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Almost Canceled Christmas

December 27, 2015

There’s a lot to be said, really, for being utterly broke during Christmas.  Not broke as in, “Gee, I guess we have to pass on Colorado this year and go see the grandparents in San Francisco instead,” but broke as in, “Gee, I guess a tree just isn’t in the budget this year.”   Truth told, it’s kind of liberating in a way, coming that close to completely canceling Christmas.

For example:

  • Aside from dropping off and picking up my daughter at work, I haven’t been within five blocks of a mall since September.
  • Target, same thing.  I go at 8 a.m. on weekdays for cat litter and toilet paper, missing the whoop-dee-doo and hickory dock entirely.
  • As of Christmas Eve, there were still about a dozen boxes of decorations sitting unopened in a neat stack in the mud room. Normally they’d have been emptied and their contents decking every room in the house by December 1.  I didn’t deck the halls, so my January 6th will be a lot easier than usual.
  • I know for a fact that there is no more “stuff” in my house than there was the day after Thanksgiving, stuff designed to remind that it’s the thought that counts. Not that I dislike getting gifts, but the truth is I’ve gotten, and given, a lot of thoughtless gifts over time.
  • Along those lines, my wrapping paper budget is zero this year.
  • Finally, I’m reminded again of what amazing young women I’ve raised.  We talked weeks ago about our situation and economic reality, leading to the fact that there’d be nothing under the tree this year; no tree for that matter. Both reacted with, “Meh, at least we have a roof over our heads and food in the fridge.”

I’d love to say that, through all this, I learned the True Meaning of Christmas, but that’s not the case.  We did not live through a Hallmark Channel Movie, did not sit around by candle light telling each other what our family means to us, God forbid, we did not return to church!  There was no midnight mass where a chorus of archangels came to my little family, illuminating our souls and opening our hearts to the infinite possibilities promised by the birth of a fictional baby 2015 years ago. It was just Friday, December 25th.  Dinner at some friends’ house and lots and lots of beers.

We did experience a couple of flashes – don’t get me wrong, I didn’t go full Grinch this year.

As mentioned, shelling out $50 or 60 for a moderate tree was not reasonable, but I did have a small artificial one. It’s throwback to a smaller house and a time when we never stayed home for the holidays but wanted to have SOMETHING up.  I finally caved about a week before Christmas and set the tree up, ghosts of past years’ tinsel clinging to the plasticized pine needles, but couldn’t bear to decorate it so it’d sat unlit and unadorned in the front window.  On the 24th, my older daughter was bored and looking for something to do, so I halfheartedly suggested that she invite her posse over to trim the tree. She got an odd look on her face as though she couldn’t decided if the idea was ridiculously dull, ridiculously sublime, or just rodiculous. She made a couple of calls, asked, “Can we drink while we do it?” and before I knew it, we were overrun with 21-year olds giggling like cartoon mice at my family’s collected ornaments. Virtually all of the ones the girls had made in elementary school went up.  The store-bought, shiny, perfect ones stayed in the box for another year and a different kind of tree.  Maybe.

On top of that, friends who know our circumstances have been perfect friends about it. A Target gift card here, Trader Joe’s there, have meant so much more than a necklace I’d only wear on New Years’ Eve or an overpriced bottle of wine, regardless how tasty. I appreciate their effort that that takes- people thinking good thoughts, thereby giving good gifts.

So, here I sit. Christmas is two days past and 364 days away (leap year, people). I have no idea where we’ll be a year from now – hopefully in this same house with a little more to celebrate than 2015 brought – but regardless, I know we can handle it.

And get a load of those faces! tree.jpg

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