7: A Little Peace

7: A Little Peace

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: It's Christmas!

A Little Peace

The phrase “working mother” is redundant.

~Jane Sellman

When I learned that my third child’s due date was December 25th, I tried not to panic. I figured the odds were fairly low that the baby would actually arrive on, or even near, the due date. With two little ones under the age of five, I was determined to keep the sparkle in the holidays despite my constant and overwhelming urge to lie down anywhere and go to sleep.

I carefully weeded out traditions that were just unrealistic (baking seven different types of cookies) and switched to the more practical (having the girls dip pretzel rods in melted chocolate and sprinkles). We visited Santa, but at a local rec center, not the mall. We skipped the holiday zoo festival and opted to expand our variety of Christmas movies, bringing back some classics.

But there was one tradition that I couldn’t shake.

Every year we met my mother in downtown Chicago at Marshall Field’s where we would look at the decorated windows and have lunch under the giant Christmas tree. This year it would mean navigating crowds while pushing a double stroller ahead of my swollen belly. This baby was so low that with every step I felt it might drop right out.

My mother convinced me to take the train, rationalizing that it was so much easier than driving, parking, and then walking. What neither of us realized was the reality of parking at the train station, lifting a toddler and preschooler onto the train, lugging the stroller behind me, and then repeating upon arrival and departure. By the time I got to Marshall Field’s, I was exhausted and irritable.

It seemed that our tradition was also a tradition for half of the greater metropolitan Chicago area. Our wait was almost two hours.

Once we sat down, the magic returned. The girls were darling in their fancy holiday dresses, patent leather shoes, and heavy wool and velvet coats. We ate underneath a giant glittering tree and a fairy visited every table, sprinkling fairy dust on our heads. My girls solemnly closed their eyes, concentrating very hard on their wishes. We ate Frango mint pie, shopped, and went outside to look at the windows.

By the time I reached my car in the lot at home (after the pushing and pulling of the train) I was so exhausted that I could barely stand. When we pulled into the driveway, I almost wept with relief.

Then I opened the door.

Sunlight streamed in the back window, which had lately been blocked by our enormous tree. Our giant, round, take-up-half-the-room tree was now resting on the ground, as if in sympathy with my desire for an afternoon nap.

It was too much. I put my head in my hands and wept. I cried from overwhelming exhaustion, I cried for the broken ornaments, many of them sentimental ones from our wedding or souvenirs carefully chosen on vacations. I cried for the mess that I would have to clean up and the tree I would have to pull to standing and redecorate.

My girls hugged me and wrapped their arms around me as best they could and we all cried. I wondered how I could ever do it all. And then the “all” turned into the universal all, not just the tree and the mess, but how could I raise three children with no money for sitters and a husband who traveled frequently. We stood rooted to the spot holding each other for a while.

And then, like most mothers, I got to work and cleaned it up.

I felt the baby drop on Christmas Eve and went into labor during Christmas dinner at my in-laws, timing my contractions between bites of beef tenderloin. We made it home, put the girls down, and headed to the hospital. Anna was born shortly after midnight.

Then came the greatest gift given to mothers of Christmas babies: Peace. The presents had been bought, wrapped, and opened. I had been home to see Santa’s bounty. The cleaning up of the Christmas morning destruction wasn’t my problem. The hospital maternity ward was quiet. I was deeply in love with my new angel.

The day I came home, snow was falling gently. My mother had bathed the older girls and my mother-in-law had baked a cake. I snuggled in front of the (now restored and magisterial) tree and took in the true meaning of the season.

~Laura Amann

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