The Spirit of Christmas

Christmas is all about love, about reflection, about holy thoughts. Right?

In the past few weeks, I’ve had a lot of those in my life. At least once a day I thought the words “I’d love to live somewhere on a distant planet where there is no Christmas; or at least no Christmas shopping.” I’ve engaged in a lot of reflection upon my 21-item pre-Christmas to-do list – “put up lights: check; decorate tree: check; assemble teacher gifts: check…” And I just woke up with “holy shit, I totally forgot to order flowers for my in-laws and now it’s too late to get them there before Christmas.”

I’m just filled with the spirit of Christmas.


This year I was under extra pressure, because right after Thanksgiving Sunshine exclaimed that she was SO looking forward to Christmas, not having had a proper one in practically three years.

I admit our South African Christmases were a bit lacking in spirit. I could blame it on the pitiful tree, or the fact that all my Christmas cookies stuck together like glue in the heat. Or the fact that we altogether skipped the last one to go on a safari instead.

Yep, definitely not a tree that will get you into the spirit
The spirit of Christmas may all be in the Advent calendar – 19 x 4 individually wrapped presents

So this year it’s been back to my 24-item pre-Christmas checklist in all its glory. Decorating the house (plus warthog) with lights (“Mom, all the neighbors already have their pretty lights up”). Selecting a real tree and carting it home on the roof of the car. Baking batches and batches of cookies arranged in pretty tin boxes that can never remain full. Designing, writing, and sending out Christmas cards once again, because I no longer have the excuse of a non-functioning postal service.

And, of course, the shopping. You’d think that in the land of Amazon this would be done in a flash, but even so, the shopping always gets me in the end.

Like when your daughters inform you they need Christmas presents for their friends because they’ve all started giving them theirs, and there is now only one day left before the last day of school. You should of course have thought of this and bought them ages ago, but now it’s Thursday morning and you need presents tomorrow (because you might be unorganized but not uncaring). You settle on hand sanitizers from Bath and Body Works – a store you normally avoid at all costs, due to the smell – and one daughter is perfectly fine with you running out during the day when there is no traffic and picking out whatever scent you care for – or don’t care for, in the event – but the other one absolutely positively has to come with you to make her selections. So you pick her up at 3:30 pm right after school to race to the mall, grab the five little bottles for her five friends, and race to her gymnastics class at 4:15. It can be done if everything goes smoothly.

Except you may have miscalculated the timing, because how can an 11-year old girl be expected to pick out five scents for all her friends quickly? Without smelling every single one of them on the entire table and hemming and hawing for at least half an hour? Especially when what she really wants is “vanilla snowflake,” the one she has in her own hand sanitizer from her Advent calendar a few days prior, but now they only have “vanilla cupcake” and “warm vanilla sugar?” She can’t be expected to settle for any of those, can she? Even though you know for a fact that the person assembling the Advent calendar had picked that one without any reflection whatsoever, out of a sea of similarly repulsive smells, just to have done with item number 17 on the pre-Christmas checklist – “assemble Advent calendar: check.” So now you have tears flowing, clerks rushing to help but also unable to conjure “vanilla snowflake,” you wait while every other body lotion and shampoo in the store is picked up and sniffed and put back, you finally end up with the five hand sanitizers for $1 each that you could have picked in five seconds, you wait in an impossibly long line to pay for them, you rush to gymnastics class even though by now it is half over, you spend the next hour in traffic trying to get home, you rush to get dinner on the table so you don’t also miss your tennis class, and you are almost out the door with your racket when your daughter makes her confession, this time making tears dwell in YOUR eyes:

“I forgot one friend,” she says. “I thought it was five of them, but there is one more, and she already gave me a present.”

I will not share what thought went through my head just then. I admit that I was ready to go through my toiletries and find a gently used lip gloss and nail polish or whatever it took and repackage it as new to come up with the missing present. I even contemplated ransacking the Advent calendar in hopes of finding something useful there. But in the end I capitulated. Because who can resist this lower lip?

Needless to say, I volunteered to go back to the mall the next morning to buy the missing sanitizer in time for her class party, even though it kills me to drive 40 minutes roundtrip for a $1 item. I found out the mall only opens at 10 am. I decided to kill the extra hour by going to Old Navy for another present I still needed. They didn’t have it, so I went to Dicks Sporting Goods. Found what I wanted at Dicks’ but it was less than $50, and I’d be damned if I was going to walk out of there without using my $10 off for anything over $50 coupon. Wracked my brain about what else I might need and settled on a new tennis skirt. Tried on five different tennis skirts. Was then late for mall opening. Was seen running a mile from the remotest parking lot, in the rain which by now had started falling. Dodged all the people in the food court offering free samples of Bourbon Chicken and the Israeli guys with the dead sea lotions who I swear must be former (or current) Mossad agents they are so aggressive. Made a beeline for Bath and Body Works yet again, bought another five hand sanitizers – of course, because they were 5 for $5 – and ran all the way back to my car. Got a phone call on a school phone from a distraught Sunshine, new tears choked back, to inquire why I wasn’t at the class party at 10:00 as promised. Screeched into the school parking lot – illegally into a one-way lane because a police car was blocking the entrance to keep late arrivers out – and ran all the way to the classroom where the party was being wound up. Immediately felt guilty because some mother had thought up the cutest and most adorable crafts, for which I now vaguely remembered I had days ago deleted an email encouraging me to commit to supplies through signup genius (can I just say here that in the days when my OLDEST child was in elementary school I did my share of class-party-organizing and supply-buying?)


Whew! I’m exhausted just typing it all. I never saw the girl the gift was for, on whose behalf I had labored so very hard. But she better LOVE her gift. Which has so much spirit of Christmas in it.

Share this: