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The waiting is the hardest part

December 17, 2010

Ours was a holiday kind of weekend, in between our usual Saturday-Sunday fare – some cement pouring, a little insulation.

We drove downtown to see the trucks, hot rods, horses, four-wheelers and dirt bikes roll by in the Christmas parade.

The next morning, we visited our favorite tree farm. It was 20-something degrees, and the wind burned our eyes, but hey -we’re trying to build a tradition here.

Jack gets an annual ornament to represent his year. His first was a drum, and last year he got a hammer – both things he’s still into. This was his first year to choose the ornament himself, and he had to have two – a giraffe and a “real rock-n-roll” guitar.

Which he frequently takes off the tree to pretend to tune and play.

*               *               *

Since at least Thanksgiving, Jack has been hearing about Christmas. Everyone – family, friends, the cashier – wants to know what’s on his wish list, and whether he’s going to meet Santa. This is the first year he’s understood presents and surprises, and it’s becoming his toughest exercise yet in patience. He has a two-year-old sense of time – if we did something very early this morning, he might say we did it yesterday, which is how he might also describe something that happened two months ago. He understands “tomorrow,” mostly, though if he’s eager for it to come he’ll almost always double-check: “You mean now?”

So it’s been three weeks, and Santa is still not coming tomorrow.

But we’ve trimmed the tree, and I feel like I spent the last two months scouring Etsy and Amazon (WHY didn’t I start in October, when I always vow to?), so at least it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Sort of. See, the tree is in the hallway, just down from the sawhorse table that holds the jigsaw, right next to our two portable closets, and across from a stack of lumber. This is Jack’s first year to look forward to Christmas, and his wait is long, hard, and a little confused. I’m struggling with patience, too, as I look at the boxes labeled “Christmas” that will stay packed and return to the basement for another year. Silly though it may be, I look forward for months to bringing out the garlands (red berries for the mantel; mittens for the wall), jingle bells and bottlebrush trees, and to covering with glitter the pinecones and acorns I collected in the yard all season. But our fireplace is dusty and piled high with boxes of its own. Our living room is a storage closet; the den is full of wood and buckets of nails. In the kitchen, we have a tool pantry and doorless cabinets that we’re still painting.

I know Christmas isn’t really about decking the halls. But I love that part, and not observing it brings into sharp focus all that is still under construction in our life at home. The date of completion that I’m waiting for seems as distant and nebulous to me as “next week” is to Jack.

Don has always been better at waiting and making do. Last weekend, he brought all the boxes up because beyond the wood and wires and all manner of things undone, he can see places to add some holiday cheer. Last year we weren’t even living in our house, but we got a tree and unpacked ornaments and stockings. Two years ago, he hung our half-done porch with lights.

I’m proud of how much of the work we’ve done – are still doing – ourselves. But sometimes I just want it to look pretty. And as my husband pointed out to me, my version of pretty is kind of all or nothing.

I need to let progress look good and feel satisfying.
And let our tree look less like a tiny island of pretty – more like Christmas.

I know, I know. “It’s the climb,” and all that. When has your desperation for an end goal ever left you struggling for contentment? Pop hits aside, what helped?

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. December 17, 2010 5:19 pm

    The pictures are too delicious! We haven’t decked our halls yet (we’re in a bit of a blur around here), but hopefully this weekend we’ll get to something more than my few poinsettias and ornaments in a bowl.

  2. December 17, 2010 7:09 pm

    I thought he might want a giraffe!!! Go giraffes!!!

  3. December 18, 2010 2:42 pm

    Incredible photos. I especially like the one where Jack is playing guitar in front of the tree. But the baby one with the twinkle lights is also to die for. You’re gonna go nuts for that photo 2 decades from now.

    You know, I think you’ve written a lot here. I hope you’ll read it in a few days, or maybe Christmas day, when something inside you is quiet. You’ve found a really quiet space, where you see your husband and the progress you’re making, and the journey you’re taking. It’s gentle and kind and it also sees how you want to get to the end.

    I liked reading this because I can see myself at so many levels. I’m going to find another forgotten place in my life where there is bustle and let it be beautiful for just what it is.

  4. December 18, 2010 3:28 pm

    It’s never the climb for me; it’s the getting to the top. It takes a monumental effort to make myself be otherwise. I can’t imagine the patience (not to mention skill) it takes to build your own house, practically from scratch. But at least you’ve got the cutest pint-sized guitar player in Arkansas cheering you on. =>

  5. December 20, 2010 12:30 am

    Oh, I just love you for sharing this! (Eeeek! I just said the L word and I’ve never even bought you a glass of wine!) but seriously, I think someone else said that ‘there’s so much here’ and that is so true. The first ‘house’ that Drew and I lived in was my dad’s barn that we modified part of to be a very loosely termed apartment. We bathed under a sun bag on the front porch, made the daily trek to the outhouse that we dug and built ourselves for our what-have-yous, and our nearest neighbors were the 100+ free range chickens and 2 pigs that lived below us. It was uncomfortable and smelly and unbelievably dusty, but oh my god, were those happy days. I love the context of a homemade beginning because it means that a year (or 20) from now, you’re going to be sitting back looking over every inch of your beautifully decked home and reminiscing about the good ol days when you had a drill press as a coat rack. Oh wait, that’s me. But you get what I’m saying. It’s not all Martha Stewarty this year, but honestly, it’s so so so much better than that. The whole reason that people like us (can I say that?) don’t jump for the prefab McMansions may have a thing or two to do with pennies, but mostly it has to do with wanting to be in the business of making memories. And you are seriously making memories right now! And my final comment is this: as two aspiring home builder/remodeler/DIYers, Drew and I would definitely spend our time on Santa’s lap asking for a home of our own to completely wreck us as we hammered and sawed away. I’m incredibly jealous of your lumber piles and lovely cabinets, and I just know that in years to come these sweet years with Jack playing amidst the madness are going to be so awesome…in part because they’re behind you, but mostly because they’re a part of you. Thanks so much for sharing!! 🙂

  6. December 21, 2010 4:23 am

    We are both playing the waiting game. You for a “pretty” house and me for a bigger space. At our hearts, I know we both know waiting will make it so much better when our dreams actually materialize, but having the patience can be tough. I try to be optimistic, like reminding myself that we are currently living in a bigger apartment than we lived in for the first two years of our marriage, but that doesn’t always help.

    In the end, you, I, we, will keep waiting and feel better for it. We’ll just have to buoy each other up through encouraging e-mails.

  7. December 21, 2010 9:34 am

    Such wonderful pics Leslie. I am not so keen on the process and much rather get to the ultimate result. My husband is the opposite. He enjoys whatever is, while I am hedging on what may come.

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