I saw something the other day that made me think. It costs $0.00 to be a decent human being. Now, to be fair to myself, I didn’t see that and think about what an awful human being I am. With all my troubles, and even as difficult as I can be, I am not an awful human being and strive to keep my Good-o-Meter needle in the green rather than in the red. (You may need to use your imagination there.) With it being the holiday season you’d probably expect to see people at their best, their most giving, most charitable, most unselfish. In fact we are at our most selfish and least charitable. (I don’t have any scientific studies or poll results to back this up, so just pretend I know what I’m talking about.) And if not that, we’re probably at our most exhausted.
Yes, we give to charities and kids who wouldn’t otherwise have any gifts under the tree and big scary motorcycle gang members wait in line for five days to buy out every single bicycle at the store to give to needy kids for Christmas. We have Angel Trees and Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes. We feed folks who don’t have food. We give extra money to the church or the Salvation Army bell-ringing guy. We work hard at Christmas time to feel better about ourselves by doing for others.
At the same time, we’re making mental lists of stuff we might like to find for ourselves under the tree on Christmas morning. We’re thinking about how this much money can stretch to buy this many gifts. We’re worrying about what folks will think when they receive said gifts. We’re worrying about which store has the best sale and if we can get there fast enough to get one of whatever it is before Sally Shops-a-Lot gets the last one.
We’re putting time and energy into lights and decorations and trees and cleaning and cooking and showing off for relatives who don’t see us at any other time of the year. We’re putting on a good face for the masses rather than admitting we’re tired, irritated, and broke, feeling thankless, stressed out, and really would be grateful to put our heads under the covers and hide until it’s all over. We’re forcing ourselves into crowds we would otherwise avoid. We’re pulling out the old family recipes because they’re tradition and because the only time they’re ever made is right now, at this particular time of year, but not really because we have time to make them, or even really want to, to begin with.
We all have good intentions, I think. We all want to make the perfect spritz cookies in the shape of little green trees with the pretty mixed-color nonpareils sprinkled on top as candy ornaments. We all want to make those mason-jars filled with a mix of ingredients with a happy little pinking-shear cut square of fabric adorning the lid with a tag of instructions tied on with a bow and all the recipient needs to do is dump it all into a bowl, add water (or milk) and bake at 350° for 20 minutes until golden brown. We all want to hang our stockings 8.5” apart on the mantel (should we be lucky enough to have a fire place) with fancy weighted devices with hooks and add the sprigs of greenery interspersed with red and white Santas and other festive décor. Maybe a string of lights to off-set the whole thing. We want to add candles at different heights to our hearthstones to add depth and interest. We want to invite friends and family over for a home-cooked meal and to sit around sipping laced eggnog or spiced tea and laugh about times past. We all want the Norman Rockwell Christmas.
I, however, have to uncover my living room in order to put up a tree and some years haven’t even bothered with that. We always have something for the kids, decorations-wise, but it’s festive even if it is sparse. And they don’t seem to mind; they’re overcome with the spirit of things, as it should be. We always have stockings. But we have bucket-o-cluck with two sides and cookie-cutter biscuits for Christmas Eve supper on disposable plates with disposable flatware and napkins. We keep it simple. At the point where we come to Christmas Eve, I’ve had absolutely as much as I can possibly handle of cheery preparation and therefore we have resorted to this unsatisfying new tradition.
This year, I need to make cookies. And candles. Those are the two things I feel I absolutely must accomplish before the eve of Christmas is upon us. Otherwise, I’m done. Well, the shopping is done (bless whomever invented Amazon.com) and I praise myself a little bit for having pre-planned this year money-wise so, though I may be broke, my bank account won’t take a nosedive into the red (hopefully). But I still have to spend time wrapping and cleaning and baking and making so I’m not quite there yet.
Oh, crud. See what I mean? Selfish. The holidays make us selfish. I. Me. Mine.
Therefore, it is with much sincerity I wish you Good Luck. May you remain a decent, unselfish, human being…and still get it all done.