Friday, December 19, 2008

Ba-Humbug Lite

The last time I was sincerely excited about Christmas Nicole Kidman could conjure facial expressions.

As years go by I just can't get it up for the holidays. It's December 19th and I didn't even bake cookies this year. And I'm notorious, as far as cookies go.

I also canceled presents, much to my Mom's disappointment, I think. We only bought for our niece and nephews, because adults don't need things. The only thing anyone really needs far exceeds the predetermined budget, like a new condo or a bailout on our credit cards.

This is not to say that I'm a Scrooge - certainly not. I jam out to Barbra Streisand's hilarious version of Jingle Bells with the best of them. I just think I'm in limbo. I'm at the age where Christmas has lost that magic feeling and I'm not sure it'll come back until I have kids of my own.

But I have wonderful memories of Christmas. My sister and I were sneaky and clever, knowing all the hiding places. I'm not sure I ever received a gift I didn't know was coming. Sure, it's terrible to ruin a surprise, awful to dig to the back of your parents' closet, but, at 10, it was so worth it. I can vividly recall stealthily slicing the tape open on a mid-sized box to find the pair of brown Bluenotes cords I'd been hoping for. I tried them on before sliding them back into the box, secured with fresh tape and feigned surprise two weeks later.

For a handful of my pre-adolescent years, my grandparents came to our house on Christmas Eve so we'd all be together in the morning. My Grandma was as excited as my sister and I. The three of us could not fall sleep, though lost track of time somewhere in the night, only to be roused awake by a giddy senior at 4:30AM. Adorable. We hurried to our stockings, thrilled at a new toothbrush or trio of Bic pens.

My parents had just two rules: Do not wake them before 6 and there'd better be fresh coffee. Quite reasonable, in retrospect.

They were punctual, wrapped in robes, coffee in-hand. My Dad tidied as we went, coloured paper never overwhelming. I always played Santa, ensuring everyone had a gift. My Grandpa gathered errant bows and neatly refolded paper he deemed re-usable. My sister cracked the cover and began reading a new Bobbsey Twins immediately; I beamed, holding up a Cosby sweater, marveling at the endless acrylic rainbow and mockneck. It was all done by 6:45.

In recent years Christmas has necessarily changed. With in-laws on all sides, we divide our time democratically. Instead of hunkering down with a glass of something and the ones we love, we get in the car and do a cross-province tour, gorging on too-many-meals and not enough relaxation. No visit long enough, not even for thorough digestion. The whole season starting to feel like a series of appointments and slotted-in half-experiences.

This might have something to do with my lack of zeal.

Late last night, after at least three bottles of wine, Nick, Natasha and I decided that 2009 would be the year we do it our way. Instead of packing two days full of hasty relations, we will see each of them in a more meaningful way, perhaps three weeks early or two weeks late. No more jam-packed provincial tours, no more stomachaches on the car ride home. No more whirlwinds of obligated activity.

Our little group, the family we've chosen, will stay downtown on Christmas Day 2009. We will have a beautiful meal together. We will laugh and drink traditional beverages and drive nowhere. We will exchange thoughtful gifts of little to no value and we will love each other deeply and sincerely and with Christmas in our hearts.

Whatever the holidays bring you this year, I hope there's lots of love.


  1. thomas of washington dcDecember 21, 2008 at 11:53 PM

    very nice. this part made me smile... "the family we chose"

  2. This part made me smile, "the last time that I was sincerely excited about Christmas Nicole Kidman could conjure facial expressions" to paraphrase. HILARIOUS!!

  3. A perfect reflection on adult vs. childlike view of Christmas. This one got me.

    As childhood Christmases go, you and I were two peas in a pod. Always ALWAYS found my gifts and opened them. Resealing and feigning surprise were my JAM. [See mini Casio keyboard in white that played Wham's "Last Christmas"--which, btw I am now fully rocking on Youtube as I type this because the video is AMAZEBALLS horrible 80s-ness). Also always made sure everyone had a gift (I still do this!).

    Where do you fall on the Christmas excitement scale these days? Have we ever discussed? I'm low, low, low. I used to be okay with it but admittedly in recent years I've questioned my reasons WHY I think it sucks. I mean, I know why. But I haven't touched those memories in a long LONG time.

    I can't believe I'm soon coming to the close of 2008!