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Posts Tagged ‘holiday’

My Annual Christmas Bitch Session

December 13, 2013 1 comment

I’m walking a tightrope, stretched between two Christmas trees, taut with the pressure of time, money, and expectation.

On the one side is the me that loves Christmas. Loves! The hype, the decorating, the giving, the madness, the merrymaking. The stories, the movies, the traditions, the magic. Did I mention merrymaking? I buy in. I believe.

Christmas cookies aren't  one of my strengths. Party tricks, on the other hand...

Christmas cookies aren’t one of my strengths. Party tricks, on the other hand…

On the other side is the me that loathes the tremendous hassle involved in making it all happen. And by all, I mean all. Food, decorations, charity, presents for the world at large. It’s a lot for one sister’s shoulders.

As I teeter on this thin wire, below me is the pit of despair, experienced in Christmas’s past, that I can fall into if things go awry. Trust me, it’s not fun down there. Life does not imitate art. If the Grinch steals all of our gifts, or Santa or I fail to deliver the coveted items on their list, my children will not hold hands in a circle and sing.

Oh no.

Yet I somehow magically order things the day after they can guarantee delivery to Canada by Christmas. Never the day before or, say, weeks in advance. Who thinks of this shit in November? It’s much more exciting this way. Will it arrive, or won’t it. My legs quiver with anticipation, and that pit is looking uncomfortably close. Back ups are stashed. And then I forget what I’ve stashed. And where. This is life on the edge, right here.

Come December, I could use thirty-hour days. Because while Christmas must be extraordinary, still, life goes on. Which is why I lost it when my children remarked on the cleanliness lacking in my car yesterday. Something’s got to give – a trashed car over myself, ideally.

Obviously, there is room for improvement in the process. In my world, best case scenario means Christmas Eve is purely for stocking stuffers. And a rum and eggnog-infused search for that thing I know I bought, but likely won’t find until Easter.

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without that special feeling – that I’m losing it.

Notice the wrapped presents? I'm impressed, if you're not.

Notice the wrapped presents? I’m impressed, if you’re not.

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BiChristmas, by God – Will the True Holiday Spirit Please Stand Up?

December 14, 2012 6 comments

When the inflatable Santa appeared on my neighbour’s lawn on November 1st, eclipsing even the towering Douglas Fir behind it, I knew it was coming. For not I, the Grinch, Hurricane Sandy, or the war-torn Middle East could stop Christmas from rolling into town and dominating the lives of those that celebrate it.

There’s much to say about this season in the snow, people love it or abhor it, everyone has a shopping tip, drunk staff Christmas party story, or recipe to share. But in the same way my hunger instantly disappears when faced with an All-You-Can-Eat buffet, I’m stymied; am I in the love or hate camp? I’m not sure. On any given day, at different moments, I could be either.

I’m biChristmas.

I love the idea of giving my kids something they will be over the moon excited about, but hate the fact that this dream necessitates me tearing around the city and stalking malls everyday of December. (I know, I shop online too, but still need to grab most of the stuff in person. Call me traditional, but I’m saving a fortune in shipping fees.)

It’s a Wonderful Life. Elf. Christmas Vacation. Charlie Brown’s Christmas. Yeeeeeesssssss! Frosty the Snowman. Santa Buddies. Nooooooooooo!

Cover of "Santa Buddies"

Make it stop.

Invite me to a party and I will be there – I happen to be gifted at merrymaking. The constant low-grade headache I have throughout December is another matter.

The memories of my childhood eyes seeing Santa through the crack of light in my door are precious; the ghosts of boyfriends past I could live without.

I hate the rain that is inevitably present in our city, but the snow on our mountains? Sign. Me. Up.

My joy of giving starts out strong early in the season, but by the time I’ve found a box of chocolates for the piano teacher, my daughter’s other best friend, and the barista that occasionally remembers my name, it snaps from joyful to snarly.

I held back tears of pride at my oldest daughters’ first Christmas concert; ten years and two kids later they are tears of boredom, and frustration that the tallest father in the school sits in front of me every year.

My children are not sure if they will return from school to a mother baking shortbread while cheerfully singing the incorrect lyrics to Santa Baby, or one savagely Gorilla-gluing the gingerbread house together (because why, for the love of god, does my roof always cave in?) When it comes to Christmas, I’m fifty shades of grey, fifty shades of red and green.

Love it, hate it, or Switzerland – what’s your verdict on Christmas?

writing prompt: flawed

A Valentine Epiphany, Whereupon I Don’t Entitle This Post ‘Gag Me With a Valentine’

February 14, 2012 6 comments

With disdain, I noticed the bowl of red, foil-wrapped hearts at the grocery store check-out. My craving for chocolate was quickly suffused by my distaste for the upcoming excuse of a holiday. The one that involves copious amounts of red and cupid. I can’t say ‘Valentine’s Day’ without using the sneering tone that Seinfeld reserved for greeting his unwelcome acquaintance, Newman: Hello, Valentine’s Day.

It’s not that I’m anti-romance. My inherent condescension is because Valentine’s Day is the least romantic day of the year, and so it’s with a curled lip and a prolonged eye-roll I greet the buckets of red roses adorning storefronts – at a mere double the normal cost. As you know from my rant from last year, I have very little time for anyone who succumbs to this artificial excuse to buy a box of heart-shaped candy – unless it’s for your kid. Ah, there’s the rub. I just had a light bulb moment. I’ll get back to that in a moment.

With such unabridged and full-throttled cynicism, you might think I am either a jilted lover, or single. Or suffered a debilitating embarrassment one February 14th. Which I’m not, and haven’t, respectively, unless I’ve put such an incident in the back recesses of my mind, never to be thought of again, which is entirely possible.

