By Lisa Van Meeteren
Tis’ the season to be jolly….yeah right…you can tell that little “diddy” was written about a hundred years ago, before the advent of giant adrenal gland wrecking coffees, the smartphone, and computers that keep us plugged in 24/7. Perhaps when Christmas only lasted for two weeks it really was wonderful and jolly, but now those lyrics ring false when one day we’re carving pumpkins, and the next day ‘BAM!’ the Christmas season in all its stressful glory has begun. So three short Christmases ago I decided to tackle the holiday by avoiding the crowds of cranky, harried, adrenaline filled shoppers and finally conquer my “to do” list early…or so I thought….
The first week in November
I see the best gifts and I am in a good mood! I feel proud of myself every time I buy an item and smugly think, ha! I won’t be amongst the shoppers running around maniacally in December thank you very much. I hide my purchases in the top of my closet. Yes! Progress!
The end of November
I am done. DONE! Just have to wrap. And make cookies. And decorate. Oh, and buy new outdoor lights and hostess gifts for the next three parties we’re invited to. Oh and damn, I forgot about stocking stuffers…okay that won’t take long. Breathe. It will be fine. There are still three and a half weeks to go.
The first week of December
All of my decorating for Christmas is done! I am out admiring the Christmas decorations in the mall, or at least I’m trying to as my two year old excitedly points out Santa’s village to me. I am a little distracted as I drag him away from the reindeer and into a department store for more holiday shopping. I still need to find those hostess gifts, and stocking stuffers and then I will be done. DONE! I slow down as something catches my eye in a store window. The same item I bought for my husband is on display with a huge 50 PERCENT OFF sign plastered underneath. Why is it that every year, the same item I bought early goes on sale two weeks before Christmas? I take in the rest of display. Oh! He would love that wallet and scarf combo…where was this stuff in November? I drag my now restless two-year old into the store and buy the newly discounted item making a mental note to return the original.
The second week of December
Back to the mall to buy stocking stuffers with my toddler in tow, looking none too happy. This time I am armed with more gear then a soldier going into battle; toting along bags of snacks, his favourite trucks, and books. It isn’t easy but I knock the rest of the items off my list only having to stop twice for snacks (I forgot to bring some for me), once for a diaper change, and once to rescue the toy truck that my son somehow managed to wedge underneath a store display. I did it! I’m finished! I feel lighter on the way home, happily humming Christmas songs; unfazed by the person in the car behind me who blasts their horn as I slow down for an elderly woman walking in front of my car. I think of my daughter as we drive past her school, smiling. This is her first real year in grade school with two teachers…crap! I didn’t buy anything for her teachers. Oh no. I also need to buy the unwrapped donation gift for her classroom and then there’s the staff at my son’s pre-school. My good mood deflates faster than a pierced balloon. I’m not done.
One week to go!
The presents are wrapped! I haven’t started baking yet, but that’s okay, it’s safer for my pre-Christmas waistline. I am smiling as my daughter arrives home from school, and produces a new book from the library. “I love these!” she says.
“Are they as good as the fairy books?” I ask hinting about the series I bought her for Christmas.
She ponders for a moment. “The what?” she asks.
A tendril of panic starts to wrap itself around my insides. “The fairy books, you know the ones you’ve been asking for, for the past two months!” I laugh, a little too brightly.
“Oh those,” she shrugs. “Dunno. They’re still okay I guess, but these are way better.”
ARGH! I clench my coffee mug so hard that my nails dig into my palms around it.
“What’s the matter? Mom?” she asks.
“Uh, nothing.” I run upstairs to find the gift receipts so that I can return her books and remove them from under the tree. No big deal. I can do this. One week is plenty of time. I just have to finish that writing project I haven’t started still, continue toilet training my two and half year old, call the cable guy about our TV and…the phone rings.
“Hey honey, it’s me,” my husband says.
He laughs. “Okay…just wanted to let you know my side of the family has decided to do a draw this year! You’re buying for my sister and I have Carrie.”
“In other words I have Carrie and your sister to buy for now too.”
“Thanks! That’d be great. Did you get Mason’s gift yet? They’re coming in a couple of days so they can pick up everything then.”
“What? Oh, crap forgot about him.” He is the latest addition to the clan, at five months old, and since he was only a blip on the embryo horizon the preceding holiday, I apparently erased him from my memory.
“Okay, gotta run and I’m going to be late tonight. We’re really busy.”
I hang up and try not to swear. My kids begin a game that involves tossing toy cars down the stairs to see which one will win. “SANTA IS WATCHING YOU!” I yell, running up the stairs. “Do you guys want Santa to come?”
“Mom?” My daughter puts her hand on my arm gently.
“Yes?” I snap.
“Even if Santa doesn’t come, I’ll still love him, and I’ll still love Christmas.” I hug her. I’m sure they are just acting up because I’ve been ignoring them to get everything done.
“Let’s go look at the lights,” I say. It is a tradition I started with the kids this year. We walk around the neighbourhood admiring the Christmas lights each of us pointing out our favourites.
“Yay!” Both children cry in unison. With all of the things I have left to do I shouldn’t really be going anywhere, but I suppose the list can wait.
As they run around the block excitedly pointing out inflatable snowmen and twinkling reindeer, their cheeks rosy and their smiles bright, I think, this is what matters. This is what makes the season ‘jolly.’ This is what the old carols are singing about. I breathe in the crisp clean air and erase my ‘to do’ list from my head. Things will get done, they always do, and if they don’t it’s not what I will remember many Christmases from now. No the rushing, the mayhem, and the ever expanding list of things that didn’t get done will be a distant memory but these moments of joy will be strongly etched in my mind. Yes, I resign; tis definitely the season to be jolly.
How do you deal with holiday stress and remember to be jolly?
About the Author
Lisa Van Meeteren is the mother of two children, ages 5 and 9. She works as a copywriter and has just completed a novel!