A Broken Foot, Horseback Riding, and Christmas Woes . . . And Joys

gift08Most years about this time I get frantic over Christmas preparations. This year is particularly bad, because I have a trip planned for a week in early December, so I am trying to get as much done as possible before I leave. But I’m not having much success.

When I worked full-time, I took a day’s vacation (or more) during Thanksgiving week to do my Christmas shopping. My goal was to buy everything before Thanksgiving. I refused to participate in the frenzy on Black Friday, and I avoided malls on December weekends as much as possible. Nevertheless, it always seemed like there was something I needed on a December Saturday afternoon.

“Mom,” a kid would tell me, “we’re having our class gift exchange on Monday.”

Or my husband would say, “Do you have anything I could give my secretary? Her last day in the office is tomorrow.” Why didn’t he know his assistant’s schedule sooner?

The only year I avoided the December madness was 1995, the year I broke my foot. That fall, my daughter took horseback riding lessons.

It might seem odd that those two facts—a broken foot and horseback riding lessons—would contribute to the only smooth holiday season I’ve had since my marriage. But because (a) I was immobile, yet able to drive because it was my left foot, and (b) my daughter needed to be driven to a rural location near our home every Saturday morning, I had two forced hours of alone time in my minivan each week when no one bothered me.

I treasured those two hours of solitude. I scooted into the back seat of the van and spread my projects around me. The autumn weather was lovely and I worked in comfort to the sound of meadowlarks.

In 1995, online shopping was not yet available, but catalogs poured into my mailbox by the dozens. I took the most likely catalogs with me on Saturdays, selected gifts for all my loved ones, and filled out the order blanks.

Voilà! Christmas. I was done with my shopping by Halloween.

I’ve tried to replicate that year’s success every autumn since. Unfortunately, my more recent experiences go like this:

  1. On Labor Day, I think to myself that Christmas is around the corner.
  2. On Halloween, I decide to make my gift list.
  3. In mid-November, I realize, “Oh, hell, Thanksgiving is next week.” And I decide to go shopping on Monday, as I always have.
  4. On December 1, I say, “Damn, it’s December.” And because I’m retired, I realize I can shop mid-week. I try to stifle the panic.
  5. On December 15, it dawns on me that I must mail all the out-of-town stuff that day. Or on the 16th at the latest.
  6. On December 20, I wake up in the middle of the night, realizing I forgot to buy so-and-so a gift. But at least my husband is retired now, so it won’t be the gift for his secretary this year.

Now, add in Christmas cards (which, because I worked for Hallmark Cards, I must send), the family newsletter, some holiday travel, and you’ll see why the magic of Christmas has left me behind. Click here for a poem I wrote a few years ago about my holiday woes.

Then finally it is Christmas morning, the frenzy is behind me, and I welcome the day with family and friends and the joy of togetherness.

I really do like Christmas. But only once it has arrived.

What’s your least favorite part of Christmas? How do you survive it?

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