As I age, some joys really start to lose their luster. Christmas is a prime example. When I was a child, I thought I’d lose my mind waiting for what seemed an ETERNITY for Christmas to arrive. But arrive it always did and with it came immense riches and happiness as only a materialistic child can understand.
Those days are long gone. Christmas, I’m ashamed to say, has become a polite nicety, a chore, not a heartfelt celebration. It parades in like the only trophy wife in a neighborhood of middle aged first wives to the whispers of “tsk-tsk, didn’t he just get divorced? It’s way too soon for this.” You dismiss it / her under your breath so many times until one day you realize everyone else is partying with the new wife while you’re still working up the nerve to say hello at the mailbox.
OMG! Christmas is less than two weeks away!!
As a Christian, I know it’s supposed to be about celebrating the birth of a pretty special guy, but that sentiment is too easily bombarded into afterthought by the to-do list. I have good intentions, but every year the execution against those intentions slips a little further. Behold how my Christmas To-Do list has unfolded so far:
1. Start Advent Calendar and update daily —
I hung it with 14 days remaining (a feat I accomplished with an incredible burst of initiative). Five days later it still says there are 14 days remaining. Alas pretending I have two weeks every day has failed to catch on with the rest of the world, though I’m sure the merchants would love to accommodate me.
2. Light the exterior of the house and decorate yard with deer, signs, candles, luminarias, etc. —
No lights, they’re too tangled to string up. The luminarias are in a box, I know not where and don’t have the energy to hunt for. The glittery golden candles are propped up against the front porch but not yet plugged in. The flame on one is sagging to the side like a botched beheading. Though the automated light up doe stopped grazing a few years ago, she could still strike quite the seductive pose. Alas her mate kicked the bucket and we packed him off to the dump last year. This year, we discovered Bambi couldn’t go on without Bucky. She sits in heap of useless wire waiting for the next garbage pickup. Go into the light, Bambi. Bucky awaits you.
3. Hang wreath on door —
I purchased what I thought was a wreath from one of my employee’s kids for her Girl Scout troop’s fundraiser, but it turned out to be a potted poinsettia. I’m not quite sure how I thought I’d hang a poinsettia on the door when I made my purchase well before Thanksgiving. A fake wreath I made nearly 20 years ago from grape vine stalks, ribbons and mesh bows all purchased from Michaels and lovingly crafted into a work of giddy newlywed art, now graces our front door, the bows crushed, the ribbon unwrapping and the vines unbraiding in a few spots.
4. Put up Christmas tree —
I live in the Pacific NW where evergreen trees and U-Cuts are as plentiful as Black Friday sale inserts in the Thanksgiving day newspaper. Yet fresh trees are still ridiculously expensive, not to mention fire hazards. We bought a fake one over ten years ago, but it’s starting to show its age. The pre-attached lights are partially burnt out. I’ve hung ornaments on the parts that only the family can see. To bypassers on our street, the tree looks bare, but I’ve more than compensated by loading down the other parts with non-breakable generic ornaments I bought when I got tired of boxing and unboxing my Hallmark Keepsake ornaments about 6 years ago. One day the Hallmark keepsakes will be heirlooms and my kids will thank me for keeping them so pristine (Okay, maybe the boxes are all a little crushed).
5. Hang stockings (by the chimney with care, yadda, yadda) —
One stocking is in the bottom of a laundry basket from when I found it in the youngest kid’s room eight months ago with the yucky candy still inside. The stocking hangers are in the china cabinet, one barely holding together with superglue to the point to where I’m afraid to remove it. We’ll probably skip stockings this year.
6. Bake Christmas treats —
One Costco sized box of Chex cereal –corn, rice and wheat–sacrificed for puppy chow and Chex mix, all devoured within two days. One tube of Pillsbury gingerbread dough sits half used in my refrigerator. I normally hate pre-made cookie dough with a passion, but my kids don’t care and neither the Silverback nor I need the calories or sugar.
7. Mail Christmas cards with letter, all hand signed with a short personal note in each —
I’m not going to kid anyone here. It didn’t happen last year, and probably won’t happen this year either. Maybe I’ll use my Hallmark e-card subscription to post cards on everyone’s Facebook accounts or send to their email addresses. Better for the environment, right?
8. Shop for Christmas presents for family members who live far, far away —
We’ve been drawing names on both sides of the Silverback’s and my family for years now. You’d think we’d simplified it as far as it could go. Apparently not. Check out the email exchange between my sister and I, paraphrased for brevity:
Me: I’m out of time. What do you and yours want for Christmas? I need to know within like ten minutes. Go!
Sis: Hubby and I both have Kindles now so Amazon gift cards for us and either Target or Walmart or Game Stop gift cards for each of our kids.
Me: Oh good, that’s what my kids want too. Mom’s already covered the Walmart gift card for my kids so cross that store off your list. Target or Game Stop is perfect.
Sis: Well then, why don’t you buy the gift cards for your kids and I’ll buy the cards for my kids and we’ll just wrap and sign on the other’s behalf. You can PayPal me for the difference since I have 3 kids to your 2.
Used to be we ordered online and had the merchants ship directly to the recipient with the understanding that the parent of the recipient would wrap and tag the gift for the giver. That way we didn’t waste money paying for gift-wrapping or double-shipping. The gift card will soon put Santa out of business. Sad but true and a fact the Silverback hates with a passion, but is yet another example of where the spirit of giving has morphed into the spirit of maximizing recipient value and minimizing shopping hassle.
9. Wrap all presents from Santa and hide where I will remember them —
I’m still finding ghosts of Christmases past so I can probably call it good, sort of like digging change out of the sofa.
10. Buy stocking stuffer candy–
You don’t know how tempted I am to wait until 12/26 to buy all the half-priced candy. I think I’ll buy everyone one small candy for Christmas day and that’s it. We don’t have any stockings to fill anyway and none of us need all that sugar. (See 5. above)
All pretty depressing isn’t it? Christmas should not be this way.
See, in my heart, I still believe in Christmas and rather than dragging through the motions in a half-assed way, I’d rather plan for a few activities we can all look forward to. Better to enjoy a pauper’s Christmas than gut through a glutton’s plastic facsimile. After all, Jesus was born in a stable and laid in a manger, pretty low rent and low fuss. There were no lights, no trees, no baked goodies, no gift-wrapped presents, no stockings, no cards, no trite Christmas specials about Santa Claus I’ve seen so many times my eyeballs hurt. Only the blessed birth of the Christ child and the hope he represented. Recapturing that same childlike hope of my youth is not something I can buy, not anymore. I’m going to have to start from scratch I think.
So…my goal is to take back Christmas next year, to wrestle it away from the gimlet-eyed merchants, to thumb my nose at the Jones’s who put their decorations up earlier and earlier each year (if they take them down at all), to eliminate the chore-like quality I’ve come to associate with Christmas, and to substitute only that which that restores my sense of hope. Because that, my friends, is the real spirit of Christmas.