Alice’s tired brown eyes opened. Always the same she thought, my internal alarm
clock never fails me. Sighing she knew no matter how much or how little sleep she got her eyes always opened at 6:45am.
The rain pounded against the windows and the smell of coffee wafted into their bedroom. Besides hearing the rain Alice heard the soft breathing of their five-year-old twins and the sound of their cat purring as he nestled comfortably on the pillow next to hers. Robert always woke earlier to make breakfasts, lunches and get the coffee percolating. Once he was out of bed the cat moved in and so did their twins.
Alice dare not move. She felt the pressure of one little leg on hers and one little arm across her belly. Fortunately, their ten-year-old daughter was still sound asleep in her own bedroom down the hall.
Motherhood, Alice thought and sighed. Her mother raised four children and made it look easy. Two boys, two girls each two years apart...made it look easy. They always had clean clothes, warm homemade dinners and quiet dinner conversation. Here, in her house, in San Francisco, everything seemed chaotic.
What was the difference she wondered , but she knew. Today’s world seemed so fast paced and she had a part time job besides motherhood. Her mother didn’t have deadlines, at least not ones with editors always calling for rewrites and important scoops. Half the time Alice felt like all she did was run—run from one deadline to another.
The smell of coffee was stronger and mentally Alice gathered her thoughts before her day officially began.
An early dismissal day, remember that. The article on ugly sweaters with matching ugly cookies was due. The twins needed their ingredients for their gift making project at school. Sarah needed to be picked up directly after school for the dress rehearsal for the solstice program her class was presenting that evening . Alice needed to make 3 tasty Yule logs for the pot luck dinner after the program. Then, after the dress rehearsal, the family would help decorate the chocolate covered whipped cream log with colorful fondant decorations. The twins might eat more than they created so she’d have to watch that. Then they’d all go to the celebration. With any luck Alexa would have a calming selection of holiday music to drown out any laughter or tears. Alice focused on her breathing. Another hectic day.
“Mom, mom!” Sarah yelled frantically racing into the room. “Get up, get up I can’t find my costume or script !”
Ben rolled over and grabbing a pillow threw it at his sister. “You just woke me up!” Muffin, the cat, had been dislodged when the pillow was tossed and leapt off the bed waking Peter as he jumped.
“Ah, Mom,”. Peter said joining in on the pillow fight.
And Alice’s day had begun.
Today was the last day before the winter break. Quickly she got the twins dressed, found their ingredients for their gift making project; family photos, circular mason jar tops and empty tubes. Helped Sarah find her costume and script and hustled them into the van.
“Hi, Alice, there is an opening at the salon this afternoon. Do you want to come with me, my treat. I’m sure you could use a holiday makeover.” Mary, Alice’s sister asked over the mobile shortly after Alice returned from dropping her children off at school and returning from Trader Joe’s with the Yule Log ingredients. I must remember early pick up, Alice thought as her sister spoke.
Putting the phone on speaker Alice continued her conversation as she unpacked her bags. “Ah, thanks, too busy today. Deadlines of all kinds. You are coming to Sarah’s performance tonight?”
“Oh, that’s right,” Mary said. “I nearly forgot I have a new beau, mind if I bring him?”
Grimacing, just like her, Alice thought as she searched for the cake recipe. “Sure, if you think he’d like a Solstice celebration presented by a group of ten-year-old children.”
“Well, I don’t know but at least he’ll know I’m a good Auntie. Gotta run, the salon awaits.” Mary said abruptly disconnecting.
“Oh I need the green fondant, I’m making a tree,” Ben cried, reaching past his sister and nearly spilling his water.
“And I need the the green and red, I’m making holly,” Peter echoed in delight.
“Okay, these look perfect,”. Alice said glancing at the clock. “Time to get dressed, Sarah can’t be late.”
Looking at herself in the mirror she wiped pink fondant from her cheek. A spa afternoon would have been great, she thought with a sigh.
Gathering their donations for the less fortunate, winter jackets, Sarah’s costume, the twins, and the three Yule logs everyone jumped into the van.
Mary and her new beau met them in the school’s parking lot and everyone hustled in to get their seats. Alice noticed, with some envy, that her sister looked gorgeous and refreshed while she had had barely enough time to comb her hair.
Ben crawled into her lap, “I can’t see,” he cried. “Shh, your sister comes on soon.”
Alice whispered as her son wiggled, accidentally kicking her leg.
Soon the curtains were drawn and Sarah nervously stood surrounded by her classmates. “This is our Winter Solstice Celebration. Honoring the return of the light and the importance of good friends and family,” she read with a confident voice.
Alice glanced over at her husband, pride on his face, as their daughter continued to explain the tradition of the celebration and the combining of the December holidays. Then the singing began and then entire audience was lead to the bonfire where more singing and dancing and hugs were exchanged.
Later, Alice lay in her bed, with no cat, no twins, and only her husband. She thought about her sister, with her perfect nails and elegant attire, and new beau. Then, Alice heard Sarah quietly singing one of the Yule songs of the evening. A smile crossed her tired face. Motherhood was exhausting but she wouldn’t trade her life for anything. Suddenly, she heard a plop and Muffin was on her pillow. Sweet dreams she thought and drifted to sleep.