It's going to be May by the time I get to my 2013 wrap-ups (the usual questionnaire that everyone does, plus a Best Books of 2013 -- the short version of the latter is: The Goldfinch. OH MY WORD. Read it. I'm not even finished yet, but it's for sure my favorite book of the year, and that's up against some really strong contenders), so I'm going to go ahead and cram all of the remainder of Advent and Christmas into one. Fasten your seatbelts!
We had a whirlwind social calendar throughout December, hosting and attending Christmas parties and festive dinners and a classroom celebration at which Felicity showed off some of her mad Montessori skills. And when I picked her up from school on the last day before the break, she went around hugging everyone in sight and calling, "Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas!" to all of her teachers and friends.
Then my parents arrived and the holiday spirit kicked into super-high gear. Thanks to my utter lack of artistic talent, this house has never seen so much crafting! Felicity and her Grammie decked the halls in a big way, decorating a gingerbread house, making icicles and candy canes to hang in the window, fashioning snowball ornaments out of styrofoam and cotton balls, making festive necklaces from bead kits, and more. Somehow, we never even managed to find the time to bake Christmas cookies or make those pretzel-kiss-M&M treats that I can eat by the fistful.
The Saturday before Christmas was Nutcracker Day. Felicity received a new dress, tights, shoes (sparkly, of course), and hairbow in her Advent Bag that morning, and fortunately she consented to wear all of it to the ballet. She spent some time checking out the Lincoln Center fountain and climbing on the art installations in the plaza before we headed inside and met up with our friends and their three girls, who were also brimming with anticipation for the performance. When the overture began, Felicity shouted, "HEY, I KNOW THIS MUSIC!" From then on, she was pretty well mesmerized, though she did break the peace during the prelude to the snow scene when she called out, "THE BED IS DANCING!" as it whirled through the moonlit forest.
At intermission, we went out to the promenade and she immediately burst into tears. When my mom finally got her calm enough to speak, she said, "I want to go back inside! I don't want to leave!" Apparently she thought we were hustling her out before the second act. Oops. By the time the marzipan shepherdesses took the stage, she was getting a little squirmy, but she made it through and applauded with brio at the curtain calls.
We had our friends over for post-Nutcracker hors d'oeuvres and adult beverages, and that night Felicity said she was going to dream about the tree growing and the Nutcracker fighting the Mouse King. The following day, she did her own performance of the ballet in our living room, enscripting her Granddad as Godfather Drosselmeyer to perform magic tricks and give her the beloved Nutcracker (the latter played by Naked Baby, though she only had to fill in for a few days until the real thing arrived, courtesy of Santa Claus). The whole Nutcracker experience echoed my own first viewing of the ballet, when I was four, after which my brother and I put the music on my Fisher-Price record player and danced an impromptu pas de deux in our own living room -- and that Christmas, Santa also brought me a Nutcracker of my very own.
Two days before Christmas, we made our annual pilgrimage to the Rockefeller Center tree ("WOW! Mommy, it's a really big, beautiful tree! Look, Santa is ice skating! HI SANTA! HIIIII!") and had lunch at the Rock Center Cafe for the rink-side views (which did not disappoint, since it was POURING rain, yet still the tourist hordes braved the rink and slid around in the deluge).
And then December 24 was upon us, and we made our now third-annual Christmas Eve visit to the Central Park Zoo, where Felicity hugged all the goats and RAN to the glockenspiel to watch it turn as it played "Silent Night" ("But that's so silly -- animals don't play instruments!") and peeked out of the tortoise shells ("Look, it's a Felicity turtle!").
We cut it relatively short to keep our wee angel fresh for her performance in that evening's Christmas pageant. She took her role as Camiel, the Archangel of Love, quite seriously, and she was not shy about telling the other members of the heavenly host what to do, how to behave, and where to go. It was as precious as a church pageant should be, and afterward as we exited the sanctuary to change her out of her costume, she paused and I asked what she was doing before I realized that she was curtsying. By the time the ensuing Mass began, she was pretty much out of gas, so we beat a hasty retreat after the offertory hymn when she began wailing so loudly it drowned out the organ.
Somehow, she rallied enough when we got home to draw a picture for Santa and lay out cookies, carrots, and milk for him. She also set out her gingerbread house for him to take to the North Pole to show his elves (the gingerbread train she sent home with Santa last year was a huge hit, we understand). Then she hung the stockings on the bookshelf (sigh) with care, after trying to climb inside Granddad's herself ("Look! Granddad has an ENORMOUS stocking!").
When everything was precisely as she wanted it, she sat back and said, "I bet Santa is so proud of me! When we wake up in the morning, Santa will have filled our stockings with wonderful, wonderful treats!"
And indeed, he did.
The highlights of Felicity's Christmas bounty were the Nutcracker and accompanying Clara-style nightgown and candle, all of which she put to use as soon as the final gift had been unwrapped. Grammie also made her an incredible set of masks for almost the entire Nutcracker cast, complete with a sparkly box in which to keep them.
She also loved the pink kitty cat ("Oh, Pinky, I am so lucky to have you!") and the plush Snoopy ("LOOK! It's Snoopy! I love him!"). Clothing items got a decidedly chillier reception ("Oh, it's a dress," as she cast it to the floor), but the board games (Candy Land, Uncle Wiggly, Chutes & Ladders, and Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel) have been a huge hit and have saved all of us from creeping boredom/intellectual atrophy over the seemingly very long break from school and work.
On Christmas afternoon, following the present-opening marathon and another full Nutcracker performance, Felicity declared, "We're going to sit around the Christmas tree and sing Christmas carols!" She directed each of us where to sit ("No, Grammie, you can't sit in that chair; we have to be AROUND the tree!") and we got off a couple of rounds of "Deck the Halls" when suddenly she dissolved into tears and wailing. I couldn't get her to tell me what the problem was, but I laid her in bed and she finally gasped out, "I'm sad that Christmas is over!"
And you know, we ALL experience that bit of deflation when all the highly anticipated surprises have been sprung from their prettily wrapped boxes, and all the breathless excitement of Advent has given way, in the span of a few hours, to Christmas and suddenly it's all over until next year. We were all quite content with everything, but we felt it too; she was just brave and vulnerable (and exhausted) enough to put words and tears to it.
She did recover, of course, and she caught a second wind of excitement to carry her through the evening ("it's Daddy's BIRTHDAY! Daddy, open your presents NOW!"), and she's been fine since (though she won't stop asking to watch "Frosty the Snowman" and the Grinch -- we will be viewing them from time to time until the Fourth of July, I'm sure of it). She has taken solace in her new toys and in the fun things we've squeezed into the rest of our together-time, and now she's equally thrilled to be going back to school tomorrow. And on it goes.