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Christmas, unwrapped

January 25, 2009 - Kelly Valeri
In a matter of minutes, our living room was destroyed. There were bits of shredded wrapping paper in every couch cushion crevice, toys had been revered for moments and then cast aside for the next concealed one, and I barely had time to get any of it captured in pictures -- let alone take it in for myself.

As a new parent at Christmas, it seemed almost comical how fast a month of list-making, coupon-clipping, driving, parking, deciphering, pondering, selecting, paying, carting, detagging and wrapping could be undone before I had time to blink.

I found myself looking at our beautiful tree with the carnage around it and laughing because the only other reaction would've been to start pounding my head against a wall, and I couldn't have gotten over to one anyway. I guess Santa's going to have to up his arsenal next year.

At least we still have grandma's house, I thought.

If ever Santa had competition, it would be from my mother-in-law. With four grandkids, every flat surface in her entire downstairs is covered with wrapped packages, including the back of her piano and any floor space not absolutely necessary for walking from room to room. Plus, the biggest presents become tables for even more boxes, bags and bows.

This year, one was so big it was wrapped in a Christmas-themed tablecloth.

But just as soon as she could divvy up the packages to their intended recipients, it was over in a series of shrieks heard above the din of ripping paper. If I thought coaxing our 1-year-old through pulling tissue paper out of a bag went fast, I was quickly reminded that older kids with better finger dexterity go even faster.

The next phase of opening came soon after. Knives and scissors were pulled from the kitchen to free dolls, games and batteries from their plastic casings. I found that there's no pressure in the world like trying to wrangle a new toy out of its twist-tie prison as an anxious child bounces with anticipation at your lap.

I couldn't help but wonder if adults would be able to savor the reactions of little ones more if we could figure out how to wrap toys like manufacturers do.

In the meantime, I watched helplessly as tiny little parts got lost under the chaos. I tried my best to keep my daughter's new dollhouse family together, but after a few minutes, the baby was on his own in his crib on the roof next to the kitchen sink while his parents were off in a thick jungle of red and green.

I attempted to retrieve them before they ended up in a garbage bag as her big cousin announced the maze game that had come with six balls now had only four. And where was her stuffed kitty? And could I open this please?

With some intense searching, we found most of our targets, but eventually I gave up and decided the baby may have to remain an orphan forever.

After dinner -- which had its own mini disasters including the moment I shattered a glass on the kitchen counter and spilled beets all over the white tablecloth -- we resumed our search and found the baby's parents in the dollhouse attic hideaway. It was then that I realized there are all types of Christmas miracles.

The biggest of all is that we experience annual holiday amnesia and do it all over again each December.

 
 

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