I am as stubborn as the next person. I am also as hopeful as the next person. Above all, however, I know when the monkey’s laughing at me it’s time to cut my losses and reassess the situation from a distance. Watch me retreat…a little farther…a little farther…
Ladies and gentlemen, the Inscrutable Mr. J has not, so far, been even remotely amused by any of his Twelve Day presents. I know I should say “too bad, that’s what he’s getting and that’s that,” but I am a little more bound and determined than that. I know, I know…I said “I’m fine with him just being there” and all that malarkey. Scratch that. I am not fine with him just being there, I want him to enjoy something…darn it!
(That will be the extent of my tantrum. I spent the night in the angry-mommy corner wearing the dunce’s hat and stewing in my own frustration, but I’ve recovered. Bring it on, J! Bring it ON!)
Today is the day when we drive into town and run some errands. I have a pile of Xmas cards that have been waiting for the most elusive book of stamps in the world…elusive, of course, because it eludes everyone’s memory to buy them when they go to the store. Yes, I’ve forgotten them, too. In fact, I forgot them as recently as last night. So today, armed with envelopes, packages and a note I intend to staple to the back of my hand, I will be going to the post office (where all the postal workers will proceed to laugh at me for being so late in dispatching these cards and then look at me with bitterness because the postal service is not doing so well these days.) My stop at the toy store has absolutely nothing to do with J…that ship has sailed.
Look, I know part of it is he’s a teenager and he’s supposed to be dissatisfied with everything. I remember sneering at things simply because they were sharing the planet with me. That I’ve considered a set of bongos, a black turtleneck and pants, a pair of sunglasses and a beret for J’s next present is not a joke…the kid should be sitting in a dark, smoky, virtually empty cafe reciting poetry and snapping his fingers. Yes, that’s how dissatisfied he looks. Perhaps behind my back he’s learning to sign “but what does it all MEAN…man?!” I don’t know…all I know is I have three t-shirts being delivered today because I KNOW he will enjoy clothes, and I am going to some funky second-hand store in town to search for a present…no, not a pair of bongos…not yet!
This is not, I’d like to clarify, about winning the battle or the war. I want to see the kid smile like he means it. The closest he came to it last night was when I opened the present my oldest son bought me: a Tom and Jerry cartoon compilation. Some women like pearls and perfume, I am more inclined to clap enthusiastically at the sight of classic cartoons, The Three Stooges or a nice, thick book with no descriptions of garments in it. J was not amused with his laughing monkey, thought it beneath himself (even though his brother has informed me, having been sixteen not that long ago, that J will eventually warm up to the monkey, use the monkey and enjoy the monkey,) and tossed it aside WITH AN ARCHED BROW! Who the heck dismisses a laughing monkey with an arched brow? J. J does that.
I felt a little sorry for myself after the rejection of the battery-operated, mirthful primate…and everyone, except J, rolled their eyes at me and told me I was being silly.
First: do not ever tell a woman who suffers from hot flashes that she is being silly. I will NOT go on a rampage, but I will make sure to not put your things where you can easily find them.
Second: the fact that I KNOW I’m being silly is obvious, but you deal with your frustration your way and I’ll deal with my frustration in mine.
Third, and (lucky for you) last: I need that smile. It’s as plain and simple as that; this smile has become something I need. Satisfied with this admission?
Why do I need this smile? Ah! I need this because I know that the last “family Christmas,” in the sense to which we were accustomed, is already behind us. That last lazy Christmas morning when we all plopped down on the living room, content with the groove and the texture of the day, is a memory. I know the kids are not kids anymore; I know that we are not young anymore. My super-powers are waning, and they will not be recharged until I have grandchildren and, once more, become the purveyor of some degree of magic.
My oldest son will be 21 in a few months, and he is getting ready to move on to the next stage of his life; during that stage we will slowly become supporting characters…or, rather, we will have featured cameos in his existence. We will have our own show, with our own storyline, our own plots and comedic catastrophes, but we will be an optional presence in his life. Yes: optional. Once you become a grown-up and you strike out on your own, you get to choose how much or how little your parents figure into the mix. And I’m ok with that, believe it or not…
That leaves J. Last night, while I was bemoaning my complete and utter failure, my husband told me “J knows we love him!” My response was “yes, of course he knows we LOVE him…he also knows our presents SUCK!” This made us both laugh because, for a brief moment, we were back to our sixteen year-old selves, talking about gifts that sucked. My Number One Gift That Sucked? I was sixteen and wanted a stereo. My mother bought me an encyclopedia. For Christmas.
I don’t want this to be J’s Year of the Encyclopedia In Lieu of the Stereo…no, not this year. Not quite yet.