I'm the one. I've always been the one. I didn't realize it until I came home from college for Reading Break in December of my freshman year (10 days off over the holidays and then back to campus to study for and take finals - what kind of vacation was that?) to find that absolutely nothing had been done for Hanukkah. The kids had not been organized around gifting their elders, and no one had considered what to do about G'ma. There was a general sense of something is missing but neither my siblings nor my father could figure it out. G'ma was organized (of course) but the rest of the family was stuck in neutral. I made lists, I assigned duties, we drove and shopped and wrapped and were ready for the first night, but it was not the most relaxed way to start the season. I asked and asked again how we had arrived at this state of affairs, but no one had a clue. By the time G'mas's birthday and Mothers Day rolled around I was prepared for their inactivity. I sent detailed instructions to my little sister and commanded her to make things happen.
Though others were closer, I organized a 25th anniversary party for G'ma and Daddooooo. When G'ma needed surgery and no one could figure out how to care for her and Daddooooo at the same time, my planning skills were called upon once again. Inexplicably, I was the voice of reason. No, he would not stay alone in a no-tell-motel near the surgery center. No, she would not take a taxi there and back. No, he could not be relied upon to do even the minimal caretaking she would require. I made reservations and secured home care and informed my siblings and then I flew home to watch my plan unfold. I don't know why no one else was able or willing to take action, but they weren't. Perhaps I made it too easy for them.
I know that my way is better than your way. No matter what your way might be. My way is simpler, cheaper, faster, friendlier and just generally on a higher plane than your way. I understand the ins and outs of my plan and I'm willing to make the arrangements to insure that it is doable. While I am comfortable relying on others for the implementation, the structure is all my own. It just seems to work out better that way.
So, today, when I decided that it was time to buy our Christmas Tree, I had a plan. The youth group at a local church sells them for cost plus a donation and the kids are cute as can be as they "help" out in the yard. Unfortunately, there were no kids there at 1 o'clock this afternoon. The nerve of them, being in school when I wanted to shop. I dragged Big Cuter to the lot at the Y, but it didn't open until 4.
I was peeved. The problem with being the one, the planner, the decider, is that when plans go awry there is no one to blame but myself. And I am pretty good at berating myself. I'm excellent at it, in fact. So, I dropped Big Cuter off at home and went out alone, in search of arboreal splendor. It was better that he not witness his mother's melt-down.
The local farm which hosts the pumpkin patch in October has erected tents in several strip mall parking lots within a 2 mile radius of our house, under which they sell greenery. They hold a plethora of trees which add immeasurably to the pleasure of parking at the grocery store. But their prices are just too high to enable me to enjoy the fir without cringing. Having struck out twice already, I was ready to bite the bullet and just do it, though. Enough was enough. I had plans to go to the gym and put on the lights and make a nice dinner and they all depended on having the tree in the house by 3. I was grumbling, and that's never a good sign.
I didn't make the light at the entrance to the mall and I was sitting in The Schnozz, stewing and steaming and being generally unpleasant to myself, when I realized that I was at the corner where WallyWorld lurks. Figuring that Christmas trees were a staple like bread and milk and eggs, I wondered if the quality would be high and the prices low. I made a right-on-red and parked amidst the trucks and SUV's and small Fords with Mexican license plates. The garden center had a sign announcing that the fresh trees had arrived, and two steps in through the door proved them right. Trees were everywhere.
In most lots, the trees are unwrapped and take up space and you can tell if the trunks are straight or if there are gaping holes on one side or the other. At WallyWorld they are wrapped and stacked in pens, organized by height. In Marin we had a 12' tree; our Tucson trees have been smaller. It's funny how as the kids get bigger the decorations get littler. Jerry, who announced that he had been selling Christmas trees at WallyWorld for 10 years, pointed me to the 6'-7' stall and we began to caress the branches. These were very fresh trees. There were no brown leaves, no unusually shaped branches, no gnarly trunks. There were dozens of strong straight full and lovely choices, all netted up so that you couldn't really tell what they looked like. But Jerry had a knife and strong hands and he willingly unwrapped one or two so that I could choose.
I took the price tag to the cashier inside and practiced examining the concept of patience (an old but stalwart New Year's Resolution) as I waited behind a woman who was apparently unaware that the merchandise had to be out of her cart and on the check-out counter in order for her to leave the store. Sliding her credit card was another ordeal, but I was distracted by paying attention to my roiling stomach and my screaming head and trying not to let the waiting make me screech out loud. On the outside, I hope I looked calm. Inside, I was a wreck. Finally, it was my turn to hand over the cash and obtain my receipt.
Jerry had re-netted the branches and cut off 1" from the bottom of the trunk and he lifted the tree into the back of The Schnozz because he was not allowed to tie it on the top of my car. With the back seats folded down there was only about 4" of greenery protruding from the rear. He tied the trunk lid to the license plate without skipping a beat and I was on my way.
As I drove home, I ruminated about being the one who is in charge of these celebrations. While sometimes I resent being the laundress and the cook and the shopper in chief, I never mind being in charge of the holidays. I know that things will be done the right way. I know that I won't disappoint myself. I know that timetables will be followed and everything will look just the way I want it to look. If the price for that requires that I be the one, then I'm willing to pay.
After all, if I don't do it, there's nobody else who will.