My house used to seem really, really BIG, but that was when all five kids were knee-high to a grasshopper. Now that they have quite selfishly and inconsiderately grown UP into large-size human beings, things feel really, really SMALL around here, especially around Christmas. Home they come, by plane, train, or automobile, washing in over the threshold in little mini-tidal surges, with backpacks, duffels, satchels, skateboards, Flexible Flyers, and laundry. Yes, I do know they are not all mine; the ones who are blond, and/or carrying sleeping bags (enterprising, but a dead giveaway), are required to leave their laundry bag on the front porch, where they will pick it up in the morning, after creaking down the stairs past our bedroom at, like, 5:30 a.m (giving us a heart attack until we remember) because they’ve promised their OWN parents, who live in fill-in-the-blank, to be home by noon.
So there I am, chained to the kitchen, frantically rolling out gingerbread cookies. It used to be easy to navigate around the center island. You just had to watch your feet to avoid stepping on a toddler or a piece of Lego. Now it is all but impassable, especially if a fresh batch has just come out of the oven, in which case it would be a frantic RED on Google maps, which would be fine if there were alternate routes, but there aren’t, because Swoosh is setting up a major DJ rig across an open doorway along a major traffic route for the aboveground underground rave he’s promised, featuring (on a maternal dare) a set crafted around Karen Carpenter singing “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire.” Why did I open my big fat mouth? The volume level in the kitchen is already fogging the skylights. But it does warm the cockles of my heart to see that young people of voting age still like to decorate Christmas cookies–AND throw sprinkles at each other.
As my kitchen begins to resemble the Centerburg Cafe during the Homer Price doughnut fiasco, I take off my crash helmet, fix a redneck mocha (that’s a cup of Joe with some Swiss Miss thrown in, to you), and retreat to the living room, where I sip my holiday beverage in queenly leisure in front of the Christmas tree while idly leafing through whatever reading material comes to hand, which in this case is a 1958 University of Arizona souvenir football program. Suddenly….Eureka! Old Mother’s Apparently Eccentric taste in literature strikes again! Right here on page 15. The ultimate solution to Holiday Traffic.
Cut this out and stick it on your fridge, or, if you have upgraded to brushed stainless steel like I have and CAN’T USE MAGNETS ANYMORE, tape it up near the microwave (the second-most-frequently-used appliance by teenagers, according to a national survey by the AAP), stand everyone under 30 in front of it, and tell them: you have 24 hours to memorize this, after that the penalties will be real. Then say goodbye to elbows in the ribs, or the eye, or disputes about how long a kitchen stool needs to be vacant before someone else can claim possession, or whose turn it was to lick the spoon. Everything can be adjudicated swiftly, decisively, and best of all, SILENTLY–so go ahead and turn the volume up. In gridiron terms, Old Mother is Ready For Play!