They are my calm before the storm. My reality check. A pair of 4-year-old love bugs — the youngest of my five grandkids. As they make their entrance through my front door, stars align in the universe.
It is Thanksgiving Eve morning and they are all mine, ready to play, dressed in jammies, kicking off shoes and heading straight for Hershey kisses deliberately placed within eyesight. Caving in to their sweet tooth, granting each of them one, maybe two, I remind them we have work to do, cookies to bake, a tree to decorate.
After all, in a few days, it will be December — a month with build up and let down, from Black Friday to Blue Tuesday, shopping agendas and “to do” lists.
But not in their world. They are my money-back guarantee that I will survive the holidays. In a quiet moment, they will nudge me and focus my attention on Santa and the glittering lights illuminating trees, boulevards and shopping centers. We will drive the avenues in search of nativity scenes and reindeer perched on rooftops.
While their early morning giggles travel through my veins, I forget momentarily that Malaysia Flight 370 is still missing, that there is an Ebola virus outbreak, the lingering threat of ISIS, and the heartbreak of Ferguson.
Spilling with exuberance, I grab them one by one, then over again, letting them fill me with Christmas. At their request, we play never-ending rounds of the “I love you more” game, admittedly one of our favorite pastimes when we are home alone and conjuring word games to boost vocabulary.
After being told I am loved more than a slivered moon and the ocean, a dolphin and even a Disney princess, I close my eyes — completely dissolved by their love. Their tiny words intoxicate and revive me. I make a series of journal entries to ensure moments like these are never forgotten. Only remembered.
Masters of make believe, by early afternoon, they have completely kidnapped me into their world. I am their easy target, happily surrendering with zero resistance. We assemble Thomas trains, find our tiaras and have a tea party, play Barbie Bingo and shoot a few baskets.
After lunch, we luxuriate with a long, sprawling walk, admiring orange, yellow and red leaves that have fallen off trees.
It is barely 2 p.m., and one of them, now both of them, want to paint. My head says no, but my heart has already nodded in agreement.
I suggest a rest time but the idea falls on deaf ears. Spreading newspapers on the kitchen table, filling cups with water, we divvy up paintbrushes, and the masterpieces begin. My aspiring Picassos splash paint everywhere, tiny droplets creating holiday art ceiling to floor. I quietly wet paper towels; we wipe up our mess. I need a nap but they are wide-awake, ready to decorate the tree.
The miniature silver aluminum tree is very Charlie Brown-ish in stature and starting to fall apart, barely making the trek from the upstairs closet down to the ground floor. Shiny needle droppings following us, a silver path created along the way.
This tree goes where I go, I think to myself, its history sacred and reminiscent of childhood. Mine. The only things missing today are the rotating color wheel and my dad, wearing his red sweater vest, sitting on the sofa, watching our living room turn shades of orange, blue, green and red. Life, indeed, was a different color then.
Oblivious to my bout of melancholy, we decorate the crooked branches using Mardi Gras beads and a bevy of butterflies. The final touch — a quilted skirt with ample seating for Teddy bears and dolls. By the time we are done, two sets of eyes have (finally) started to droop.
Evidence of our day is scattered throughout the house — crumbles of granola bars mashed in the carpet, the imprint of tiny bare feet on my impractical ebony floors, an unflushed toilet in my bathroom, toilet paper cascading off the roll and piled high onto the floor. They have little idea how they have decorated my world.
They are my pumpkin pie smothered in whipped cream. My jingle bells. Miniature tidings of comfort and joy. A few days from now, I will be fighting the crowds, stalled in traffic jams, standing in grocery lines wondering if I’ve gotten everything on my list. The memory of this day and their untiring love is the glue holding me together — certain to get me through this long month we call December.