Chistmas is killing me
I had the most vivid dream last night: I was standing on an island at the water’s edge. Not so far away, a 747 was taking off in my direction. I stood, transposed, as this magnificent beast lazily lifted first its nose, and then slowly its rear, its huge bulk improbably hanging in mid air. Suddenly, in a horrifying twist, its nose turned downward and it was heading straight towards me. This prior magical moment, full of wonderment at the marvels of modernity, turned into the shock of modernity causing my death; there was no where to run.
And so it is with Christmas, another altogether beautiful, mass market, man made beast. It has become an industry that spawns an entire collection of movies, its own section in book stores and the library, encourages even the most gifted of musicians to cover Christmas classics (as if anyone could improve on Nat King Cole’s version of Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire, but still, they try). Most importantly, it is the crowning glory of everything retail; spend! spend! spend!, advertisements tell us. As the days of December tick quickly by, the nose of that 747 has taken a nasty downward focus.
The internet has supposedly made shopping easy: one click and it’s on its way. Yet I am paralyzed. I have not bought one gift for my best customers, my children. The lights are too dazzling, the smell of pine intoxicating, the wrapping paper too varied, the choices of gifts both big, small and insignificant, overwhelming. I am frozen by the sheer volume of my growing list, and now it is too late to order online.
As the mother who wears the purse, if not the pants, in this family, I am the unspoken provider of Christmas. I have three little girls who fully expect Santa to bring them a boatload of presents on December 25. We are working our way through the multitude of Christmas movies Hollywood has faithfully produced, all with the same message: you must believe in Santa for him to come. Yet, try though I may to believe (dutifully, like all of the cards shout from my mailbox, Believe!), this higher being has yet to materialize. It will be me trudging through malls this week, battling frantic shoppers who are decidedly not in the holiday spirit as they beat me to parking spots and dash in front of me in long checkout lines.
I know this; I have been out there already. I haven’t bought one present for my family, but I’ve been trying hysterically to keep up with the other demands of Christmas. My daughters are each doing Secret Santa gift exchanges at school, at gymnastics, and now, they tell me, since they are so much fun, with their friends. They are collecting money for coaches and teachers, to give them gifts, and since it is all about giving, who can argue with that? Each of their classes are putting together a gift hamper for families in need – the most useful gifts I will purchase this season – but adding three more to my list. For every party they attend (classroom, school play, gymnastics, soccer) they bring items for the food bank, so my pantry is disappearing before my eyes, and I’m also expected to bake and decorate cookies for these events, as if the twelve other plates of gingerbread men are not enough. There are dresses and shiny shoes to be purchased, snow boots and ski suits that must be upgraded for the impending weather. I’m exhausted and broke and I haven’t even started on the list that includes my own family.
Our tree is up, but my children are begging for more decorations, more lights, more everything. When, they keep asking, will the presents be under the tree? Oh yes, those elusive presents. Telling them I’ve been a bit busy doesn’t fly: doing what? they ask.
The ten shopping days remaining are reduced to five for me, since school vacation starts at the end of this week, at which point I morph into camp director, shepherding my children to the skating rink, ski hill, indoor pools and playdates in an effort to entertain them.
The nose of the plane is now closing in on me, I am deafened by the roar of its engine. Should I run or swim, I wonder. It really doesn’t matter, since it is landing on top of me in any event. Just as the Grinch discovered, you can’t stop Christmas from coming; but unlike those gracious Who’s in Whoville, my children will not peacefully gather around a tree without presents underneath it, singing carols.