There I was, standing amid rows and rows of Christmas decorations at Michael's. In early September. In the middle of a heat wave that buoyed my hot flashes and delivered to me a few weeks later a $445 electric bill (fuck you very much, SDG&E). It's tough to decide what part of the previous information is most horrifying, since all of it is. But there are two reasons why I was in the Michael's predicament.
The first is that my husband and I had to stage a thumb intervention and needed poster board. The second: God. Let me tackle them individually.
When she was 4 months old, my baby stuck her thumb in her mouth, and there it remained for the next eight years. It was so dang cute for a while—her tiny fist curled up at her mouth, her suckling sounds, the fact that she couldn't simultaneously cry and self-soothe. The silence in the house was adorable with whipped cream and dark-chocolate shavings on top. Sam and I held quiet victory parades around the house, fist-bumping in solidarity as we celebrated that our child never used a binky. We were superior parents, indeed.
But eight years on, the thumb sucking had become less charming and more Dude! That hand has been in your ass crack half the day! Do you want to get worms? Since this approach wasn't successful, we turned to a Certified Orofacial Myologist. Yeah, that's a thing.
This Certified Orofacial Myologist looked like a cross between La Toya Jackson and Morgan Fairchild. Though I didn't see one during either of our appointments, she definitely owns at least one scrunchie, and maybe some Bear Claw Hair Clips. Her speaking tone was that of a person who must endure humans until she can finally get home to her cats. She addressed me as "Mom" and Sam as "Dad" and spoke with wide-eyed seriousness when she said special things like, "The reason God made that dent on the roof of your mouth is so your tongue can fit there." Mmmm-hmmm.
We overlooked all of this and paid La Toya Fairchild a lot of money to tell us how to shell out a lot of money to get Ruby to quit her thumb. There would be an elbow bandage, lots of band-aids, hundreds of stickers, 21 days of little prizes and a grand prize. There would be poster board.
Knowing I could for sure find poster board at Michael's, that's where I went on that hot autumn day. I should have just gone to an art store, but there's some sick part of me that likes the infuriating experience and psychic pain, the defining je ne sais quois , of Michael's.
Can you ever find what you're looking for in that place? No. Can you ever find anyone to help you find what you're looking for in that place? No! Does every craft-lady who makes a purchase decide at the last minute—after she's made her credit-card transaction, with coupons, minus the returns—that she needs baroque stems / multicolored parachute cord / needle-nose pliers? Oh yeah. Is she willing to unapologetically hold up the entire snaking line while someone, somewhere retrieves her item? Praise Lord Jesus, yes!
And then there's the premature Christmas décor. God Bless America for that, because you can't have Christ without Christmas—you must have Christmas as often as possible, am I right? It simply cannot come early enough, which is why other stores (I'm looking at you, Costco) are doing the Christmas Creep.
The National Catholic Reporter says that early decorating "reminds us God is always near." But I didn't feel God's nearness in line at Michael's one week after Labor Day—with my sweat-soaked shirt and my poster board and my cart full of little throw-away things made by little throw-away people in China—surrounded by holly garlands (faux, of course) and wreathes, tinsel and ornaments, flocked this and glittered that, and is that Nat King Cole singing "A Christmas Song"?
No. I didn't feel God. I felt the heat and wrath of a hot flash named Satan.
What about Halloween? What about Veterans Day?!? And poor Thanksgiving should just fold up its expandable table and go home. What with Chanukah coming earlier than ever this year and Black Friday claiming Thursday territory (Macy's will open its doors at 8 p.m. on Turkey Day), Thanksgiving might as well be relegated to Columbus Day status, complete with Facebook memes enlightening anyone who reads them about the real history behind it.
Now, don't get me wrong. This Jewish girl from Utah loves her some Christmas. But for the love of all things decent, one holiday at a time.
Thanks to a yoga chant, I made it calmly home from Michael's that day only to find that—oh, you know what's coming—the sales woman forgot to put the poster board in my bag. The thumb intervention worked out anyway, and it was worth every penny since my child no longer sucks her thumb. Her father and I did a chest bump and another victory lap.
Ruby sure does make a lot more noise now that she doesn't have an appendage in her mouth all the time. She yammers on and beat-boxes and lately has taken to singing Christmas carols. Specifically "Jingle Bells," perhaps the most annoying carol of all carols. I remind her with a searing glance that those kinds of songs have no place in our home until Nov. 29 and started offering her a sticker! Each time she didn't sing one! And it's worked in as much as the lyrics are all about Halloween. The tune, though, remains the same.
It may just be a losing battle.