The Garland.

It’s February. Our Christmas garland is still hanging on our front porch.

Ever see the Everybody Loves Raymond episode titled “Baggage” (season 7)? In it, Ray and Debra return from a weekend trip and temporarily leave their suitcase on the staircase landing. Weeks pass with them both refusing to carry it the rest of the way, believing it is the other’s responsibility.

Their suitcase = our garland.

Everything else in our house Christmas related is packed away—the indoor decorations, the tree, the outside lights, the taped-to-the-bookcase Christmas cards—everything.

Except the garland.

Andy graciously, selflessly and in only a slightly (mostly) Grinch-like manner hung all the outdoor lights and garland. “It’s for the kids,” I told him when I handed him our new Dyno Seasonal Solutions St. Nick’s Choice Professional Pole for Hanging Lights, 16-Feet, which I ordered on Amazon this year.

I, in turn, took over all the indoor decorating.

After Christmas, I put away all the indoor decorations.

He took down and put away the Christmas lights but for some inexplicable reason, not the garland.

When I remind him of what he’s done and what I’ve done in regards to why he should take down and put away the garland, he’s quick to point out how he carried all the large Christmas bins all the way down from the attic.

I then remind him that I’m the one who shoved all the too-small clothes and extra hangers and beach towels out of the way on the attic stairs, creating a path so he didn’t fall and die. And then I remind him how I’m always the one to create stair paths all the time and it’s something no one gives me credit for, ever.

THEN he brings up the tree. The tree he says he had to trim in the house because I always pick one that’s much too tall, which I say he wouldn’t need to trim in the house if he had a better understanding of how tall our entryway is when we’re out in the field. THEN he says every year he’s the only one who does the lights and then I remind him that he doesn’t let anyone else do the lights because we don’t “push them in far enough” or something along those lines. AND THEN he says the kids help both of us hang up the ornaments so I shouldn’t get credit for that. “Help,” I say. “Yes, they help.”

Every weekend we make an idealistic to-do list of which we accomplish about 20 percent, on average. Every weekend since January 1 “take down the garland” has been on the to-do list and yet it never gets taken down.

Some days it was -5°. I get that. No one should be taking down garland in -5° weather. But this Saturday, it was 56°.

“If you want it taken down so badly, take it down,” he says, reminding me of how he took the tree out to the curb on our town’s tree recycling day, carried the decoration boxes back up to the attic and took down all the outdoor lights.

And then I remind him how I made our Christmas card list, updated all the addresses, ordered the cards from a friend, addressed and mailed them. I remind him how I did 95 percent of the Christmas shopping and 98 percent of the Christmas wrapping. (He reminds me of the “help” I had wrapping from the kids.)

And round and round and round we go.

And there our garland sits, for all to see, 40 days after Christmas.

“It’s growing on me,” he says. “I kind of like it.”

“We are that house!” I say. “We are totally that house.”

“So TAKE IT DOWN,” he says.

“It’s YOUR JOB!” I say.

And round and round.

I let him read this. “This isn’t even a fight!” he says adding something about “understating my arguments” and then adding something about how “it’s not even an argument.”

“Then what should I call it?” I say, changing the title from “The Garland Fight” to “The Garland.”

“A standoff. But it’s not even that! I just haven’t gotten around to it.”

I smile.

“So … tomorrow?” I ask.

“Maybe,” he says.

And round.

“In the early years, you fight because you don’t understand each other. In the later years, you fight because you do.” —Joan Didion


It had been a trying day. It was one of those days in which the tiniest bump or the smallest “no” or the wrong song prompted tears. Every diaper was a “seriously? again?” diaper. No one ate well. No one napped well. A toy no one was playing with became the toy everyone wanted to play with the minute someone picked it up. There was whining. Barking. Screaming. It was too cold to go outside. I was frustrated. And exhausted. I think we all were.

I messaged Andy asking him what time he was going to be home so I could have dinner ready. The kids start melting down around 5:30pm. Andy is usually home by 6pm. If dinner is much later than 6pm, I truly believe the kids believe the world is ending. It’s as if the slightest hunger pains turn them into little crazy people but if I give them a snack, they won’t eat dinner and then they won’t sleep well at night. So we shoot for six o’clock dinners. And Andy responded and said he’d be home at 6pm.

So I made dinner. I held (a crying) Owen the entire time–except when opening and shutting the oven door. James either clung to my leg or rolled around the floor, screaming. Sophie continually begged for “more TV” and “gummies,” both of which I kept saying “no” to.

At 6pm, dinner was done, dished out and on the table. Everything for the boys was cut. They had whole milk in their sippy cups. Sophie had the items she liked cut cut and the items she didn’t like cut not cut on her favorite plate. One percent milk was in her favorite glass. I had made up plates for Andy and me, and poured drinks for each of us. We were ready to eat.

No Andy.

Now, before I go on, I know that he works very hard at his job. I know you can’t expect someone to be home right at 6pm when they say 6pm—sometimes you’re late getting out of the office, sometimes there’s traffic, sometimes you have to stop at the gas station, sometimes your favorite song is playing on the radio when you pull into the driveway and you have to sit there and listen to the entire thing—I get that.

