Friday, September 4, 2009
Not Too Late To Be Early
Almost every day at work I stamp cards. You know, those small colored cards that are tucked into the back of your library books, telling you when they need to be returned? Spending that much time stamping future dates makes a person very aware of what’s to come. Most days I hardly know what today’s date is, but by golly, I could tell you what date it will be 7, 14 and 28 days from now.
So when we started stamping dates with the number nine in them, as in the ninth month of the year, I already felt like summer was almost gone. And now the dates I stamp are in the last days of that ninth month and soon, very soon, I will be stamping tens. And this is the reason for my recent distress.
October. September is almost here which means October is waiting in line. In baseball we’d say it’s on deck. That tenth month of the year when the clock suddenly speeds up. Very soon we will be seeing pumpkin decorations, Halloween displays and aisles and aisles of bulk candy.
From there the calendar seems to move in double time to Thanksgiving. Blink your eyes twice as the turkey digests and it’s Christmas eve.
It happens every year. Just about this time every year I vow to be ‘early’ for Christmas this year. Meaning I will not do like I have done for the past dozen years and rush around at the last minute like I had no idea this holiday was on the horizon. Because it is all very logical. It comes every single year, no fail. When I was a kid it felt like decades passed from one December to the next. Once I had kids, December seemed to show up as every third month on the calendar.
It’s coming. I know it’s coming, so there is no logical reason I can’t be more prepared.
The other day, as I was stamping all those nines on the library cards, I had flashbacks of this joyous holiday from last year. On both sides of our extended families we have stopped buying for everyone. Instead the kids all draw each other’s names. But that still means I buy for four nephews or nieces on each side. Last year I had all eight of those gifts in the mail by early December. Then there were parent gifts,and a few special aunts and friends. Teacher gifts, something special for the neighbors, don’t forget the bus drivers…I felt pretty good about things once mid December rolled around.
Then two of my kids came down with strep. One of them also had pneumonia. Oh yeah, in the same week, the computer completely died and along with it all my online banking, bill paying and overall life organizing. It was in the midst of all that chaos that it dawned on me. I had covered all the basis. I had all the gifts bought, mailed, toted off to school. All except my childrens. I had not gotten one thing for my own kids. The sleeping cat was the only thing under the Christmas tree in the corner of the living room.
And I have older kids. We are long past the days where a two hour, two hundred dollar trip to Target can satisfy the wish list of four children. As a matter of fact I gazed longingly at the toy section the last time I was in Target, remembering the days where I could do all my holiday shopping in those six colorful aisles. Now it’s a complicated game of trying to find something fun, interesting, creative and wonderful (for a decent price) that they don’t already have. And let me tell you, when you have four children, three of them teens, you pretty much have all the basics in the house, from birthdays and holidays past.
Buying stuff purely for the sake of buying stuff is not a life habit I can condone.
So this year, as I have done in so many years past, I am making a promise to myself. Before that month that starts with O is exposed on my office calendar, I will have a plan. I will risk being called obsessive by far away relatives and insist we draw names NOW so I can get my list started. I will shop and wrap and mail before that last calendar page is turned. Because this year it’s about my kids. It will be about having time to make cookies and watch our favorite holiday movies. It will be about them seeing a calm and peaceful mom in this holiday that is supposed to be about peace and love, not stress and expectations.
And maybe, just maybe, if I start brainstorming now, by the time that month with the big D in its name rolls around, I might, just might, have some special gift figured out for this house full of big kids, and they will be wrapped in pretty paper and ribbons, keeping the cat company under our tree.