"For I've grown a little leaner, grown a little colder, grown a little sadder, grown a little older ... "
I'm feeling a bit bah-humbug this year because, though Christmas has casseroles, pies, hams and turkey, it also has embellishments such as shopping, decorating, gift-wrapping, cookie-making, party-going, party-hosting and the pressure of one single morning in which to create a magical moment a child will remember fondly for the rest of his life.
All of that is added on to the regular routine of life, which doesn't so much as hesitate in the wake of the constant countdowns to Dec. 25. While excitement and anticipation fill my children's hearts, tightness fills my chest.
"And I need a little angel sitting on my shoulder ... "
Last night, my dining room table lay beneath last-minute school projects under construct- ion. Sensing me strained, run- ning out of time to clear it for Christmas dinner, my chil- dren, without regard to holiday vacation pending, pushed me to the edge of my patience.
"Noooo," my daughter whined. "I'll do it tomorrow night."
"Get the instructions," I told her, adding a reminder that elves will report us for not being ready for Christmas. Uninspired, she stomped out of the room and stomped back with a crumpled sheet.
"I don't want to do it," she reiterated, slapping the paper on the table.
"Slice up the fruitcake ... "
My oldest son, who had exams and should have been studying, plopped into a chair next to mine, completely ignoring his sister spasming over her social studies project. Without waiting for me to resolve one crisis, he began telling the saga of the peanuts at the bottom of his backpack.
Turning to my son, I asked, "What?"
"OK, well, I had some peanuts in the bottom of my bookbag that I took to school for a snack one day. I never ate them, and somehow they got all crunched up." He talked really fast, like I'd given him a deadline and set a timer.
"So I cleaned them out of my backpack and put them in the trash can in my room." He widened his eyes. "And now they're in a corner by my bed." "You think you have a haunting?"
"Go get the cat and take her up to your room. See if she finds anything."
He left and called in the dog, which thundered up the stairs slinging drool. My daughter still pouted. Enter the 12-year-old.
"Haul out the holly, put up the tree before my spirits fall again ... "
"Mama, can I get a cell phone for Christmas? All my friends have one and I neeeeed one."
"So he can call his girlfriend," taunted his 10-year-old brother, sneaking in a jab to the ribs as he walked by. A chase, a punch and a loud argument ensued, accompanied by my daughter's complaints and the sound of a large beast tearing through our upstairs.
I pushed my chair back from the table and stood amid the Christmas clutter flirtatiously mingling with the everyday clutter. A change of heart swept over me like a burning fever. Giving in to the holiday spirit, I yelled, "Doesn't anyone care that Santa is watching?"
"For we need a little music, need a little laughter, need a little singing ringing through the rafter, and we need a little snappy 'happy ever after,' need a little Christmas now ... "
Lucy Adams is a syndicated columnist, freelance writer, and author of If Mama Don't Laugh, It Ain't Funny. She lives in Thomson, Ga. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her Web site, www.IfMama.com.