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Chatterbox: Trim more than the tree


I just glanced at my calendar to start my day and realized I have one more week than I thought before Christmas arrives. Oh, yay. Just like that, I got one week younger and seven extra days to do all the things I can’t possibly finish even with the extra week, but I will happily take it.

This time of year is nuts. I went into a small, local store yesterday and found four people waiting at the register. The service was fast and friendly as usual (remember to shop locally) but on Sunday morning, a line was surprising. ‘Tis the season, and it will get worse before it gets better. It’s the reason some of us secretly wish for a blizzard- or three – after the holidays, just to slow things down.

Every year, as most of us do, I plan. I always believe I will bake early, shop early, and wrap early, but it never happens. Then, I make that same promise to myself, with great optimism, for the following year. Many of us do. So, why do we find ourselves, Dec. 12 through 24 hurriedly franticizing … yes, franticizing … over the what for who, the who for when, and Who’s on First?

Sure, it’s the buzz that makes it fun, but too much of it can make us wish for Santa to skip dropping off presents and just take us away instead. Personally, I take more aspirin during December than any other time of the year.

This past weekend, we were invited to a small gathering of a group of childhood friends who never lost touch with one another. It was awesome. The men of all four couples grew up together and the wives all know each other for decades. My crazy friend, the hostess, is one of three people I know who all decorate as much as I do … ahem, as I did, until this year. It was lovely. The lawn, the lights, the walls, the tree, and every accoutrement, down to the napkin holder, made everything jolly and bright, but so much work, so much time … and, then, it all has to go back to the attic.

Last Feb. 14, we talked here at Chatterbox about my losing my vanity, finally wearing my age and my body comfortably. By no means does it mean I wouldn’t love to be 8 years old again and know what I know now. It just means that there’s a time when we can simply recognize what is no more but be grateful we had it; there are far worse scenarios for much of the world, every day.

The same thing can go for decorating and the crush of this frantic month. In Chatterbox Jan. 3 of this year, we talked about rolling back the optional obligations of the holiday and how, last year, I decided to trim back my trimmings.

There were homes prior to this one which I decorated but, here, I decorated seven rooms downstairs, one upstairs, 360 degrees, top to bottom, for 33 Christmases. With the Christmas music invoking the mood, I loved every minute. Sometimes, I would luck out and get a lovely, soft, snowfall to finish out my Hallmark Moment. It was fun, but it became exhausting. When I decided to pare down, I thought I’d change my mind as the holiday approached again. Um, yeah… no. I’m still delighted.

To boot, for next year, I called a moratorium on the buzz that leaves us buzzing. No one wants to be a Scrooge but, especially as we get older, rolling it back a notch or two isn’t a bad idea, and trimming the festivities ironically makes it easier to keep the “happy” in Happy Holidays.

We can all, at any time we want, focus on easing up on our festivities. We can give ourselves permission and find comfort in any new holiday patterns we like yet still celebrate with love, generosity and altruism. There will always be gatherings, some shopping, visits, and our holiday itself, not to mention the never-ending dizziness of our daily life, but we can all apply some brakes to whatever hyper-activity we control, instead of having too much stress to address.

Soon enough, January comes with some stillness and quiet. Then February, with a snowstorm or two … inconvenient, but halting time for a precious moment so we have a guilt-free pajama day and maybe even do some no-pressure baking with the wee ones that we may have opted to postpone. It’s sweet R & R after the rush.