So, okay, I always did like Christmas.
Especially when I was a child – while my family spent Christmas morning at home, we would then bundle everyone into the car and drive two hours to Cape Cod, to gather with the rest of the family at my aunt’s enormous house overlooking Buzzards Bay. Nearly as soon as we got there my brother and I would first claim our rooms – the house had eight bedrooms, so my family stayed there, and we would often pick a different guest room each time – and then would go scampering through the house with our cousins, swinging between playing with all of their toys that they’d already unwrapped, coming up with other chase-each-other-through-the-house games, gorging ourselves on the cookies and chocolate candy and mints my aunt set out for snacks, grabbing handfuls of popcorn from the big three-flavor tub my aunt ordered every year (she’s the only person I know who ever got one of those things, honestly), or going to our parents and whingingly asking “when are we going to open our other presents?” while they were bustling in the kitchen trying to get dinner ready. Then there was the orgy of further unwrapping in the big den after dinner, us kids all still vibrating on sugar highs, before we kids finally gradually crashed and wandered off to bed, leaving a drift of wrapping paper and cookie crumbs in our wakes and leaving our parents and aunts and grandparents to no doubt make themselves drinks.
But we kids weren’t exactly completely feral beasts, either. For a couple years my cousin Kathy and I got into the habit of writing little plays that we enlisted our brothers to also appear in, and would present them to the family after dinner and unwrapping. Sometimes they were seasonal, sometimes not – I think one year we did some kind of political comedy where my brother and my cousin Mike played the President and Vice President in some kind of “typical day in the Oval Office” skit. And our parents were also pretty good about encouraging us to appreciate giving as well as getting – I remember eagerly thanking my cousin Tom for a copy of a Billy Joel tape one year, and a moment later overhearing my aunt telling him, “see, look how happy Kimmy is, isn’t that great? That’s so nice of you, Tommy…”
I also got into the giving as well, so much so that even though people have told me that I really didn’t need to give gifts to the grownups in the family, I still did, and still do even today. In fact, my extended family has tried a few times to curb the gift-giving obligations; one year we tried the “everyone pick a name out of a hat and that’s the one person you get a gift for” thing, and we’ve also tried the “we’re not going to give gifts at all” thing. But each time we’ve tried that, there’s invariably been someone who cheated – “I know I was only supposed to get something for Susan, but I saw something perfect for you too….” and we’ve all given up. Even one year when I was pretty much flat broke, I found a way to get the giving done – I had a huge stash of yarn and a lot of extra time on my commute home that year, so I spent two straight months knitting on my commute home, making a big pile of different hats of all sizes, styles, and colors, which I then brought to the family Christmas in a big santa-sack, dumping them all out on a table and telling everyone to just pick out the one they wanted.
But the past couple Christmases I’ve been a bit lackadaisical. Money’s been tight, and for a while I was either unemployed or working a job I really hated. All I wanted to do with any time off I got from work was sleep – the thought of traveling and being merry was nice in theory, but also sounded exhausting in practice. I didn’t even really feel like decorating the house all that much, because I wasn’t even going to be there all that much and didn’t have the energy to have friends over for any kind of a party so who cared…I managed to rally enough for the family, but truth be told I was feeling pretty grinchy.
This year, though, there’s been a perfect storm of influences on my mood:
- I already know what I’m getting all the adults in the family for Christmas. I won’t divulge (I know some of y’all read this, so I’m not talkin’), but it’s something utterly perfect, something I can obtain easily in one fell swoop, and something that isn’t going to break the bank. That means I’ll have plenty of time to take my time over the shopping for all the little kids – which just sounds like an excuse to play with toys – and as for my friends, I can make several of their gifts.
- This means I will actually have the luxury of time to putter around in the kitchen doing things like making cookies. And then eating them.
- And I will also have the time to take long walks outside admiring the decorated shop windows rather than trying to cram myself into the stores themselves.
- Speaking of the kitchen, while cleaning it recently I re-discovered a package of Christmas Crackers my Irish friend sent me as part of a Christmas gift one year, and which I tucked away for later because you need a crowd to enjoy those things. They will most likely find their way into the family celebration this year.
- I also found three whole rolls of wrapping paper left over from last Christmas so that’s yet another thing I don’t have to shop for.
- I am now working at a day job I love, so my mood is a lot more upbeat.
- Mom and I have gotten into the habit of watching the Kennedy Center Honors broadcast the day after Christmas while I’m there, and I’m actually excited to see what they do for them this year.
Which brings us to today – six weeks before Christmas. Sometime this morning, I made the mistake of watching what is possibly the world’s most adorable Christmas shopping ad:
And then after that, suddenly I found myself doing Google searches for Christmas decorating ideas and hot cocoa recipes and browsing tree ornament shops online and planning my Christmas outfit and basically lapsed into a Christmas fugue that lasted nearly an hour before I chided myself – “it’s not even Thanksgiving yet, what am I doing?”
I think I need a bit of the Grinch energy back for a few days to calm down.