“Mom, how do you DO THAT!!” Guy, my nine year old, shrieked this evening as I yanked open his pajama drawer for the thousandth time with just the right tug and lift.
“Because I’m Mommy.” I replied. And so it goes being a mom.
I know which compartments for cutlery in the dishwasher not to use. How to wiggle the extension cord so the light stays on. I am able to see absolutely everything in the fridge (which evidently no one else can). I know the temperament of the washing machine, where the Christmas cake ornaments live, how to cord the tree lights for next year, how to get the slivers of broken glass off the bathmat and exactly the right amount of a crack left in each doorway so just enough light shines through at night.
Moms, we ROCK. Did you survive Christmas? If you’re reading this, we made it! Hurrah hurrah hurrah for US! Pshaw on a movie called Unbroken about anything else at Christmas time! It should be about us, I tell you! Us, us, us!! An anthem of praise and admiration for mothers the world over.
No one understands what Christmas entails for a mother except.. another mother. And when you become a mother, you appreciate for the first time what your own mother did for you all those Christmases growing up. (This year for the first time I was doing it as a single mother and I had to laugh. You know what changed? Really absolutely nothing.)
I am someone who is un-flustered by mess so – when I let it – the crazy cacophony and chaos of Christmas and New Year can just flow right over me. I am lying flat on the sofa with my eyes closed. Someone is doing something somewhere with something, but what do I care? I am lying flat on the sofa with my eyes closed.
The one thing I do for myself each Christmas (and of course much of all of it is as much for me as everyone else, but you know what I mean) is a seasonal jigsaw. Ravensburger are the best, do not even bother with anyone else.
The Christmas jigsaw has saved my sanity – and for many years my marriage – in those blessed days between Christmas and New Year. By that time, I’ve done it, bought it, made it, wrapped it, shipped it, cooked it and served it. So now comes those blissful few non-days where actually nothing really has to happen before we are called upon to face a new year .
Boxing day (I’m a Brit) is the best day of all: never get out of pajamas; eat Christmas chocolate for breakfast; watch a fave movie; enjoy the kids playing with their toys; and eat more Christmas chocolate.
I have the tradition from my own childhood of opening presents over the twelve days. If you’ve never tried it, it’s fantastic. No feast or famine orgy of opening. No mountain of paper under which something is being broken/stepped on/lost. Fewer tears and no massive adrenaline hangover because – there are eleven more days of Christmas still to come! (FYI it is also the most brilliant leverage as a parent: “Tell you what, chaps. Once you’ve tidied your rooms/written to Grandma/fed the dogs/got dressed… let’s have a PRESENT!!” Works every time. Trust me.)
Anywho, back to the jigsaw. I think what I love about it is that I get to sit down, in one place, for long periods of time. And I love activities that let me think about other things.
I love the working of a jigsaw, it brings it all back into perspective for me. After all the crackling of Christmas, I set the corners, I locate the parameters, I see the bigger picture and I can begin piecing it together again one tiny piece at a time.
Every piece has a specific and unique place (if it’s a Ravensburger). If even one piece is lost, the whole jigsaw is ruined. If it doesn’t fit perfectly you can’t force it, because then something else won’t fit and the picture won’t come together. You have to be patient, and still, and look. You have to wait and observe and keep trying different pieces until you discover that the reason the piece of red with a stripe on it isn’t actually the bow of the second fishing boat is because it’s the panel on the front door of a fishing cottage way up the hill toward the abbey. And you’d never seen that before.
This year I only got to my jigsaw on January 3rd. Way late for me and really at the point where I should have been turning my thoughts to getting organized. But I was determined. This was my one thing and it was mine and I wasn’t going to lose it.
I finished it today. Totally tricky this year as it had horses in it about which I know nothing so couldn’t even imagine where pieces went. But. That moment when you put the last piece in. When it works. When all the pieces have found their proper home. When the picture is complete and you can luxuriously run your palms across all 1,000 individual parts of it and feel each one perfectly interlock with its neighbors. And it’s finished.
Well, there’s nothing like it.
And, in my book, there really is no better way than that to start a new year.