Saturday, December 27, 2008

Merry Christmas 2008

I'm a little late doing this - two days to be exact. But I have an excuse...and a written note from my Mom, too!We tried something a little different at the Monaghan household this year - we started cleaning the house for Christmas before Thanksgiving. OK, so that's not exactly how it happened. Let me 'splain, Lucy.

Over the past couple of years we've had not one, not two, but three different episodes of the Dreaded Flooded Basement. I can't tell you how much memorabilia from my WNEW-FM days was completely destroyed in the process. The most recent episode happened in the fall. I woke up on a Sunday morning and went down into the basement/family room to check something before coming into the radio station to do All Mixed Up. As I moved around, I noticed that my socks were starting to get wet. And that's when I realized that water was coming out of the laundry room, and up through the French drain, through the rug and into everything that was on the floor.

I ran upstairs and told my wife what was happening. The two of us spent the better part of a half hour trying to pull buckets of water out of the sump in an attempt to get the water flow under control. With both of us having to go to work later that day, we ended up having my sister-in-law come down to keep an eye on things and empty the sump when needed. I borrowed a pump from my friend Bob and the Monaghans spent the next couple of days turning it on every couple of hours in an effort to make sure that no more water came in. No one was spared; even my Mom and our two younger children were put on pump duty. So what does this have to do with Christmas? Hang on.

The damage was extensive. All the carpeting downstairs was destroyed. Everything that was in the basement had to be moved upstairs. The house looked as if a bomb had gone off. In the process of replacing the basement rug, my wife and I decided that maybe we could afford to get new carpeting in the living room, too. After 12 years, three kids, and a dog it was time. I mean, Dad IS working two jobs, right? Maybe we could actually swing this financially. But if we were going to put new carpet in the living room, it meant that the living room also needed to be painted. So for three consecutive weekends, I had "help" from my wife's parents. In the interest of One Big Happy Family, let's just leave it at that. We made the appointment to have carpeting installed in both rooms and moved the living room furniture into the dining room. The house now looked as if a second bomb had gone off. What does this have to do with Christmas? I'm getting there.

To top it off, Daughter #1 had asked a few weeks earlier if, instead of driving into the city to have Thanksgiving with my sister and her husband as we had done for the past couple of years, we could have everyone come over to our house. You know, freshman year of college and all; she wanted to really feel as if she was home. That meant that all the painting and the carpet installation and moving of furniture and whatever had to be done by Thanksgiving Eve. The race was on.

Somehow we managed to get it done. All of it. The house (or at least the family room/basement and first floor) was done. And it was clean. Spotless. And with Thanksgiving a little later this year it meant that if we could keep an eye on things, we might actually be able to not have to scramble to get the house ready for Christmas.

For three and a half weeks my wife was positively relentless. If something was left on the kitchen counter for more than three minutes it disappeared. Our two little ones felt as if their parents had turned into Marine drill instructors. But the bottom line was that on the morning of December 24th, outside of wrapping some presents and making sure that we got the kids to church on time to sing at 4 PM Mass, we had very little to do.

Christmas Eve meant the Invasion Of the In-Laws. Santa made his phone call from somewhere over the South Atlantic. The kids were bouncing off the walls. In other words, business as usual around the Monaghan house.

2008 has been a strange year. The economy is an absolute disaster. We watched a historic presidential primary campaign turn into an even bigger historical election. As a country we're still mired in a war we can't seem to find an end-game to. But we're together. As dysfunctional as we all are sometimes, we're still together. Amid the chaos of flooded basements, and rugs, and painting, and the usual holiday stress, and whatever else gets thrown in our midst, we're still together. And THAT'S the point. THAT'S what this has to do with Christmas.

Christmas Day, I was nodding off on the couch in my in-laws' living room. Every so often I would wake up to hear someone laughing as stories about Christmases Past were being told. Funny, but in none of those stories were any presents mentioned. It was always about the idea of a family being together, working together, just trying to get through the day to day nonsense that attempts to drag us down. Think about that First Christmas - a young couple struggling against pretty heavy odds along with a rather unexpected baby, but together.

I hope you've been able to spend these past few days together with people you care about...together with people who care back.

Merry Christmas.

Take this silver lining
Keep it in your own sweet head
Shine it when the night is burning red
Shine it in the twilight
Shine it on the cold cold ground
Shine it till these walls come
Tumbling down

David Gray

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