Sunday, November 23, 2008


For some reason this year my holiday jitters are starting a little early. Maybe it's because I'm already just a little bit stressed. I've always loved the holidays, but ever since becoming a mom, my relationship with the holiday season has been a bit fraught, a bit love-hate. I struggle as it is with the daily running-race of life with toddlers in the house; the diapers and laundry and crazed mealtimes and epic bedtime battles leave me exhausted at the end of each day, even as I'm cherishing the rosebud mouths and the after-bath smells and the way they hug their blankies as they sleep. There's enough to do, in the running of a household, during any uneventful season (maybe because when you have a two-year-old and a four-year-old, there's no such thing as an "uneventful season"?), without the myriad tasks that fly in to fill up my calendar in December as swiftly as Santa's reindeer pulling a sleigh. But usually I don't start to stress out until after Thanksgiving, at least.

All of a sudden my brain is whirring with thoughts of Christmas cards and holiday parties and Julia's "half-birthday" celebration at school; the Winter Walk downtown, Advent celebrations, gift-shopping for the girls (how to balance things they really need and would love with a tight budget and the wish to avoid extravagance?), stocking stuffers, which cookies to bake for neighbors and friends. What we can afford and what we should forego this year. Where to find the town's smallest Christmas tree to fit our tiny living room, who to watch the cat when we travel.

However, I am happy to report that yesterday I decided upon my Thanksgiving dinner menu, which involves a.) the least amount of effort possible, in the form of a Jennie-O oven-ready turkey breast, and b.) substantial contributions from the grandma who will be visiting for the holiday. I'm a solid, food-loving cook, but I've never done Thanksgiving before, I'm a mostly-vegetarian, and I'm kind of phoning this one in, I have to admit it. Which is absolutely fine with me.

I'm also thinking, after reading this sweet, heart-stirring essay by writer-mama Catherine Newman, that what this house needs this year is, surely, a sweet old-fashioned ceramic creche. I've heard they calm all manner of jittery ills.

Also, whenever I start to get stressed about the holidays, I tell myself that it could always be worse, reminding myself of that time, two Christmases ago, when Genevieve was a newborn and I was so sleep-deprived from nursing all night and chasing a toddler all day that one evening I accidentally left an entire bag of shopping gifts in the cart in the Target parking lot and drove away without them.

Ha! There's nothing like recalling that crazed insanity of newborn life to make your current life--holiday to-do lists and all--seem like a piece of Christmas cake. Fruitcake, maybe, sure--but still, a piece of cake.


Tiffany said...

I think the stress is coming so much earlier because now the race is to have your shopping done or at least started by Thanksgiving. We use to be able to start after Thanksgiving.

Shan said...

Tiffany, you are so right! I never used to THINK about Xmas until after Thanksgiving! I certainly didn't start shopping before Tanksgiving! Now it seems the mass media--i.e. advertising--pushes it all on us in mid-October, so you start to feel like the rat-race has begun before you've even gotten to the holiday season!