Dec 14, 2007

The House without a Christmas

It's hard to believe that it's almost Christmas. You'd never know it in our house. No nativity scene on the mantel, no Christmas Tree, no ornaments, no wreath on the door, no tacky white deer turning his head blandly this way then that in our front yard, no oversized nylon Santa-shell waiting to be plumped up with wrapping paper, no stockings, no nothing. We completely blew it. The only sign that anything out of the ordinary is going on is the smattering of Christmas cards taped to our parlour doors-but without all the other accoutrements of the holidays-to-be they just look like the doors usually do in January, when we've taken everything else away but haven't yet had the heart to remove these pictures of the children of far-flung family and friends.

Pitiful, I know.

Growing up you could spot the holidays coming from weeks away. Easter was a house-full of hard-boiled eggs and vinegar smells, or sticky turkey skewers lying around from the blown-eggs we were going to decorate and hang from an egg tree. Little vignettes of bunnies hauling eggs or of chicks in easter bonnets nestled in plastic grass covered our end tables. And my mom didn't have to run out to Duane Reade to buy new Easter Baskets every year, since they had their own shelf in her holiday closet.

You knew the fourth of July was coming when the red, white, and blue crepe paper arrived, so we could start to decorate our bikes for the local parade, and when the sugary smell of my mom's flag cake (a long rectangle of artfully dyed cake arranged so that every single slice contained a complete American flag-yes, really) filled the kitchen.

Even Thanksgiving, which is usually a day-of kind of holiday, meant a wicker cornucopia of gourds and Indian corn as a centerpiece for our kitchen table and a smattering of pilgrim figurines on the fireplace.

Of course I grew up in Who-ville, a town with a three-story high Christmas Tree, full of colored lights that could be seen from miles away, caroling parties, and elementary schools that basically turned us kids into holiday-decoration-generating machines. The homework one year was finding as many words as we could from the phrase Merry Christmas. Just try that one in a public school in Brooklyn-one that doesn't even make a big deal out of birthdays lest they offend any of the Jehovah's Witnesses in the building.

True, it was a simpler time. My parents weren't crawling into bed at 9:15 exhausted from hour-long commutes. And getting to the Holiday decorations in the basement didn't require tiptoeing through a tenant's apartment.

But I'm feeling pretty bad about it.

Of course, there's a 'reason' for all of this Christmaslessness (full disclosure: finding 'reasons' for my bad behavior is a talent of mine). Way back in March it seemed like a great idea to plan a Hawaii vacation. I got caught up in thinking that Hawaii is so far away it would only make sense to go if we could go for two whole weeks, and since no one joneses for tropical weather in the summertime, I had to figure out which week of school butting up against a school-break is the most disposable. So I cashed in all of my membership rewards points and bought tickets to Hawaii-the kids'll miss the low-academic week of school before winter break, we'll stay with a friend in Maui for a week, see cousins in Honolulu. Mele Kalikimaka. A no brainer.

So we planned it back in March, and rested on it all year long, anticipating our new improved Christmas-on-the-go. What a great way to do Christmas. We were going to take it on the road, have a free-wheeling time with friends. Perfect.

And then came the details. To haul all the gifts over there or not? To only give small disposable things or to go whole-hog? To load up on 99c store items for stockings HERE in Brooklyn-99c store mecca-OR see if they have them over there? To bring gifts for all of the people we'll see over there? Or not to busy ourselves worrying about gifting cousins we never acknowledge at holiday time? To cart along an extra empty bag for bringing stuff home? Or to deal with shipping things from Hawaii? To have Amazon do free-super saver shipping and mail stuff there? Or pay more for two day shipping and send everything here? To bring real New York-city style foods with us to the islanders out there? Or to just bring our own New-Yorky selves?

Untangling 50 yards of Christmas lights would seem a bit like fiddling while Rome burns, given the scope of all these other preparations. Digging out the North Pole sign instead of digging out the bathing suits? Hauling home a wreath instead of running out for snorkel gear? Urging the kids along with their advent calendars instead of encouraging them to sort through what to bring in their carry-ons?

I had hoped that this trip would simplify Christmas, instead of erasing it. We wouldn't be tempted to go overboard with gifts since one of the major gifts would be the trip itself (sounded really convincing in March, but doesn't seem so sound in the face of all the commercials being forcefed to my kids courtesy of Nickelodeon and Disney). At this point though the only big day I'm fretting over is the travel day (a 5:30 am flight from Philly connecting through Dallas also seemed like a good idea back in March).

The friend we're staying with assures us that her halls are decked and I'm certain that Maui will be merry. But I worry that I'll always look back at this month and wonder why we didn't see fit to do any decorating at home.

And while I know the experience will be magical in many ways, it's hard to forgive the fact that we didn't put an ounce of magic into the every-day part leading up to the trip. I'm only realizing now that all those weeks of pine-scented twinkling-tree blinking-yard anticipation just might be the most exciting part of Christmas day.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"The friend we're staying with assures us that her halls are decked and I'm certain that Maui will be merry" ...did I lie?? Come loved all the snowmen!! ~;-)