This holiday season, I will stuff a turkey, bake home-made croutons, mash approximately 40 potatoes, pick 3 turkey necks, mull 2 gallons of glugg, skim another gallon homemade chicken stock, shape and freeze 50-60 homemade dumplings, wrap 20 gifts, mail 50 holiday cards of varying religions and hope that I don’t get fired from my day job for stealing tape, boxes, scissors, and billable hours to do my online shopping.
For the past few years, each holiday season has grown in obligations and heightened in standards: gifts are more expensive, cuisine more international, tree decorations become fashionable and unfashionable. Previously, there was just one standard genre of Western Christmas décor, Christmas was christmas. This year, I will choose between a mix of MoMA/modern Scandinavian holiday décor (left over from years before) or a traditional lush red velvet and gold European Christmas theme (recycled decorations from my sister’s recent Fall/Winter wedding) or possibly a Asian/oriental holiday theme using random collectibles my mother has stored in her attic.
Emily Post, Miss Manners, Martha Stewart, and my Mother, all seemed to carry out these tasks elegantly, swiftly and with uncompromising attention to detail. And most annoyingly, they never complained. Living in Washington, DC, most of my female friends are professionals and typical sophisticates who love to complain, even without any holiday obligations to encroach on Friday night cocktail hour. This time of year, the challenge of balancing the year-round work/home duality becomes the status quo; and this once complicated balancing act shifts over to one side of the scale to allow holiday consumerism and Elle Décor’s December issue to weigh in on the other. Contemplating this will probably require me to have yet another left-over Halloween candy bar. How will we ever catch up with Christmas?
My future mother-in-law would tell me that I didn’t start early enough. My own mother would tell me that practice makes perfect. My sister will inevitably give me a stocking full of unasked for and entirely unpractical advice. I expect a call from her soon. Where is my fairy godmother, who will turn the leftover Halloween/Thanksgiving pumpkins into taxis to pick up family members from the airport at reasonable rates?
Growing up, I watched my mother perform all these tasks, staying up late into the night wrapping, writing, marinating and making lists for the next day. She, for me, surpassed other American Icons of domesticity since her goal was to accomplish all of this — for her family, and not for the Joneses next door. Something that I admittedly struggle with even though I even know any actual “Joneses”. The competition is within me, to create something memorable every year. To create, adorn, present, and afterwards look around at all I have done: the feast of delicacies, eye-catching wrapping paper, sweetened tongues and sleepy relatives, and when it is all over to reach my hand over to my beloved beau, and say “Honey, would you clean all of this up?”