At the center of style and substance

At the center of style and substance

When a new generation of Donna Reed’s daughters decided to go for everything – big-time careers, marriage, kids, power in the workplace and better paying jobs – few realized that success, no matter how welcome, would eat up an important part of their lives – time for themselves.

The weddings were great. The marriages, more often than not, turned out well. The kids are thriving. The workplace is a more congenial scene and, when the economy functions normally, the jobs pay relatively well.

Yet look around this holiday season and many of the women you’ll see are flat-out frantic, busy checking and filling holiday wish lists, wrapping gifts, packing gifts, mailing gifts, dragging colorful tree lights and ornaments out of the attic, baking tree-shaped cookies and succulent meat pies, chasing recipes for sweet potatoes without marshmallows and getting Christmas cards freshly signed and mailed.

Not much time for a spa visit there, no matter how welcome a facial or a massage would be.

This is the time of year when those who wanted so much to have everything really earn it.

Things are no easier in the workplace. Crises seem to cleave to the last few weeks of the year as doggedly as traditions do. The year-end rush is on, and nothing – absolutely nothing – can wait.

Somewhere across town an aging refrigerator shudders and gasps, leaving shelves full of cream goodies, holiday meats, fruits and veggies to sag into leftovers and worse. The call goes out, “Emergency. Need new fridge. Deliver it now.” And somebody, often a busy working mom, has to answer.

At the same time, Accounts Payable shout for attention. Stores pick up business even in a tepid economy. School work piles on and legal disputes claim their calendar priority.

All the while, schools vibrate with special events. Scrooge thumps and bumps his way through “A Christmas Carol,” offering characterizations that come in small, medium and large. Shepherds tend their flocks quietly. But who knew those shouting, laughing grandchildren who tear into presents on Christmas morning would clean up so well to impart comfort and joy for another year to beloved Christmas carols?

The colorful holiday portrait of life in America begins to come together.

The programs fill schools and churches. Grandparents smile benignly. Dad wears a lordly look. And mom? She sits and fidgets, torn between pride and fear that her child, the third chorister from the left, may burst out with a note when all the other voices are silent or, even worse, take a playful punch at the kid standing next to him. It happens, Mom. If you don’t want frown lines, just grin and bear it.

And bear, too, the thought that you’re a lucky person. You had a vision of what you wanted your life to become and you are seeing that vision realized. Granted your vision did not include seat-of-the-pants scares at Christmas programs, de-icer on the kitchen floor or decorated paper and ribbon strangling most of the wardrobe in your bedroom closet. Those things just happen this time of year. They reflect with seasonal gaiety all the things you didn’t know when you decided to go for it all.

And I, as one among many, wouldn’t change a thing.

Moms with hectic schedules may be harried as the holidays overwhelm them, but they won’t be bored. They exist, after all, in a center place where people depend upon them for style and substance. And they will dispense plenty of both in the days ahead. It may not be a peaceful center, but it’s a fine place to be.

Merry Christmas to each of you and best wishes for a brighter new year.

Nancy Grape

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