Wednesday, December 23, 2015
The Usual Holiday Rant
In two days, it will be Christmas. Whether we're ready for it or not.
I promised myself that this time, I would be ready. I really have the system down pat. My plans call for the Christmas card boxes to be pulled out the day after Thanksgiving—that bleak shopping no-man's-land forbidding the sane any exit from one's own residence—and with eggnog or mulled cider, accompanied by those time-honored carols, conjure up enough Christmas spirit to get me through a hundred handwritten messages.
The tree was to be purchased the first weekend of December—certainly no later than the tenth—trimmed, lit and decorated within the next day or so. It would be a lovely family affair, with each ornament's resting place chosen with care for maximum effect. The conical trimmed shape of an accompanying rosemary bush would complement the tree's effect in miniature, laid out on its golden charger on the coffee table nearby. Lights scattered among evergreens, placed on top of bookshelves, would provide a pleasing visual effect to blend with the mood-inducing scent of the fresh Noble Fir.
Of course, there would be disrupters to this seasonal timetable.
First, it was our dear daughter who, last year at this very time, was begrudgingly making her way home for the holidays from a dream semester in Ireland. About October this year, she longingly pined for Christmas in Ireland again, recalling the wonderfully un-stressed holiday there and surmising the leisurely pace was owing to willingness to haul out the Christmas decorations early and gradually.
All right, I figured, I'm game for that. I can pull out the goods in mid-November.
My "gradual" scheme was to start with the linens: change the everyday towels in the bathrooms to holiday ones before Thanksgiving. That would be my surreptitious start. I had some vaguely Christmas-y hand towels that would fill the bill, complete with Christmas sentiments—you know, the usual "Peace" and "Joy"—embroidered on the borders, each word decorated with a motif of evergreens.
That was my first hurdle: looking at those festive greetings every day. My Inner Editor struggled with this. Why? Each towel presented a different word. While some would be taken as nouns—peace and joy, for instance—when it got to "Hope," I encountered a semantic pivot point. In a quite Marie Antoinette way, one can both have hope and do it, too. But the worst of it was when I realized the collection included a towel embroidered, "Believe." Suddenly, my bathroom towel holiday cheer list was composed not simply of nouns, but verbs as well.
This would never do.
Persevere, I told myself. This was only mid-November. We still had Thanksgiving to get through, let alone Christmas. I put on my best red-nosed grin-and-bear it face and tried ignoring that blaring Inner Editor. I was doing marginally well with this approach until I spotted one more thing: while all the sprigs of evergreen sprang to the left of their holiday greeting word, one greeting had its branch stuck on the other side. Obstinate. Could it have been sending a message with that one contrary word—which happened to be "Joy"?
And so the weeks flew by. Always a list with more To-Dos than hours in which to do them. In the interest of trying out this de-stressed Christmas roll-out, a la Ireland, I thought perhaps it would be more reasonable to send out my hundred greeting cards in more modest batches on a daily basis. Rather than sit for hours on end (while guzzling unhealthy holiday drinks, I might add), I could compose those cheery greetings while stationed at my standing desk—a much more holistic touch, don't you think? Then, not only would this holiday be de-stressed, it would also be more virtuous for my health.
That didn't work either.
The last of the cards went out yesterday. As there somehow seems to be a lack in the alacrity with which the Post Office handles their business, my friends and family close to home here in California will likely be enjoying receipt of an unprecedented New Year's card.
On and on it went. Through sickness and health—wait a minute, I thought that was our marriage vows—through rain and heat and gloom of night, the Christmas machine pushes us to the impending delivery date. Somehow, within a mere forty eight hours, it will no longer matter what's been done and what has not.
That, in fact, is usually the key to the true de-stressed Christmas: not to stress over the lists, the stuff, the things-to-do, but to luxuriate in the relationships we have—between friends, among siblings, with parents, with children, with spouses and all the significant people who have made our life what it is, and become our bolstering encouragement to turn that life into what it should be. Those are the real gifts in our lives, the ones which, when opened, keep giving back, again and again.
Above: "Tobogganing," print from 1885 watercolor by Canadian artist Henry Sandham; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.