Putting the Wonder in a Wonderful Life

Year after year since bearing children, I do my best to create magical memories and traditions during the holiday season.

Recently, while I was complaining about all that I had to do – my friend Marsha, wisely stated, “The holidays are especially hard on women because we are the memory makers.”

While we run around getting the perfect gifts,  baking the perfect cookies and wrapping everything with the perfect papers and bows, the men in our lives can be found doing the same shit they do in June or October.

I don’t think Mr. Gaga once even thinks about anything holiday related at all – until maybe Christmas morning.

Now that the kids are ten and eight, I have learned the hard way one to many times that striving for perfection is not wise. Inevitably, things will end in disaster or I will run out of time to get everything done.

This year I figured out a way to maybe make everything perfect.

Take Mr. Gaga out of the equation.

I love him dearly.

However, when it comes to the perfect cookie, the perfect christmas card, the perfect holiday movie watching night while eating the perfect popcorn out of the perfect holiday popcorn tin…..

This is a must while watching "A Christmas Story."
This is a must while watching “A Christmas Story” or “Charlie Brown Christmas”…if you haven’t eaten this whole tin of popcorn in one sitting then you haven’t lived.

He doesn’t give a merry fuck.

So when he decided to go to Alabama for a football tailgate after Thanksgiving, we went without him to get a Christmas tree for the first time ever.

I felt very liberated and free while I walked through the fields looking for the perfect tree.

There was nobody to tell me “no.”  There was nobody to argue with.

There was nobody to tell me the height of my ceiling.

It was delightful.

I chose the most beautiful tree in the land.  This would be the year that we would not argue during the Christmas tree chopping festivities….

I asked for help from the farm staff in getting the tree to my car and I left it at home for Mr. Gaga to put up while I was at work.

There was no way there would be an arguing for possibly the first time in years!  I went to work – so ecstatic to come home to a tree up in my living room.

While at work I received this text:



Of course – he can’t resist making a dig…

Just because I have 8 ft. ceilings and got a 10 ft. tree….

So kill me.

So the next night, Mr. Gaga had a late meeting and wouldn’t be home in time to decorate the tree.  The old me would have put off the decorating until we could all be together.

The new me, who smartly avoids confrontations, got to work on the decorating without my husband.

Annex - Stewart, James (It's a Wonderful Life)_01

Michael helped with the lights while Sam diligently unwrapped all of the ornaments.

We started to hang the ornaments as a team. Everything was going great.  Christmas music played in the background while we hung each delicate item with care and adoration.

Michael was hanging an ornament and announced, “This is my favorite ornament,” as he hung the ornament in the front of the tree proudly.

Sam and I leaned in to look at what it was.

"Oh this was an ornament someone gave me when I just had you, Michael!"
“Oh this was an ornament someone gave me when I just had you, Michael!”


Sam looked at the ornament and burst into tears.

“You want to remember a time when I wasn’t a part of the family!” he yelled. “Thanks a lot!”

“Sam – it was before you were born! We didn’t even know you yet!” I answered with exasperation.

“Move it to the back!” he demanded of Michael while wiping hot tears off his cheeks.

“NO!” Michael yelled, putting himself in front of the ornament protectively.

“Mom! Make him move it!” Sam yelled.

“Ok you guys – just forget it. Let’s not ruin Christmas tree night.” I said handing other ornaments to the kids to hang.

Sam looked at the ornament that I had handed him.  He smiled widely.

“This is my ornament from when I was a baby!” he said.  “This is going to go right in the front!” he said.

He handed me the ornament and asked me to hang it up high in the front.

When he handed it to me , the ribbon stuck to his thumb and snapped back when I tried to grab it and fell to the floor.

Fuck my life.
Fuck my life.

“NO!!!!” Sam screamed as he stared down at his last hope of Christmas memories in glass shards on the floor.

He ran up to his room in hysterical tears.

I looked at Michael and he shrugged and kept decorating.

I sighed and went to get the broom.

We eventually coaxed Sam downstairs but we finished decorating in sad silence.

The kids went to bed when we were done.  When Mr. Gaga came home he looked in at the tree and said something innocuous like “Nice tree.” and went to bed.

I had taken Mr. Gaga out of the equation and my efforts at magical memories were still failing.

Undeterred, I planned a movie night.

I had been waiting for years to introduce my children to my favorite Christmas movie of all time, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  I wanted to be sure they would be old enough to enjoy and appreciate the magic of the movie.

This was my year.

I prepped the boys. I told them the gist of the movie.

“George gets so upset that he’s about to jump off a bridge and then an angel saves him.” I explained excitedly.

I chose the night when Mr. Gaga was busy putting up the outside lights.

The old me would have waited until he was available for the movie viewing.

The new me knew that he would add nothing to the evening.

Halfway through the movie – the kids were wrestling and asking me when the movie would get good.

“When does he kill himself?” Michael asked expectantly.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” I yelled at him. “Do you want George to die??  You are so mean!”

“No – it’s just boring.” he said with a shrug.

“Yeah Mom – you said this was a Christmas movie, and it’s actually just a really long movie about banking!” Sam said with despair.

I realized with dread that they were missing the entire point of the movie.

At the end of the two hour fiasco I told them that this was the best part of the movie – hopeful that they would finally get it.


Don’t tell Michael or Sam but -secretly this is my favorite quote because it most replicates my real-live sentiments…..



At the end of the movie I was crying – because obviously what human on this earth would not burst into tears when George’s brother makes a toast next to a pile of cash….

toast wl

“You’re crying??” Sam asked incredulously peering closely into my eyeballs.

“Why are you crying at a banking movie??”

I wiped my tears and turned off the television.

Another year of working hard for Christmas spirit and tradition and I was foiled again.

I had taken Mr. Gaga out of the equation.

I looked at my children and realized….

Next year maybe I had to take them out too…..


One thought on “Putting the Wonder in a Wonderful Life

  1. My father used to sneak a christmas tree into the woods behind our house, stick it in a hole, wait for the first snowfall to cover the evidence, and then ask us kids to hunt for the “perfect tree to cut down.” We always found the perfect one, wow! My husband doesn’t even help me get the tree out of the attic. The only lights that get put up outside are the ones I put there. We are certainly not living up to my childhood nostalgia around here. Someday, perhaps, my kids will fondly remember decorating the tree with mom and how strong she was to lug all those boxes up and down an attic ladder. That and making a gingerbread house. That’s my thing. You should definitely only do things *you* really want to do. Pick something, enjoy it, and someday maybe your kids will remember that and that will be their Christmas nostalgia when their spouses fail to understand why its so important.

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