As I write this, there are “20 Days Left Until Christmas!!!” Advertisers remind us of the ticking time bomb so often that it feels we should take shelter rather than go shopping. Parking lots become angry obstacle courses. Even the relative comfort of our couches, where we can shop at 11 p.m in our pajamas, is no longer safe. Cyber Monday has become Cyber Week. Cyber Month. Cyborgs in my living room.
Autos sprout antlers and don wreaths (see my previous post on the practice of car decoration), and Christmas Carols blare from everywhere. I went to a local tween/teen shop to buy a gift certificate for my niece. Since it was a certificate and not a plastic card, the cashier had to write and log it by hand. I thought it would be Christmas by the time she finished. Jose Feliciano sang Feliz Navidad so loudly over the store speakers that I expected the woofers would blow. I could not hear a single thing she asked me. I developed a migraine.
As soon as Thanksgiving ends and we store the gourds and Indian corn while wistfully watching the last of the brilliant foliage fade and fall, it feels as if we’re shot out of a cannon, sent hurtling toward “the holidays.”
We make lists and reservations, plan menus, RSVP to parties (I, happily, got invited to a few this year!), and pore through the paraphernalia that has stocked store shelves since before Halloween.
I look forward with delighted anticipation to having both boys back from their far-flung homes so soon after stuffing ourselves silly with turkey and trimmings. Such closely timed visits are rare and cherished.
And I necessarily turn my attention to gifts. Ours is a multicultural, blended, extended family. So we celebrate, well, everything. I start shopping early. Really early. Like in the summer. So for me, the first challenge is to remember what I bought and where I hid it. Then I covertly take polls about what everyone wants, fooling no one with my obvious questions’ intent. I’ve relied largely on gift cards of late. I once thought them impersonal, but now I like the idea of allowing those I love to pick out something they love, instead of hoping they love what I picked out for them.
As the holidays rush headlong toward me I inevitably start to pressure myself. Have I done enough for everyone? Have I forgotten anyone? I live in an apartment complex with a dedicated cleaning and maintenance crew and a helpful office staff. Our mailman knows me by name. Friendly baristas feed my green tea habit. My hairstylist helps to tame my mane. How much to give? Cash, check, or card?
And then there’s year-end charity. So many worthy causes. So many in need. I wrack my brain over how to best allocate my giving budget.
It’s easy to get caught up in the sirocco that sweeps in and carries us away on the last Thursday in November, often tumbling and tossing us, clouding our vision like that desert wind. But when I step out of the turbulent torrent of tinsel into the quiet of my breath, I realize that Thanksgiving never really ended. It is only because so many caring, compassionate, and considerate people populate my life that I have to “worry” about how to express my gratitude to them during this season. With this family, these friends, and my community at large, every day is Thanksgiving. Corny as it sounds, they give me shelter from this yuletide tsunami.
Photo courtesy of the author