But at this point Owen had thrown his entire plate on the floor and was standing up in his highchair, even though I had strapped him in. James was dripping his milk (seriously, why make a sippy cup if it’s going to drip when turned over?) all over Tucker and laughing. Sophie was upset because at preschool she learned that she shouldn’t eat her snack until everyone had their snack and therefore us eating before Daddy got home was simply not polite. Tucker was barking, either because milk was being dribbled all over him or because I hadn’t had time to feed him dinner yet. And then, I looked at the microwave. 6:00pm changed to 6:01pm.

I was furious. He said he’d be home 6pm and it was now past 6pm. Where was he? (By the way, you are now entering my brain.)

6:02: OK, things happen. Probably just a little bit of traffic. I’m sure he’ll walk in the door any moment.

6:03: If he even stopped for gas I’m going to be so mad. Does he not know how difficult things get around here at this time of night? For once could he just wake up early and get gas before going to work? If I want to shower that’s what I have to do—wake up before anyone else wakes up so I can clean myself, something he gets to do oh so luxuriously every morning while I’m dealing with three hungry kids and a hungry dog and the coffee, which he gets to enjoy so leisurely on his way to work. Does he have any idea how I drink my coffee? Half the time I don’t even know where the mug is because I continually put it down to pick someone up or stop a fight or read a book or change a diaper. My coffee is always cold. I mean, seriously, when is the last time he’s had cold coffee?

6:04: Speaking of cold, I’m sure his dinner is cold by now. I probably should put foil over it or put it in the oven or something. That’s what a good housewife would do. Dear God there I go again with “housewife.” I don’t want to be a “good housewife” or a “desperate housewife” or a “real housewife”. I studied journalism in college, not housewifery. I should be worried about deadlines not CRAP!!! I have an article due TOMORROW! After today, after all of this I’m going to be up until the middle of the night working because I can’t start my work until he gets home and seriously, where the hell is he???

6:05: Maybe he’s not coming home. Maybe it’s all just too much for him, too. This is bad. Very, very bad.

6:06: Of course he’s coming home. It’s bath night. He knows I can’t handle bath night on my own even though he loves to point out that he has no problem bathing all three on his own. He was probably just talking to someone he works with about something he read on Reddit and lost track of time and isn’t that nice, that he gets to talk to grown people about things he gets to read during his spare time. This is not fair! This is simply not fair.

At 6:07 I heard the front door open. Tucker immediately bounded toward the door and all three kids started gleefully yelling “Daddy! Daddy’s home! Daddy!” Normally this almost makes me melt with joy but on this day, I was furious. Now that the kids were so joyful he would have no idea of the kind of day I had, thinking I was just exaggerating. So I was mad. And ready for a fight. My entire body was tense with anger.

He had the nerve to show up with a dozen white roses.

Not only that, he also picked up some more children’s Tylenol, without my asking. He remembered we were out, knew the boys weren’t feeling well and teething, and so he stopped by the store on the way home so the boys—and we—could have a better night’s sleep.

It was the line. In the grocery. It was long. That was why he was late.

I was so flustered. I was still mad but, looking at the roses, I realized it wasn’t him I was mad at. Not for being seven minutes late. I was mad at the day. Mad that no one was happy and mad that I felt like I had failed my kids that day, because they weren’t happy. I needed to release my frustration not at him, I realized, or even on him, but by him. I could certainly tell him about my day. Vent about it. But he didn’t deserve to be punished for it. He did nothing. Except show up a few minutes late, because he was buying medicine for our kids and roses for me.

I don’t know how he knew but he did. I smelled the roses and although still frustrated, still exhausted, I calmed. They instantly calmed me.

“Where did you get the flowers, Mommy?” Sophie asked.

“Daddy gave them to me,” I said. “Aren’t they pretty?”

“They’re beeeaaauuutiful,” she said.

And they were.

They’re in a vase, slightly wilted now, next to the antique clock my parents gave to us on our wedding day. The statistics aren’t so great for couples with multiples. And things aren’t necessarily carefree for us right now. We have three children under 4. We both work during the day—and it’s work I love, caring for my children. I’m grateful I’m able to do it—even if it does make me a housewife. But we also both freelance at night. And pick up toys at night and do laundry at night and scrub toilets at night and take out the garbage at night because there’s no other time to do it. Just like every other parent of toddlers I know. And it’s exhausting. But short-lived.

The skin on Sophie’s wrists and ankles are peeping out of her shirts and pants. James matched colors correctly the other day. Owen has started to talk in sentences. My husband, who in our early dating years rarely surprised me, showed up with a dozen roses. And instead of taking out my bad day on him, as I was ready—and am prone—to do, I kissed him.

We all grow.

And as long as we keep picking up that little brass key and winding our wedding clock, the hands will continue to go around and around, with a tick tick tick I find so comforting now—in fact, without it, I think our house is too quiet. Just as I imagine my dinner table will seem, 20 years from now. But with a little work, and a lot of love, I believe there will still be someone sitting across from me, in part, thanks to the simplicity of roses and in part, thanks to the simplicity of some things being left unsaid.


“I worship this tenacity
And the beautiful struggle we’re in
Love will not elude us
Love is simple.” —K.D. Lang/David Piltch