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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Just call me Scrooge

Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas. Christmas is the best time of the year. I love the meaning behind it and all the traditions. I love everything about it – except one thing.

What is there not to love about Christmas? Just this. It gets over. Waking up the morning of December 26 gives me the worst feeling ever. Call it anti-climax, I guess, but after a month of anticipating, planning, wrapping, baking, mailing and even stressing a little, having it suddenly end is a sinking, depressing sort of feeling I’d rather not go through every year.

I’m not proud of this. In fact, I struggle to even admit it, but the evidence is clear. Yes, I tend to downplay the excitement of celebrating Christmas so that the fall from the mountaintop doesn’t make for such a hard landing. Without meaning to or even realizing it was happening, I’ve fallen into this trap of minimizing the effort and therefore the joy of the most Holy Day of the year just to avoid the deflation that comes when its over.

This shameful attitude is most apparent in my house. When my children were little, I spent days decorating for Christmas. Downstairs, upstairs, hallways, their bedrooms, even bathrooms were all adorned with lights, candles and tinsel. It took several minutes just to turn out all the lights every night, hoping I didn’t forget some obscure window somewhere that was glowing with Christmas cheer. Oh, it was such fun to get out all my special Christmas things and place them artistically and creatively around the house. I would have new things every year to add to the festive atmosphere, bags of bargains from last year’s after-Christmas sales, things I received as gifts the year before, even new things I would purchase in preparation for the holiday, not to mention the new tree ornament everyone in the family received each year. My poor son #3, unfortunate enough to have been born in mid November, would usually receive some sort of special Christmas item as a birthday gift. My oldest son ha(s)d a nutcracker collection that multiplied itself exponentially every year and eventually required nearly our whole living room to display. Oh, indeed it was breathtaking to behold!

And so, little did I know, all this Christmas spirit and holiday fervor would become the cause of my current difficulty. As you might imagine, the task of packing away all this paraphernalia required astronomical amounts of time and effort, not to mention cardboard boxes, tissue paper and storage space. Add this to the misery of the “down-in-the-dumps” attitude I experienced at the sudden crash of my heightened anticipation of the big event and I had major emotional repercussions to dig my way out of. (btw, I’m not real good at that sort of thing.)

There were a few years I actually took vacation days from my job at the bank for no purpose other than to put away Christmas. They were horrible, long, teary days that gave me no sense of satisfaction at the work accomplished. I’d keep telling myself, just 11 more months and then I can get it back out again. Wow! Talk about counting down the days to Christmas – I was the champion. One year, I actually paid one of my sons (he shall remain nameless but he knows who he is) to accomplish this daunting task for me. Actually, he did pretty well. I remember coming home from work, being fairly impressed that almost everything Christmas was now out of sight and out of mind. For the meager wages I paid, it seemed like a pretty good deal – that is until I went to get the things back out the next year. We won’t go into it here, but suffice it to say there wasn’t much effort put into the packing and the mess that greeted me when I opened those boxes was no cause for rejoicing. Lesson learned. You get what you pay for.

So, now here I am, present day, kids grown, no longer enamored by such mundane things as cardboard Santa Claus cutouts, talking Christmas trees named Douglas or even nutcrackers. My motivation and ambition is gone. By now you know where this is going so I’ll just be blunt about it. I don’t decorate anymore. There. I said it. I’m a grinch. I’m a burger-meister-meister-burger. Let’s face it. I’m a scrooge.

All I can think of when the Christmas things (the absolute bare minimum, mind you) come out each November is how awful it will be when I have to perform the annual drudgery of putting them away again. Most of my boxes of those things I used to enjoy so much, remain sealed up tight, hidden away in buried alcoves of our garage-slash-fireworks stand, where I probably couldn’t get to them anymore even if I wanted to. And the most humiliating admission of them all – oh, I hate to even say it – I have tried to talk my family into a fake Christmas tree so all I have to do every year is put it back in a box. No – they haven’t agreed and I still have to un-ornament, un-light, de-tinsel and sweep up all the dry needles every year. Still, I keep trying. Maybe a pretty little purple tree that would sit on the coffee table would be nice.

So now, come to my house and you will see our huge Christmas tree, decorated now with all the ornaments from the past, at least the ones that belong to two of my kids. I gave son #1 all of his ornaments last year since he had just gotten married and they had none. Alas, he won’t take the nutcracker collection. Go figure.

Move past the big Christmas tree with all of son #2’s ornaments hanging in one very weighted down spot he happened to find convenient, and you will see our crocheted Christmas stockings and all my beautiful angel figurines my husband and kids have given me. It makes a beautiful table. Then…… nothing. No other decorations anywhere save my Christmas carol clock in the kitchen, which I love to hear chime the hour with a holiday tune. My sweet husband, ever eager to please, has put up the string of lights outside the house that makes us appear a little more festive than I actually am, but then he’s the one that has to take those down.

So, on December 26, or whenever I put it off to before the tree dries up and sheds so many needles I’ll still be picking them up next Christmas, all I have to do is get the tree un-beautiful, throw everything else in a big plastic trash bag and carry it to the basement until next year. It still takes an hour or two, but then its done and I can concentrate on getting over my sour-Cindy attitude, secretly feeling highly superior to all the people that celebrated so much they’re still taking down decorations in mid-January. Ha! I really outsmarted all of them – right?

So, here’s the point I’m trying to make with all this confession. Don’t miss the blessings of today by worrying over tomorrow. Enjoy the gifts of this life as they come your way and revel in the moments at hand. If you let worry and fear of tomorrow cloud the happiness of the right-now, your gifts remain unopened and unappreciated. Unwrap each one, save the paper and bows if you want, cherish them, treasure them, and savor the joy. You’ll be glad you did, because when tomorrow (or December 26 as the case may be) rolls around, even if they’re all packed away in tissue paper and cardboard, the memories are yours to hold in your heart forever – and no grinch can ever take that from you.

Merry Christmas and please - decorate to your heart’s content!

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