After several seasons of being on Santa’s naughty list—our stockings brimming with coal—I think it’s time my husband and I learned how to make merry again.
Surprisingly, for two fairly peaceful, private people who spend most of the year getting along pretty well, it’s curious how Mark and I have become expert at yuletide rows that leave a lasting impression—not just on us, but on our friends and family as well.
I suppose if it were a once-in-a-while gig it might be vaguely entertaining, but as repeat offenders we’re in grave danger of becoming that sad lounge act—the has-beens who’ve played the dinner theatre in Schenectedy one too many times—who are poised on the slippery slope of being downright annoying.
So as I set my sights on turning the ship around this Christmas—making love not war—I thought it might be wise to look back on the last few years to see if I can pinpoint where we have gone so terribly wrong. Perhaps a forensic audit of our Christmas’ past might give us clues about the underlying cause of our Seasonal Marital Discord Syndrome (SMDS).
Two years ago we had a Christmas tussle about our son drinking too much chocolate milk. We had unwittingly fallen prey to the manipulations of a crafty pre-schooler who had discovered the art of divide and conquer; finding someone who will say “yes”, even after mommy and daddy have said “no”. Poor Auntie Kimmy got caught in the crossfire that year—my sister still has PTSD about coming to our house for the holidays.
We didn’t figure out how badly we’d been duped until Boxing Day, when the whole story came into a clearer light. My sister, on a diplomatic mission of sorts, visited us in our separate household camps to explain what had really gone down. “It was me!” she said, “I gave him the chocolate milk!” It’s too bad that on Christmas Day—that Day of Holy Days—all generosity of spirit between us had evaporated (hmmm...possibly clue number one) and we were in the mood to shoot first and ask questions later.
The Christmas before that it was the “mandarin incident”. Neither of us can remember what the fight was about, but what comes quickly to mind is that a mandarin orange flew across the kitchen, hitting me in the backside while I was elbow-deep in a frozen turkey, barking orders and generally bossing people around (clue number two).
Mark denies having thrown the tiny orange but I still maintain that it needed some kind of a launching pad (like his hand perhaps) to have successfully travelled from its bowl to my bum (and yes, uncontrollable, childish outbursts would be clue number three). Short of an Oliver Stone-esque re-enactment to examine the wayward trajectory of the magic mandarin (was it back and to the left, or the other way around?) I’m pretty sure it was him. My mother-in-law, who was another totally innocent bystander trapped in the melee that year, was beyond reproach.
The year before that, we fought about an offside comment Mark made to some early-bird visitors to our home about my morning face—something akin to “Hey guys, come see what the wife really looks like!” It was a pathetic attempt at being funny (clue number four) and yes I was in a “super-sensitive mood” and was “totally PMS-ing” at the time, and so took it quite personally. (And that will do quite nicely as clue number five.)
Last year we didn’t have a fight at all, opting instead for a seven-day perma-freeze of ice age proportions—one that put our innocent bystanders at risk of an acute case of pneumonia. I don’t recommend the silent treatment, especially at Christmas. Regardless of what you do to one another, it’s not fair to inflict that kind of pain and suffering on other people.
Thankfully, this year, I think we may have gotten our annual Christmas fight out of the way early. Nothing can invoke the spousal death ray of disapproval, or clean out the marital cupboard full of cobwebs, like asking for help rearranging the furniture. And on that subject, what is so awful about getting an itchin’ for a switchin’ anyway? It’s a great way to fight the domestic doldrums and it sure beats running away with the mail man for spice-of-life value. Trust me folks, moving the sofa is far less complicated.
The good news is we survived my most recent episode of dancing-with-the-furniture. So in addition to the dining room being ready for a joyous feast, the tension-filled balloon of the holiday season has had some air let out of it. It’s entirely possible that Mark and I are well on the road to having a happy holiday season for the first time in years. If we can convince our families to give us one last chance to show some real hospitality—minus the floor show—we’ll have Christmas back on track.
And with the lessons of our past holiday failures top of mind—be generous, don’t be bossy, act like a grown-up, don’t say stupid stuff, and try not to take things personally—we might actually be able to get our SMDS under control. That means three whole weeks to truly enjoy the holidays and the simple pleasure of cramming ourselves full of shortbread and eggnog.
And if we can get the presents wrapped early, there might even be a chance for us to finally don our matching red velvet hats and play ‘Santa’s-little-helper’ once our son goes to bed Christmas Eve. Of course if the copious quantities of shortbread and eggnog leave us feeling too fat and disgusting to fool around, at the very least we should be able to enjoy one another’s company. And to that I say, Amen!
Now pull up a chair (in my house you’ll need to look before you sit, because things have moved around a bit), hoist a glass of rum and eggnog, pass the cookies in the plaid box...and let’s all toast to a happily married Christmas.