a delicious family meal is a social and sensual occasion, no one seems to feel the love emanating from a freshly vacuumed carpet.
As difficult as it was at first, I’m glad I was able to stifle the urge to whip out the trusty high-powered vac. It gave me time sprinkle little, sticky flakes of colored sugar all over cookies, a table and the rug as well as watch the same three Tinker Bell videos over and over. Time slowed way down in a good way. This may seem self-congratulatory but believe me, it took effort to let go and give up cleaning for Christmas. (“I can vacuum later!” she gasped.)