The day started with some whining, as it usually does, quieted by bacon on the stove and sugared cereal in their bowls. An hour later, we dropped off our 3-year-old twins and our 5-year-old boy at the daycare place in the gym. It was empty, as if we were the only parents audacious enough to do such a thing on Christmas Eve.
When we got home, there was one fit, then another, and then I burned the queso a bit as I fixed it for tonight's taco dinner at Kate's parents.
The kids took forever to get their shoes on, as they usually do, and halfway through the slog down the Interstate, the girls had to pee, which forced me to stop at a packed gas station full of chain stores, impatient shoppers and barely enough concrete to cover it all. A sign barred me from making the easy left turn back on the highway.
As we pulled in, a horribly cheesy song played on the radio. What happened to Jingle Bells, I mumbled. It was 55 degrees outside and the grass was the color of graham crackers. A dusting earlier that week had melted into the cracks of the sidewalks and driveways.
I stubbed my toe on the porch as I struggled to get inside with the boxes full of stuff for all the kids. Toys from China, most of it.
Dinner was good. Mexican food for Christmas. My queso was a hit.
Paper flew everywhere a half-hour later. The kids attacked their gifts like a swarm of piranha on a caribou. My son complained that he didn't get as much as the girls. We assured him he did. He refused to believe us.
My present was thoughtful but possibly too small. A receipt is floating around somewhere, maybe.
On the way home, a twin screamed half the time, then fell asleep. She's still awake as Santa taps his foot.
It's not a Hallmark card. It's real. It's an imperfect Christmas. And those are the ones worth remembering.