Christmas cheer, but no vacation

I never understood why they called it a Christmas vacation when I was working so hard to make it “nice.”

My heyday of Christmas preparations was the Christmas after I said, “I do,” to the husband. I had forgotten to ask him how many kinfolk he had that needed wrapped presents.

I’ve said I went from a one tuna fish can to three tuna fish cans just by saying, “I do.” Substitute four presents for 15 presents.

Granted, I knew he had sisters and children but in the haze of love, I never counted. I had to list them at Christmas not to miss a sainted sister or son.

My own family with sainted aunts and cousins had to be added, then my two children, his friends, and my friends.

Fortunately, I was younger and full of cheer then; at least I tried to be cheerful with yards and yards of wrapping paper, spools of ribbons, and the presents that seemed to mount to the sky.

I never complained after that year because I began to love all those sisters and sons, and continued to love all those sainted aunts left in Mississippi. Was that a Christmas holiday? I wonder.

My Christmas holiday might just be a holiday this year. We have lost many of the sainted sisters and dear aunts, and I would have them all back with all their presents to wrap in a New York minute, if I could.

Now, I send gift cards to grandchildren and sons and daughter-in-laws, and, I’m going sustainable for those friends here.

Besides the sing-a-longs, plays, exhibits and tree lighting, I plan on lolling a lot, reading books and if a bridge game looms large, I will deal. Mother Safeway will furnish the turkey dinner, which will be the one tuna fish can rather than the three cans of a younger age.

The question is: Will going to events, lolling and playing bridge be enough?

Probably not, for although I once stewed and whined in stores and the post office, there was a certain spirit about it all.

It was a holiday ritual to grouse in the post office when the line ran to the front door. Few admitted that toting gifts back to cars was fun. More moans were heard that ho-hos. Did I mention the groceries that arrived hourly to be put away, cooked, and then leftovers tossed? I meant to.

How hard I worked for cheer back then.

Do I grow wistful for those exciting and exhausting days? Probably.

Dreams, oh, how I yearn for Christmas dreams! The starry nights of Christmas Eve that promised an exhausted Santa. The early morning shouts of children and the soft bed that welcomed me on Christmas night.

This past week, as I mused over a cup of decaf coffee and watched the parents of small children rushing about with worried looks, I knew exactly how they felt. I could almost see the lists driving them from store to store, grappling with purchases, quieting crabby children and, at the same time, planning a “nice” holiday.

A twinge of regret arrived and departed quickly. I bought a forbidden cookie.

I ate slowly, for I’m not to eat cookies, and considered how I should acquire the Christmas Spirit, for that is what I missed.

Should I join the line at the post office for an afternoon and pretend to mail my many packages? Or, should I make a list, no five lists, and put them on the refrigerator door and gaze at them with affectionate longing?

Or, should I just have another cup of decaf coffee, buy a second cookie and toast the season.

“This is the beginning of my Christmas holiday,” I will announce.

Sally Robison is a Winslow artist and the author of “The Permanent Guest’s Guide to Bainbridge Island.”

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