It's in the air. If you are quiet, you can hear it. The ringing of bells by bored Salvation Army volunteers. The muttered cussing of a mother as she tries to find a parking space at the mall. The movement of boxes as Daddy tries to find the lights so he can string them on to the Christmas tree. The hollow "Oof!" as I am elbowed in the ribs to get the last copy of the only game my son wants for Christmas this year, bar none. The screams of yet another child placed on Santa's lap against his will by a well-meaning mother, trying to simply make memories for her family. Poor woman. I learned the hard way with that one: just not worth it. This time of year fills me with dread.
I used to have a brain, but somewhere around Nov, specifically the third week or so, my brain goes missing. Some call it anxiety over perfectionism. I call it par-for-the-course. But it makes the holidays stressful, not fun, and a lot more work than they need to be. I can't figure out how to change this, try as I might. It is a mountain I am tired of climbing. ( a chimney I am tired of going down?) One of these days, I am going to say "Screw it," and we will head somewhere warm, sunny and sandy for the holidays. But not this year. This year, I just have to get through it. Come January 4th, all will be okay again.
There just seems to be so much to do, and every year, I tell myself I will simplify. But how? When you create traditions (which, in this house, means you did it twice) you have to keep with them, or the kids see the sky falling and run to tell the king. So, I prepare. I buy Christmas Eve Pajamas. I make the Christmas Morning breakfast ahead of time. I take pictures of artfully arranged presents under the tree for the umpteenth time. I call my doctor for a prescription of Xanax. (that last part is just on the wish list inside my head…I don't actually do drugs).
Parents always want to do better for their kids than was done for them, but in my case, my mother set the bar quite high when it comes to Christmas. She has a knack for giving the Perfect Gift, Just What I Always Wanted, and unfortunately, that talent skipped a generation. Don't get me wrong, I know how to give good gifts. But I don't have a sixth sense about it. I suppose that I will have to content myself with my writing prowess and my wit. Oh, and my humility.
Even with preparation, I am terrified I will forget something and it will be too late. I guarantee that on Dec. 24th at about 9 p.m. I will, in a panic, realize that the gifts aren't quite even, and send my husband out into the cold, foraging for toys at the local drug store that is open until midnight. This happens every year. When making cookies? I will get halfway through the recipe and remember that I needed butter. Or shortening, that I swear I purchased last week, but cannot find. Again with the venturing out into the cold in search of baking supplies. He is so good to me.
I am worried I am doing it wrong, I have a master list of gifts for Christmas morning. Santa isn't the only one who makes a list and checks it twice! Mine is a symbol chart with the gifts in numerical order. I color code the wrapping paper to reduce the chance of JBug getting a Star Wars Lego set or JBean, the bug phobic getting an ant farm. Drop the ball once, and they never let you live it down. Now I remember who belongs to what gift. But it means having six different kinds of wrapping paper, and I like lots of different colors, so the wrap has to be in complementary colors. We don't discuss the Bowing of the Presents…of course there must be bows and curling ribbon. It's a sickness. After comes the arranging of the presents… they all must be seen correctly, with the small ones in front of the larger ones, and mixed up according to who they belong to. No wonder I am tired.Still, as much as I obsess, as much as I worry, it all seems to come together, every year. And the results are worth it. When I hear the excited whispers on Christmas morning, feign sleep and wait for my little one to wake me with giggles and "Santa was here!" I remember why I do it. Come to think of it, it's why I do most everything: the joy on the faces of my children. Seen through their eyes, I can finally find the magic that this old jaded heart was missing. It's then that I remember what Christmas is all about.
T, who wishes you and yours the happiest of holidays