I love Christmas. It is, without question, my favorite time of year. But even so, there are some things I absolutely hate about the holidays. And if I wrote a mushy lovey post about family, friends, and mistletoe, it wouldn’t be very humorous. And since I do this to save my own sanity and laugh at the chaos of my life, we’re skipping the love fest and going straight for the oh-dear-God-not-again aspects of December.
- Baking. I know, I know, Christmas is supposed to bring cozy times in the kitchen with matching Mommy-daughter aprons, playful flour fights, and lots of giggles. Know what it brings me? A huge. freaking. mess. Which, in itself, isn’t that bad. The house is always a huge freaking mess. And when it’s in exchange for quality time with my little Goo and Smush, so worth it right? Except it’s not in exchange for that. It’s in exchange for Smush pulling the chair out from under Goo. For Goo yelling at Smush for trying to stand on the big chair with her. For Goo yelling at me, throwing the cookie cutter, and ending up in time out because I wanted to even out the dough with the rolling-pin. It was also in exchange for cutting out 18 little sugar cookie stars, then Goo mashing them together when I went to get Smush out of her high chair. So yes, I hate holiday baking.
- Wrapping. I suck at wrapping. I try, I really do. But those gorgeous, organic packages with floral accents and perfectly curled ribbon? They aren’t mine. Mine are the ones with 482 pieces of tape because the paper ripped and I had already wrapped 27 presents and I was so NOT starting over. And have you ever tried wrapping a baby doll stroller? It’s not fun, and it’s not pretty. Our tree looks less like Miracle on 34th Street and more like cardboard shack on the corner of 42nd street.
- The ungratefuls. They come out, even during the holidays. That beautiful Tiffany lamp you found for Great Aunt Flo last year that she had been searching for all winter? She doesn’t even remember it, because when you ask her what she wants this year, she puts on the guilt face and says that none of her nieces buy her gifts anyway, so what’s the point? Indeed, Great Aunt Flo, what’s the point? Scouring the stores in search of the perfect gift meant nothing last year, so this year? I have this Best Buy gift card left over. Merry Christmas.
- Crap-I-forgot-about-them gifts. This happens to me every year. Family? Check. Teacher? Check. Friends? Check. Bus driver? Crap. What the heck do you give the bus driver? And the mailman? Sorry, but I’ve never left a tip for him. Largely because as long as we’ve been living below the cutoff for healthcare assistance, padding the mailman’s pension got bumped way down the priority list. Not that he doesn’t deserve it. Which brings me to my next point.
- Money. Money can suck the joy right out of the holidays for me. Because there are for more people in my life that I would LOVE to buy for, but there’s no way I could ever pull it off. My Aunt Dodie and Grandma who raised me after my mom died, during the scary teen years? I’d like to get them a cruise. Maybe a cruise ship, so they could just go whenever. Because giving up your retirement years to take an emotionally scarred teenager to the bus stop at 6 AM? You deserve your own cruise ship. But my budget dictates that instead I’ll get her a few of those scratch off lotto tickets she loves and leave it at that. My BFF J-Money? She has given us gifts when we had nothing to give, food when there wasn’t any money left in the budget for that, and more sanity saving girls-nights-out than I can count. I’d really like to get her a Louis Vuitton bag. Last year I got her a zebra ornament (inside joke – whole other story). Not exactly a designer handbag. I have a few other family members with caviar taste that I have to try to please with a chicken nugget budget. Guess how well that goes over?
- “Oh, you don’t want that.” Actually, yes I do. That’s why I told you that was what I wanted when you asked. Sigh. I truly enjoy buying gifts for people who I think they will love. This is hard to do sometimes on a small budget, but to me it sings of the whole giving spirit of Christmas. Not everyone feels this way, though. Every year in the past, I have asked for gift cards. Why? Because I truly enjoy shopping. I love being by myself for a few hours, with no one clinging to me, whining at me, or knocking over clothing racks. And If I could actually shop for me? Oh, bliss. The gift of shopping would be…magical. But instead I’m going to get a scrap booking kit and the traditional ugly sweater.
To round this out, so you don’t think I’m a total Scrooge, I will tell you my favorite gift every Christmas morning:
Watching my girls’ faces light up at the magic of that special day. It brings back a flood of memories from my childhood; memories of my Mom. It reminds me that even though we squeezed those gifts under there by shopping consignment stores and clearance outlets and picking through my aunt’s attic, my girls are grateful for every single thing under that tree, no matter how small, or how cheap. And that moment? That makes up for every ornery family member, every scrap booking kit I’ve ever gotten, every messy kitchen and screaming tantrum. It makes up for everything I hate about the holidays, and is the reason that in reality? I really kind of love them.