It's kind of a bogus rationalization, though, I admit that. We've done very little in the way of preparing for Christmas around our house as of yet. I was fully prepared to put up the lights on the outside of the house some time over Thanksgiving weekend, but my wife decided that this year we would get new lights to change things up a bit, and those have yet to be acquired, thus the exterior doorframes and eaves remain unlit. We'll probably end up getting them this weekend, along with our tree, and then the decorations for inside the house can be brought out along with the ornaments, and we'll be festively decking the halls.
I did, for what it's worth, decorate my cubicle at work yesterday, which consisted of pulling out the little silver pipe cleaner Christmas tree that lives in one of my desk drawers and putting it up on top of my file cabinet, along with a nutcracker ornament that was a giveaway at an office holiday party last year. Every year I tell myself I'm going to do something with a bit more personality, like setting up a battle scene between little green ninjas and little red ninjas (by repainting little ninja toys from my various minigame collections that I no longer have time to organize gaming sessions for), but it has yet to come together. When and if it ever does, I will crow about it here, you can be sure.
We also haven't technically started running the long marathon of holiday open-houses, cookie swaps and other social engagements; that all commences tomorrow. Still something about the flipping of the calendar to December, and knowing how busy the month will become, kind of casts a certain weight over every single day. I have not suddenly stopped loving Christmas, at all, I hasten to add. It remains one of my favorite times of the year. But as those years go by I find more and more mental energy being expended on keeping up with everything, especially making sure (to whatever extent it's actually possibly to ensure) that it's a magical season for our kids full of memories they will cherish forever. Yeah, that sounds pretty ridiculously cheesy when I spell it out like that, but I can't deny it. I am a fairly cheesy softie (mmmmmm, soft cheese) anyway and I give myself extra license to indulge in that kind of thinking at Christmas.
In fact the lone concession we have made to the onset of Christmas season is that the Elf on the Shelf arrived promptly on December 1st. The only real parental Christmas responsibility I've had to bear this week is making sure to move the pixie-snitch around every night before I go to sleep, so that even if one of the kids surprises us by waking up at 4:55 a.m., the hide-and-seek game proceeds as expected. Five nights. I think I've forgotten twice already, but luckily managed both times to move the elf doll in the morning before anybody else arose to notice. I've also burned through all the good perches already, and have seriously considered creating a spreadsheet of locations so that I can brainstorm all at once and then not have to think on my feet about whether or not I'm repeating a spot from earlier in the month. Much as I love being a dad and I love Christmas, this strikes me as deeply weird, thus said spreadsheet remains purely theoretical. For now.
The most troubling realization I've had about the standard sorry-but-things-have-been-crazy-with-Christmas-blah-blah-blah handwaving is the fact that I reflexively project it onto my kids, as well. The little guy continues to have good and bad days at school, sometimes he does his work and even helps his classmates, and sometimes he's just distraction incarnate. He had a particularly rough day the other day, rough enough to get a note sent home from the teacher, and in my head I was arguing with the teacher that maybe she should go a little easy on the kid because, come on, it's Christmas and you've got to expect the normal kids to be a little hyper and the hyper kids to be yi-i-i-ikes. And then it hit me that it was still the middle of the first week of December so what I was really doing, in my little theater of the mind, was asking the poor woman to write off an entire month of the year. And I know that's not exactly fair. Yes, my kids have already watched the animated Grinch once and they've drawn up their Christmas wishlists (ok, fine, we have made multiple concessions to Christmastime) but just because those things make me feel like I can't handle basic continuity of operations, like throwing together a freaking blog post once or twice a week, due to the gravitational pull of Saturnalia, doesn't mean I should pass that particular attitude down to my little ones. So, I am resolved to try to get it together and keep it that way as long as possible. Wish me luck.
Speaking of Christmas wishlists, another phenomenon that grows more pronounced with each passing year is how difficult it is to get good gifts for other adults who ostensibly have everything they need and tend to go ahead and get themselves things they want. It's even gotten to the point where I feel myself becoming harder and harder to shop for. Don't get me wrong, I still maintain an insanely robust Amazon wishlist of my own, but it tends to be fairly same-y, just a mile-long list of books I would read and movies or tv series I would watch if I had unlimited free time. I'm perfectly happy to continue to receive those books and DVDs, but I concede it lacks a certain pleasing variety.
In all seriousness, though, I've identified what my two favorite material possessions are. Sometimes knowing that about a person can help you determine what other kinds of things they'd be into, but I don't know how well that would translate for me. In non-ranked order, the first item is my grill. As always, I plan to serve my family grilled meat for dinner at least once a week or so straight through the winter, come rain or snow or threat of ice tornadoes (actual tornadoes may void this pledge). My grill is kind of beat up and unimpressive, but I love it so much. I would be crushed if it suddenly and inexplicably disappeared. Of course it could be replaced, but I would miss it all the same.
The second item is a bookmark that the little guy made for me towards the end of kindergarten, for Fathers' Day. It is a laminated strip of paper cut into the shape of a necktie (as about 95% of arts and crafts projects with a Fathers' Day slant are) and laminated, although somewhere between safety scissors and plastic coating the little guy decorated it in stripes of alternating blue and green, because blue is his favorite color and green is mine. I guess that's justification enough for having a steady supply of books on hand; as long as I'm in the middle of reading something, I get to see that bookmark and smile every day.