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Lifestyle, Opinion

Charles: Pausing the panic button

I’ve decided that I’m not going to panic this Christmas season.

This is the first full week of December and conventional wisdom says now is the time for all good shoppers to start the frenzied tear-out-the-hair, who-have-I-forgotten portion of our holiday season.

Not me.

It’s well-established how much I hate shopping. Going out with my daughter on Black Friday was a demonstration of love that she will never appreciate. Of course, the only person we’re shopping for is her; she is the receiver, I am the ATM.

Another day of shopping that first weekend with the other ATM I married produced more of the same: shoes she just had to have (sneakers no less) and a Patriots winter hat so she could represent when she went back to school.

As for my shopping list? I have none.

I have friends who start shopping around August, have everything wrapped and hidden by October, decorate their houses by Black Friday and have their Christmas cards arriving to your mailbox by Dec. 1.

Again, not me.

I got away with not decorating at all for two years when we traveled to my childhood home for the holidays. I threw a plastic wreath on the door and called it a day. It was wonderful when it was time to de-Christmas-ize the house after New Year’s. I just took the wreath off the door and threw it back in the closet.

In years past, I would vow to get the tree up and trimmed the day after Thanksgiving (it never happened). Yes, we have an artificial tree — I find nothing sadder than abandoned “real trees” after the holidays — but this tree is a project of nine rows of color-coded branches. There is never that movie moment where our family puts the tree together and trims it while laughing, eating popcorn, and singing Christmas carols. In my house it’s me putting the darn thing together alone, grumbling all the way that no one helps and I’m not doing this again, and being snarky when husband and daughter compliment on how nice the tree and house looks after I did all the work. A nice cup of martyrdom for me.

And Christmas cards? I get them out about every other year. I’ve had store bought and I’ve had custom made. Trouble is, custom made means you have to plan for earlier than two days before you want to send them out, or the prices are ghastly. My favorite one was after we went to Washington, D.C., and took pictures at a facade of the Oval Office with our daughter sitting at the presidential desk. The message: Happy Holidays from the Future Leader of the free world — and her parents. I was particularly proud of that one.

Now we never have the time to sit for a nice portrait with an eye toward Christmas cards. A hurried selfie at the airport is the best we can do for family portraits these days. Since I didn’t get cards out last year, this is the year I’m supposed to make an effort. But, no, I’m not going to panic. I’ll catch the store ones when they’re marked down and set them aside for next year. Maybe I’ll even address them and put them in the mail next Thanksgiving and fool my friends into thinking I’m one of those organized people (feel free to steal my idea).

And shopping for family isn’t going to stress me out this year either. All the children in the family are pretty much grown, so the only things they really could use are pictures of dead presidents. Or gift cards. Even the most expensive spawn of the 21st century (mine) only wants money. Not great for the optics under the tree, but shopping for it keeps me out of the mall.

One of my sisters busily bakes and sends out treats every year, shops for everyone in my family (including the dog), and sends out wrapped gifts that arrive even before snarky resentful mom has put the tree up. She also sends out Christmas cards with a detailed newsletter in each one. I applaud her, but I won’t compete in a game I do not wish to play. I’ll send her a couple of gift cards (she and I both have birthdays during the holiday season), and pronounce my shopping for her family all done. One exception, I will crochet and send her a baby blanket for her newest grandchild that she will get to visit next year.

And even though I sound like Scrooge, I actually love Christmas. Years ago we used to host Christmas and I loved it. We had it catered (because I know my limitations and wanted to enjoy my guests) and we had a great time with a lot of people in our little crackerbox house. But circumstances have changed and even though I would love to host again, others have stepped in to take up that honor. So I take a couple of dishes and dessert and stop worrying about all the junk hidden under tables and in my closets.

It’s a couple more weeks before many of us will be permanently scarred from shopping mall nightmares, packages that won’t arrive before the holiday, overextended credit cards even as we’re still needing to get a few more things, and snatching someone bald-headed over parking spaces stolen or other vehicular offenses.

Not me.

I may, or may not, put my tree up this week — or next. I may, or may not, stroll through Target looking for last-minute stocking stuffers around Dec. 24. I will show up at my in-laws’ with a homemade pie that takes about 10 minutes to make and be hailed as a hero.

I’m not going to panic if everything doesn’t get done. In fact, I think I’ll go take a nap so I can be refreshed for the big day.

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