So, Christmas is over, and the post-holiday malaise is setting in. At my house, this means dealing with that vaguely sick feeling you get when you’ve been gorging on food and drink while sitting around a lot, and accepting the ridiculous fact that you have to buy new storage to hold the presents you got. Okay, the presents my kids got; my presents fit neatly into the space I already have because they aren’t huge and loud and plastic.
Every time I have to reorganize my stuff and try to clean some of it out, I am reminded of my dream when I was twelve or thirteen, which was to grow up to be Dorothy Parker and live at the Algonquin Hotel. I wasn’t a teenager who romanticized doomed love affairs and suicide attempts, but I sure did romanticize the thought of being part of a celebrated, witty literary ensemble; founding a magazine like The New Yorker; and constantly having room service. I still do idealize these things because they are and will always be awesome. Plus, living in a hotel must be psychically as well as physically cleansing since it would force you to pare down your life into what fits in a few suitcases. I’m sure I’d be so much more productive if I only owned, say, four things, as long as none of them provided me with any opportunity to procrastinate.
Anyway, since we don’t live in a hotel and have plenty of things, we spent Thursday cleaning and building shelves and putting away said things, and also choosing what to give away, and then yesterday, we’d had enough. It was time for a break. And so, after everyone had a meltdown (yes, every single one of us – I’ll spare you the details, but there were a comical number of door slams), we made the poorly thought-out decision to go to the Museum of Science for a few hours. In downtown Boston. On a Friday afternoon. At the start of a holiday weekend.
Now, the Museum of Science is a great museum. It has a lot of cool exhibits, like a Butterfly Garden and Mathematica (they have a mathematical model of the “drunk walk”!) and Shipwreck! Pirates and Treasure, and they have a cool lightning show with “the world’s largest air-insulated Van de Graaff generator.” But unsurprisingly, a lot of people know that it’s a great museum and also needed something to do that afternoon, and so our simple little outing turned into a rather stressful mess. Traffic was terrible because all of the traffic lights at the huge intersection closest to the museum were out, and five cops were trying to control all the vehicles going onto 93 and the Tobin Bridge and about four other places. The parking garage at the museum was full, so we had to drive around to find another garage. We got separated from the family members we were at the museum with a bunch of times, and when we did finally all meet up and sit down for a snack, we got in trouble for eating outside of the designated dining area. I stupidly tried to force our stroller, piled high with coats, through a turnstile and got so stuck that it took the contortions of me, my cousin, and his girlfriend to free it. Then in the midst of it all, I made the mistake of looking at my email and saw that I had forgotten to do something for work that I thought I had taken care of before Christmas.
In the end, it was fine of course. All of the little kids had a good time and, more importantly, mine passed out on the drive home. And I didn’t feel quite as sluggish after wandering around the exhibit halls for a few hours, eating nothing after our run-in with the museum fuzz and also because the vending machine wouldn’t take my dollar for some peanut M&Ms. But it wasn’t exactly the relaxing time away from home we were looking for. And so I have come to fully accept that the holidays, while lovely and fun and cozy and all number of happy things, are usually not relaxing when you’re the grown-up. There’s too much prep work and buying and cleaning and cooking and laundry and forced family togetherness, and on top of it all is the pressure to make amazing, spectacular memories. If you do get a few hours peace and are able to get out to do something in a space that isn’t crowded with a million other people, it’s a minor miracle. But if not, don’t worry, it’ll pass soon enough. In the meantime, pick something to hold onto that will see you through. Me, I’ll continue dreaming of hotel living, just me and a suitcase and all that room service.