December 7, 2010

Advent This

December is not my favorite month. I remember a time when it was, and wonder at the disconnect that must have occurred. What changed? In my childhood, the entire month felt magical. Every radio tower topped with a red blinking light became a possible Rudolph. In adulthood, I struggle to deal with the pressures of gifts and families and expectations - and maybe that's it, right there: expectations.

What I expected of December as a child:
  • Visitation to Santa and his eventual arrival
  • Holiday food (guiltless holiday food)
  • Time off from school
  • Gifts, gifts, gifts
  • The first possibility of snow
What I've expected as an adult:
  • A growing greeting card list (which for years included a witty poem and a photo of my children looking adorable and wearing something festive, with no one smiling a fake smile or looking bored, unhappy or ready to murder the photographer or a sibling)
  • The requirement to choose, buy and wrap gifts for multiple adults who, if they were like me, would already have everything they need, and of whom I have only the vaguest idea concerning wants
  • Multiple children who want and deserve the sort of magic my mother made of this month when I was young
  • Increased traffic on the roads
  • Increased shoppers everywhere
  • Less daylight
  • More cold
  • Another year gone where I join everyone who asks themselves: What the hell have I been doing for the past twelve months?

But this year, I've already received my best gift, given to me by my 15-year-old just after Thanksgiving. The neighbors were putting up lights and inflating giant snowmen. From my chair next to the fire, I sighed my oh-crap-here-we-go-again sigh and made some comment about joining in the madness and how much I wished I could skip it. He turned to me and said, "So don't do it."

And I said, "Huh? You'd be okay with that?"

And he said, "Sure. If we decorate the house we'll just have to take it all back down in a couple of weeks anyway. Sounds like a lot of work for nothing."

No tree skirt, no nativity set, no strings of half-working lights... no fragile ornaments turned cat toys, no garland painstakingly wrapped around the banister, no pine needles in the carpet! (We did agree to dig Elf and the stockings out of the Christmas boxes. Because smiling is our favorite, and stockings can be filled with gummy bears and gift cards.)

I got the gift of apathy for Christmas. Big surprise, everyone - it fits perfectly.