Reflecting on Valentine’s past, I have some surprisingly beautiful (can I say heart-warming?) memories. In elementary school, which really was its heyday, since it involved chocolate with absolutely no guilt, my brown paper bag  overflowed with heart-shaped Mickey and Holly Hobby valentines (and this at a time when giving each kid in the class a valentine wasn’t mandatory, merely encouraged). I would return from school to find a valentine, personally penned by my dad, and attached to an extra-large KitKat bar – only he knew the way to my heart was a mixture of handwritten adjectives and chocolate. In high school I received enough candy grams delivered to my classrooms to signal I was firmly in the middle of the popularity pack: not quite head table material, but permitted to enter the cafeteria, at least. In university, there was always a boyfriend to take me out to dinner, and not all of them were convicts. Losers notwithstanding, my dance card was full, and when you’re twenty this is important.

The evidence speaks for itself: at one time in my life, I had a childlike anticipation for Valentine’s Day that has been replaced with scorn. What’s happened in the interim, besides twenty years of marriage? Note I didn’t say wedded bliss, because those two words should simply never appear side by side.

Any parent knows an upcoming event – fabricated by Hallmark or otherwise – means one thing: a longer list of errands. To the groceries and laundry and cooking add a box of valentines for each child, chocolates to go with them (parents new to kindergarten, take note, we don’t only give cards these days), and then either 24 cupcakes or a fruit platter, depending on the teacher. The sight of that longer than normal list makes me cranky, but what makes me insanely mad is returning with my hard-purchased boxes of valentines only to learn that Spiderman cards won’t cut it for any of my girls, neither will Dora the Explorer, Barbie, or horses.

So when my youngest child insisted on making her cards this year, and this sentiment was readily and strangely agreed upon by her sisters, who rarely agree on anything, I could only do one thing. Hightail it to the local craft store.

Lo and behold, I’m back to the rub. It is my kids who have restored my faith in Valentine’s Day. As I toiled over our dinner (salmon, undercooked) and dessert (chocolate cake, which refused to leave its cozy pan so it was more like chocolate clump), my kids whistled away, cutting and pasting pink and red doilies. Besides the “stop copying me!” complaints, it was like a Norman Rockwell painting unfolding before my eyes.

Of course there’s a price to pay for being a regular Martha Stewart, to the tune of one thousand percent more than I would have spent on a box of SpongeBob valentines. But the value of not having to return the errant box of valentines to the store? Priceless.

Family harmony goes a long way. Building on the enthusiasm of my kids, I’m not hating Valentine’s Day this year; but I’m still opposed to the proliferation of florist rape and anything red velvet.

Christmas vacation plans, anyone?

December 9, 2010 2 comments
a commercial christmas in hawaii #4

Image by nayrb7 via Flickr

It’s starting already.  Whenever a school break looms, the calendar days gapingly empty and devoid of the regular nine to three tolling of the school bell, that question: “So, what are you up to for the holidays?”

If you pay close attention, this question comes almost exclusively from those who actually have vacation plans for the upcoming break, since posing this question provides them with a segue into their plans after you answer, “Not much, how about you?”.

This is a tad facetious, since holiday plans are not a bad conversation starter, especially among those whose answer to the question might be “We’re going to Kauai for the first time, have you ever been?” and they are off to the races talking about the pros and cons of islands in Hawaii.

These lucky soon-to-be vacationers obviously have travel on the brain, having had to load up with sunscreen or ski goggles, as the case may be, in preparation for their trip, so innocently may think everybody flies off to exotic destinations when faced with two weeks of having no teachers to babysit their children.  Let’s face it, the alternative is not so rosy.   After the first day of sitting around in your pajamas watching old Christmas DVD’s, the kids start getting on each others nerves, which gets on the parents nerves, which makes us all throw on our boots and coats and head out into the miserable rain or snow or slush and then things really go downhill.

I am sensitive to the topic of actually going somewhere on your school break, since my parents chose to have numerous children instead of implementing a holiday budget (luckily for me since I was the last of the nine kids, I got life whereas my siblings never got Disney World).  We never went anywhere.  I hated that first day back after spring break where classmates would show up sporting tans and even worse, stories of their travels.  I was green with jealousy.

Inadvertently rubbing salt into my wounds, my family finally planned a vacation, but it went awry.  When I was in high school, my parents announced we would be going to Quebec’s Winter Carnival for spring break.  A twelve hour drive, but still, a great destination.  I was jubilant, overjoyed, and ran around asking all of my classmates what they were doing for their break, barely letting them answer before blurting out “well WE’RE going to the Quebec Winter Carnival!”  However my mother contracted a brutal case of the flu on the road, so we holed up in Edmundston New Brunswick for the week.  My dad did drive us over the Quebec border, so we could say we had been there.  And the Edmundston Ho Jo had an indoor pool where I learned my back dive, so it wasn’t a complete disaster.  But I have been careful not to gloat ever since.

Likely I am marred by my childhood experiences, and overly sensitive to this question, when people are just saying what first comes to their mind.  I should grow up, not be so judgmental, be happy for them.  I know this, and will tell my own children to do exactly this when they complain that we are not going anywhere.  I will tell them to think of all the people who have so little, and be happy for what we do have.

After all, it is the most wonderful time of the year; there are good times to be had without leaving your house; magical moments abound. But unabashedly I would rather be having these moments in Mexico; and news flash for all of those who pose the question: so would we all.

So please: if you have holiday plans and I am in your midst, put a lid on it.