I’m beginning to understand why my family ran through the Burger King drive-through in a Christmas Eve snowstorm when I was 10 years old. And why we now order Chinese take-out every year before the Big Day.
I’m 28 years old: still stuck somewhere between wanting to be a kid who can enjoy all the glitter and gold, and wanting to be the perfect hostess, cookies all made, food freshly prepared, presents handmade and wrapped. This makes the holidays HARD, y’all – and apparently this is something I’m just now discovering.
For whatever reason, I decided THIS was the year we needed to do all the things: the cookies, the gifts, the Christmas cards, the handmade decorations, and a small little party with friends for which I’d cook all the food. I WANTED to do it. I still want to do it. But now that I’m facing reality, I’m figuring out I may have overestimated my abilities AND my available time. Frankly, I’m overwhelmed.
So I decided to make an Advent Calendar. One in which every day would involve some sort of festive activity – whether that was cutting down the tree, watching “The Holiday,” or baking one of seven different kinds of cookies. That way I could have my perfect Christmas AND share it, too. I found the perfect piece on Wayfair for just $29.99 – all I had to do was fill it.
The initial premise of this Advent Calendar was simple: each day would take care of one of the many to-dos on my list before I had the chance to forget about them. Each would be written on a little strip of paper and would be set into its individual compartment with a couple pieces of candy. A new tradition! I figured I could rest in peace knowing that every day was already planned out in advance and nothing would be forgotten. Each day’s plan tried its best to keep in mind previously-established obligations, travel arrangements, and heavy traffic times. Needless to say, I spent a LOT of time making lists, drawing arrows, and crossing things out to add new details.
As I was going through all this, I realized I was trying to avoid the stress of the holidays by planning every event and person into submission. But it was the very act of planning every detail so minutely that made this solution a stressor all its own. Plans were changed day after day as new details emerged about our December activities and events had to be shifted left and right.
So I worried myself into a face full of bumpy acne that I’ve never experienced before and decided to forgo the homemade pizza on tree night (scheduled for the Sunday after leading a 24 hr poetry retreat and welcoming our first resident writer) for something frozen instead.
And you know what? It was okay. It was delicious.
(And my skin was clear.)
Learning to “relax” my grand plans has been a relief.
Because come December 25, none of us are going to remember if we made the pizza on the 2nd from scratch or bought it at Aldi. In fact, we probably won’t even remember we ate it.
What we will remember and appreciate is the fact that we were together. That we cut down our own tree in one of the horse pastures and drug it back home in the dark and decorated it with a felted wool garland that I sewed together myself. That we finally saw the lights at Opryland and conveniently missed the anticipated hours’ worth of traffic to get there. That we found a Christmas cassette of Bing Crosby and listened to it in the 1988 7-series BMW that Webb brought back to life this year. Oh, and remember that time we had to run and push that BMW down 5th Ave in Franklin after the Tree Lighting to get it started? That was real.
Already ten days in, we’ve experienced some hits and misses. But it’s fine. Now that every last piece of paper has been inserted into its proper compartment, now that I can’t change the days, I’m just going with the flow. What’s meant to be will be and what doesn’t really matter will either happen or it will not. I’ve given up on trying to make everything a surprise – sometimes I need help shopping and planning. Sometimes I just need a shoulder to relax on. But whatever the case, I’ve tried to make this the best Christmas I can. And I’ve made someone smile by the sheer act of trying to brighten their day with a little piece of paper and two pieces of chocolate. And that? It’s totally worth it.