You can’t always get what you want…

My porch is covered in recycling. Covered. An ocean of cardboard boxes, egg nog containers, wrapping paper… all the the flotsam and jetsam a holiday leaves in it’s wake and it’s going to get worse before it gets better because at some point in the fast-paced celebrate-o-rama whirlwhind we’ve been on over here, both Joe and I lost all touch with reality, and missed recycle pick up day.

Actually, we didn’t “miss” it as much as we had absolutely no idea what day of the week it was. That’s how it gets around here at the holidays. Somewhere in between Christmas eve with Joe’s family, Christmas with my family, Boxing day with my Great Aunt and Uncle, houseguests from out of town, herds of small children all over the place, Holiday parties, concerts, services and cookies, meals, candles, dinners, brunches and deadline knitting,


(this is the shawl that needed to be done yesterday. It isn’t.)

not to mention that much of this is accompanied by bottles and bottles and bottles of wine (and even if you don’t drink them and other people do it still can lead to a lack of clarity that’s disorganizing) and suddenly you’ve got two adults who have no hope of pinning down the fact that it’s actually Tuesday and are now stuck with a double dose of recycling that they can’t get rid of. Brilliant move.

The highlight of all of this cardboard/empty bottle/wrapping paper generating season is always my mums party. She hosts an epic scene each year between Christmas and New Years, and it’s a party in fine McPhee style. People come from far and wide, many of them people we see only once a year, and we eat, and we drink and we rock babies, and we tell stories and (as I have explained previously) we dance. (I’m not going to try to explain being a dancing family. Either you are are you aren’t. We really are.)

The highlight of this big to-do was always Janine. Nobody danced more, laughed more, listened more, talked more (and occasionally, drank more) than Janine, and I have to admit that as we crept up to the date of the party I worried. Most years, Janine was the heart of the party. I worried that without her this year we would miss her too much to have fun. I worried that people would cry at the party and make the other guests uncomfortable, (I worried that person would be me.) I worried about her husband Stephen and how he would face one of Janine’s favourite days. I worried that we wouldn’t be able to have mimosas without the whole party dissolving into something that took several boxes of kleenex to pull together….and because I am largely a coward, I didn’t want to go.

Yesterday I got up, I made a hundred million little tart things, forced my three daughters to put on an outfit that didn’t include jeans ripped in the arse and went. I know that all of you are more mature and worldly than me, so I know that I’m the going to be the only one who is totally suprised by this, but it was fine. Better than fine.

Everybody coped, everyone went on. Stephen danced with Tupper and my mum and all of us,


and when it got late, really late…and when I’d taken a deep breath and looked around at my whole family still going on, we all realized something incredible. We’d done it. We’d done the party without Janine and everyone had gotten through. We were sad and we missed her very, very much, but nobody sobbed the whole evening. There was Joy in much of it. Joy watching Janine’s niece and nephew take a bubble bath with my nephew, a whole next generation of little kids repeating infamous bathtimes Julie, Janine and I remembered vividly together from our childhood. Joy sharing another Christmas and realizing that as much as this hurts, it hurts less than it did and that things do get better. They really do. Janine would have loved it.

So we got it together. Stephen took the lead and we put Janine’s favourite dancing song on, we turned it up loud, we poured the drinks that Janine loved at Christmas and we held our mimosas up and stuck together, and toasted her. Then we tore it up to the chorus of the Stones song that Neen always sang at the top of her lungs,


You can’t always get what you want,

but if you try sometimes, you just might find,

You get what you need.

Happy New Year all. Stick together with the people you got.

See you in 2006.