Thanks to this year’s late Thanksgiving, suddenly it’s December and I have yet to jingle a single bell.
I haven’t decked any halls, trimmed any trees or heralded any angels either.
I am, as of this moment, only poised on the brink of Christmas.
Like a racehorse still inside the starting gate or a parachutist only considering a jump, I am clean, uninvested.
I could, of course, at any moment, start poring over wish lists and the laughable “budget” I lay out every year. With the swipe of a finger, I could rev up the Christmas season with Groupon and eBay deals, not stopping until the lucky cabbage and ham hocks are consumed on New Year’s Day. I could hie to the storage facility and load up the van with the 11 red-topped bins that hold decorations and wrapping paper, the creche, the candles, the Christmas pillows and stockings, ornaments and dishes, which, once inside the house, constitute a point of no return.
Or – fantasizing now – I could take a seat in the rocking chair next to the hearth where pumpkins still sit from Thanksgiving. I could call the family to my side and announce: “Sorry, guys. If you want Christmas this year, you’re going to have to do it.”
Of course, they might say OK.
And then what?
What would Christmas look like without my signature on everything? Would anyone remember the recipes for the four candies and cookies I’ve made every Christmas since 1992 or help Santa with the overflow of stocking stuffers? Who would know everyone’s sizes for new PJs on Christmas Eve? There might not be 15 (small) presents for each person under the tree, nor snow globes placed just so on the hearth. No specialty eggnog to drink during the tree-trimming, nor Christmas pasta in the Christmas Eve soup. No homemade Advent calendar hung in just the right place and Yankee mistletoe candles aglow on every surface.
Would my husband, gulp, take over the gift-buying?
Writers of the oft-quoted “Unplug the Christmas Machine” apparently know a lot of people like me, women who love everything Christmas but struggle with knowing their limits. Now in its 13th printing, this book, about refining the “shoulds” and to-do lists of Christmas, devotes a whole chapter to “Women: The Christmas Magicians.” The chapter could just as well have been titled “Women: The Christmas Control Freaks.”
“Like their mothers before them, women are the Christmas magicians (read: OCD), responsible for (obsessive about) transforming their family’s everyday (already insanely busy) lives into a beautiful, magical festival (and themselves into exhausted maniacs by Christmas morning),” the authors write.
The questions raised in this book have resonated with me since the first time I read it 20 years ago. The questions resonated, but apparently not enough for me to quit making pralines for a dozen neighbors, teachers and the mailman. About all I learned to do was yoga-breathe in long lines at Toys R Us.
This year, meanwhile, having just finished a week of preparations and entertaining for Turkey Day, having had about five minutes of down time between a houseful of Thanksgiving guests and the month of December, I find myself wanting to put a great deal of not only distance, but time, between me and that storage facility.
I have no interest in exchanging pumpkins for snowmen. Not yet.
Which I made the mistake of telling my husband. Which somehow translated to “Let’s pare back Christmas this year.”
“I’m all for fewer presents!” he said.
This is what happens. The Christmas magician says she wants to tweak the magic show. The rabbit doesn’t come out of the hat.
I am just Zen enough to have no idea what’s really going to happen next, whether I will allow myself to cut back on all the many Christmas decorating/baking/wrapping/shopping/packing/mailing activities I do. Or whether I will plunge ahead, deep-breathing as I jingle, deck and hark.
Either way, I know one thing’s for sure: It’s going to be a very short December.