Better Left Unsaid

“Be who you are and say what you feel. Because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”

I like Dr. Seuss, but that particular quote places a huge burden on those with whom we share our lives. When really, surviving a family holiday is as much about what we don’t say as what we do.

As I climbed the stairs to my front door, I could hear the squeals of delight. It was eleven in the morning after a long, busy night shift. Once inside, there were bangers and bingers, and flying thingamajingers. Kids upstairs and downstairs. Paper airplanes were soaring off the balcony. The girls in the kitchen were blending exotic smoothies. My husband sauntered by.

“Oh... hi. How was your shift?” (You weren’t planning on sleeping were you?)

“Good.” (I was up all night with a man I was sure was going to die but now he is enjoying his breakfast.) “Did I miss a birthday?” (Why are you walking around with a power drill and a handful of 6-inch nails?)

“You see, Kid A wanted a play date with things one, two, and three. And kid B would not settle for less than inviting C, D, and E.” (And now we have the whole alphabet here. Great.)

My husband follows my gaze to the drill in his hand. (Perhaps you wouldn’t sport such a grimace if your heart weren’t two sizes too small)

“So...the boys and I are just going to put up a few shelves in the kids’ bedroom.” (It’s not like I am wondering around with a running chain saw!)

From somewhere overhead I hear a triumphant voice: “We are biggering, and biggering, and biggering up here.”

“You know that tree you were going to buck up? Maybe we should wait on that.” (Better make sure he doesn’t pull out the chain saw!)

I sit down beside thing three. Without doing anything he makes my heart smile. “Shall I tell you about my week?” he offers.

“Yes you should.”

“Are you drinking coffee?”

“Yep” (I would rather be drinking a beer: something to kick me into that decadent slumber that follows a night shift, but I know you are going to go home and tell your parents, so I am having another coffee.)

The fire is roaring. Underneath the noise, noise, noise... there is good music playing. This is not an unpleasant mayhem. My little friend abandons his story when he hears the drill start up. I help the girls pour smoothies and check in with the dogs. They have had better Saturdays. The glue in their fur tells me they have been crafted upon without their consent.

Boy C bolts by in one of my daughter’s dance outfits.

“You might want to take that dress off before your Dad comes to pick you up.”

“It’s not a dress. It’s a tutu!” But he gets my point and wiggles free of it. “Uh-uh. Don’t just leave it there on the floor.” He grabs the tutu in one hand, picks up a level in the other, and bounds upstairs.

I start to pick up pieces of a dismembered fifferr-feffer-feff but this last coffee is not working. My head bobs and I weave a path to the couch. Next thing I know I am in and out of consciousness.

“B’s mom is trying to sleep. Everybody outside.” But not all of them leave. One escapes the parade outdoors, and nestles in beside me on the couch. Ninety minutes later I awake beside a hot potato. She’s got to be at least 39 degrees.

The dog wants out. He jumps up and drags a new swath of claw marks down what I was once assured was the finest wood trim. His paw lands on the doorknob, and he is almost gone.

“Not so fast, Buster.” I remove the tutu, and the dog bounds off to play chicken with the F150 pulling up the driveway. (Well at least he didn’t leave it on the floor.)

“I’m really sorry D’s feeling so bad.” (I can’t wait to tell the other parents)

Then all is quiet. My daughter stands beside me. “What a great day.”

“Look at the mess.” I reply.

“Don’t worry, I will help you clean it up.” (Mom, you get what you get, and you don’t get upset.)

If there is ever a season to exercise a little restraint, Christmas has got to be it. In particular, the words always and never are dangerous. That’s why I never use them, and my kids always do.