Monday, April 17, 2006

Easter Eggspectations & A Pointless (Musical) Aside About the IRS

As the parents of four (beloved but increasingly loud, large, and hungry) children, Hubby and I can probably be forgiven for casting a wary eye upon a holiday whose symbolism--eggs, bunnies, chickies, lambs--was derived from ancient fertility rites*. Sure, those symbols in our modern world are increasingly commercial and it's unlikely that plastic eggs and synthetic furry bunnies are somehow going to tap into a supernatural stream of fertile energy, but you can't really blame us for not wanting to take any chances.

Luckily for us then, the boys are all well past the age where they care one way or the other about mythical bunnies and baskets of chocolate. We still go through the motions with them--a "basket" (we've never actually done real baskets, preferring instead to give them crates or tubs or something else that will have a use for the whole rest of the year--something for organizing the gababigzillion little metal cars and plastic blocks of practically microscopic size they once amassed, but anyway a "basket") with a gifty or two and a handful of processed sugar products. So cynical and jaded are they that Son-One and Son-Three asked that their gift be subscriptions to an online video game and Son-One actually printed the receipts himself for their baskets. Son-Two asked for the cash.

Daughter-Only, at almost twelve, also doesn't believe in giant, hopping, gift-and-candy-giving bunnies, but nevertheless is reluctant to let go of "Easter traditions"--like coloring and finding eggs and finding their hidden (by Mom) baskets. She gave me a big speech on the subject on Friday, titled "Why Easter is Ruined." She informed me that since she doesn't really like candy very much and since the boys won't color eggs or hunt for them with her and since I won't hide the baskets (on the grounds that there's so much clutter around here we might never find them), Easter is completely pointless** and ruined for her. When I tried to explain that the boys thought they were too "grown up" for that kind of thing and that it was only natural and not something she should take personally, she said, huffily, "Well, if I was the oldest, I would still do all the traditions for the sake of the younger kids."

I have no doubt that she would do those things for a younger sibling if there were one (and please, powers that be, don't misinterpret that as a wish for a younger sibling) because the truth is it's not just about age or maturity but about something in her very nature. She loves holidays and all the traditions associated with them in a way that her brothers (not to mention her parents, poor kid) never really did at any age.

We're talking about a kid who, on the night before Ground Hog Day, when she was six, set her alarm an hour early and then couldn't sleep for fear the alarm would malfunction or she wouldn't hear it and would then (gasp!) miss the live coverage of Punxsutawney Phil deciding whether or not to stay out of his electrically heated burrow. (And, by the way, how can we be sure it's his shadow that scared him and not the glare of the lights and cameras from all the morning news shows covering the "event?")

This enthusiasm is mostly endearing but I do worry about her. Her expectations for these "special" days are just so high and, unfortunately and guilt-inducingly, out of proportion with the reality she's actually living. So often does her non-celebratory family let her down that she has started a holiday tradition of her own: as Son-One pointed out two Christmases ago, "She cries on every holiday!" And not generally tears of joy, either--tears of disappointment and frustration.

Okay maybe she doesn't cry on every holiday, but it's closer to every one than I even want to think about. And guilt aside (where it never stays for long, as any mom can tell you), I think the problem is as much with her as it is with us, her Scroogey family. It's not merely that we're not excited or enthusiastic enough it's that we're not the perfect family--not even for these special days that dot our calendar each year.

I'm a big crusader against unrealistic expectations--I think all sorts of things can be blamed on them from credit card debt (we expect to be able to live like the people on TV even though our budget is decided by real-life economics and not a team of writers and studio execs and we expect the things we buy to provide comfort) to marriages failing (we expect our relationships to be all hearts and flowers and mush and gush or just expect it to be so much less work than it ends up being).

I'll tell you one thing, though, it's a lot harder to crusade against them when they appear in the form of your eleven-year-old daughter's chronically broken heart. So, this year, we struck a compromise--since she said she would keep the traditions alive for younger kids, we invited her youngest cousins over (whose mother, my sister-in-law, says, "I'm not good at any of that.") to color eggs and hide them in the backyard. And, at least for Easter Eve, Daughter-Only was tear free. My second youngest niece, however, bawled her eyes out because her younger sister found more eggs than she did. Isn't it nice when a tradition can be handed down like that?

The Long-Awaited Pointless (Musical) Aside About The IRS (In Honor of Tax Day):

One day last week, I was on hold with the IRS--which isn't on anyone's Top 10 List of Favorite Places To Be. I mean the IRS is no fun and being on hold sucks in any case--so being on hold with the IRS can't help but be a spectacularly ungood time, right?

You'll be happy, but perhaps unsurprised to know that the IRS, in what was clearly an attempt to make an unpleasant situation more so, has provided music to entertain waiting taxpayers. The musical accompaniment during my call was "The Flight of the Bumblebee". I know almost nothing about classical music--it's got no words so as a word geek, it's not of much use to me. I do know "The Flight," though and it's always inspired a clawing anxiety in me.

Have you ever seen someone who is so freaked out by the possibility of being stung that the very sight of a bee sends them screaming in a tizzy just as likely to cause the bee to sting them as to prevent the bee from doing so? That's exactly how I feel about the music in "The Flight of the Bumblebee." I realize that's probably an extreme reaction, but it isn't what most people would consider a soothing piece of music. All I could imagine was the effect it might have on someone who was waiting to hear bad news; someone who was already freaking out just a little might be pushed completely over the edge by the strains of that damned bumblebee.

When I told Cranky Boss Lady that the hold music was "The Flight of the Bumblebee," she said, "Is that because they're gonna sting you?"

So maybe it's not malicious--maybe it's just a friendly warning. Bzzzz.

*Not only are we not interested in any more children of our own, the children we do have are rapidly approaching (or at) the stage where they are physically capable of reproducing themselves and, therefore, fertility is a frightening concept on a whole other level.
**Yes, Daughter-Only and I both know that there is a "point" to Easter (The Resurrection) that doesn't involve food-grade dyes and shredded plastic "grass." For the purposes of our particular conversation, however, that point had little power.


  1. I hold high expectations for my birthday every year and it is never really very good. I think I cry every birthday.

    I am that person that runs screaming from the bees or wasps or whatever is flying around me buzzing with a stinger. I seriously need therapy to help with my fear of those damn things.

  2. Awww, I think your Daughter-Only was meant to be married in her former life to my husband. He is the sappiest person when it comes to holidays and is very set in his traditional ways. Has set movies we have to watch and set nights we have to do certain things for the coming holiday. I love that she got up early to see Phil make his debut!!! I have often wondered the same things about the whole shadow thing too!!!

    Call the IRS again and see if the same music is playing, for some reason when I have to call them for work issues they always seem to have the same damn song playing. I am wondering if it is a regional thing and they only get one song.

  3. Way too funny! I have my mom (all the way from Australia) insisting that I have the real Christmas tree, the Easter Bunny baskets, the green leprechaun...because she always did it for me.

    So i will.
    ; )

  4. Your daughter sounds so much like mine! Fortunately for her, she's the oldest so she can hold on to the traditions if only for the sake of her younger brother.

  5. That Cleaver Tramp4/14/09, 8:48 AM

    How funny was this?

    I admit to being somewhat of a traditionalist when the kids wer smaller (their father was the Scrooge) but I got weary of it pretty fast, mostly because I didn't remember that all these traditions were so much work. Now I understand what my parents are thinking when they take down their Christmas tree on Christmas afternoon. I don't know whether to blame TV specials, rampant commercialism, or what, but I long for the days when holidays just happened, without all the fuss.