You know that song by Green Day, Wake Me Up When September Ends? Well, somebody needs to tell them that they’ve got their month wrong. It’s December that needs to end, and soon. I wish I could say that I enjoy this time of year, but I don’t. And I don’t mind if you call me a Scrooge, or a Grinch, or even a mean-spirited buzzkill – believe me, you wouldn’t be the first, and you won’t be the last. It’s just that all of the fake cheer and forced happiness really gets on my nerves. A few years ago, I complained about the holidays to another couple so much that they snuck into my front yard one night and decorated the house with Christmas lights, giant candy canes, and twelve flying reindeer, just to get me back for being so snarky. Fortunately, however, I am married to someone who convulses at the sight of Santa hats, who sneers at the most innocent offers of merriment, and who gags at the mere thought of eggnog, so in our family, I’m actually the one with the holiday spirit, which, when you think about it, is kind of scary.
Now, you might think that having kids would change my feelings – something about seeing the world through their eyes, I think – but no. Having kids has only increased my hatred for the Thanksgiving through New Years period. For one thing, the school holiday party thing is out of control. Between last week and this week, I’ve got to go to at least six different events, each of which requires me to bring some kind of food item for twenty kids. There was the candle lighting at my son’s school on Friday (juice boxes), and then a Hanukkah party in his class on Monday (drinks for the parents). I did Hanukkah in my daughter’s class on Thursday (cookies and chocolate coins, which I had to go to four different stores to find), and on Tuesday she’s got a party in her religious school class (two boxes of potato latkes and a can of applesauce), and then next Tuesday the kindergarten is performing The Nutcracker at nine am, and on Monday her acting class is doing a showcase (more cookies). And as if going to the market nineteen times in one week isn’t enough, the gift giving that comes along with having children is simply mind-boggling. My gift list reads like The Twelve Days of Christmas: Twelve school officials, eleven preschool teachers, ten soccer coaches, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah and a bus driver and a nan-ny.
Now, I’m happy to spend money on the people who take care of my children, I really am, but I don’t want to throw money away on another bottle of wine they won’t drink, or another box of cookies they won’t eat, or another scented candle that will sit in the cabinet under their bathroom sinks. So, because I am compulsive, and because I am type-A, and because I worked at a school and received more than my fair share of generic gifts that usually ended up in the Goodwill pile, I spend enormous gobs of my time trying to find things that people I hardly know anything about will actually like. I always start off feeling good about it, and every year I think that this might be the year that I actually enjoy the holidays.
But then the same thing always happens. As I am stalking someone for a parking spot at the mall, or standing in line at a store where only one register is open even though six other employees are just standing around chatting, or sitting on hold with a customer service representative because something is wrong with the on-line ordering system, it occurs to me that I am actually paying someone to watch my children while I am out buying presents for the people who take care of my children while I am at work. Except that I haven’t worked in over a month because I am so busy running to the market and going to school holiday parties and buying presents for people that I haven’t had any time to work, and yet, even though I haven’t been working, it seems like I’ve been spending even less time than usual with my kids. And the reason I’ve been spending less time with my kids is because I’ve been going to the market and buying presents for the people who take care of my kids. And then I get angry, because there is something very, very wrong with that picture, and then the hatred starts to seep in, and then I start saying things under my breath that really would not be appropriate to reprint here, and then I complain to my friends, and then I end up with reindeer and candy canes in my front yard.
In my next life, I think I’d like to come back as a bear, and hibernate through the entire holiday season. Wake me up when December ends, and bah humbug to you and yours.