Wow it's Sunday, and the houseguests are still here, and I've taken to my bed, wondering who came up with the idea of a holiday season, as opposed to, you know, a holi-day. I'm holed up here under the covers with many gift catalogues and a few books and also some tea.
I made the announcement this morning. I said, "I am taking to my bed." I wanted everyone to know, so no one would bother me, and now that I'm here, I am putting this right here on my list of 10 things you should do during the holiday season when you have houseguests.
No. 10: Go ahead and take to your bed if you need to, which you probably will.
No. 9: Delegate! Many people want to help cook. They really do. People like getting involved. But Aunt Suzie doesn't know to peel the potatoes, so you have to tell her. And Uncle George may not feel worthy of the pumpkin chiffon pie responsibility. Help him discover.
No. 8: Let go of order. Just let go. So somebody took the scissors. So somebody ran off with the tape. So somebody left the door open, and the cat came in, and your brother's dog chased it down the hall and knocked over the ficus tree. So? So?
No. 7: Drink alcohol. Drink coffee. Eat pie with gobs of whipped cream and a cherry. This is when you need every crutch available.
No. 6: Remember that as soon as everyone leaves you'll get back to who you used to be. It will happen. You'll be able to run around the house in your underwear if you want to. Not that you'll necessarily want to. But know that freedom is on the horizon.
No. 5: Remember how happy you were when everyone arrived. Remember how good it felt to hug and to welcome and to hear stories and to see how big the babies got. Hang on to this because it really did feel good. It was the whole original point.
No. 4: Realize that the good feeling lasts only so long. It's not you. It's not them. It's just the limitations of the fuel running this event. A law of nature. Love is a very powerful fuel. Sure it is. But it is a sensitive fuel that causes sputtering and spurts and gushes, and can't be depended on for anything requiring continuously smooth motion.
No. 3: Be especially kind to the people who live in your house the rest of the year. You are, of course, stuck with them. But realize they are feeling the stress at least as much as you are. Pitch in. Pull them aside and ask them if they need anything. If they burn the bacon beyond recognition, do not yell or cast aspersions or even blink. Just tell everyone else you like it that way.
No. 2: When the going gets rough and you feel as if you can't listen to Great-Aunt Martha's stories another second longer or you will have to kill yourself, start comparing your life with that of people stuck in airports who can't get home to see their relatives because the flights got canceled because of a blizzard and all the hotels are booked so they have to sleep on the floor with strangers who snore.
No. 1: Always go into any prolonged holiday gathering at your home realizing it's not going to go the way you think it will. Oh, you think it will be so wonderful to see everyone again, you think it will be a total tra-la-la affair, just everyone getting along, and no one fighting, and no one dragging on with boring stories, and no one judging you for how you fold your bath towels or because you don't have soy milk or because you really should have sharper knives. But it won't be like that. No, it will not. It will be a lot of this and that, a lot of joy and a lot of aggravation, and a lot of tension and laughter, too. Realize you like it better that way, anyway. Texture is good. Texture is fun. Texture is your friend. Without texture you would be living like Carol or Mike Brady on "The Brady Bunch" or, worse, like you used to live when you were lonely.
Alone is different from lonely, of course. Alone is what you seek when you take to your bed. Gather strength. Look around at the mess your room has become because the nephews needed a laundry basket to make a fort out of, and so they threw your dirty clothes in a pile. The invasion! The invasion of love and good cheer and everything you ever asked for in life: a family. Take to your bed and remember and give thanks. Then, but only when you're ready, go on back out there and bash your head on a pot that someone hung up wrong on the pot rack, and have yourself a merry good time.
Jeanne Marie Laskas's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.