In addition to the shop-bake-decorate-apalooza that has been spawned from the unrecognizable Christmases of yore, I’ve got my son’s college graduation out of town days before Christmas. I can’t imagine the bitter daily life of the pagan who scheduled commencement ceremonies in late-December, but you can bet he’ll be getting coal in his stocking this year and not the clean kind, either.
And I’ve got my house renovation at Level Orange right now. Because I’m not the brightest bulb in the string of lights, I repeated last month’s mistake of scheduling too many things going on at once. Today I had visits from both a roofer and a pair of color consultants, as well as phone convos with a security guy, a window-tinter-putter-onner and a kitchen designer. None of them were willing to help me put up the big wreath out front.
So I’ve been muddling along trying to get holiday tasks done in small snatches. This is no way to run a Christmas operation. I prefer the assembly line method, where you break a job down into small individual mini-tasks and do them one at a time, in proper chronological order. Some years, no matter how I try, I end up doing the exact opposite of that.
Take my Christmas cards. Please, really, take them to the post office for me, I beg you, because I’ve been there four times in the past eight days and my cards still aren’t all mailed. The post office clerks have invited me to their holiday party, I’m there so much. (I’m bringing a cheese ball and spinach dip, if I can get the roofer’s assistant to help me make it.) Not only that, I have no idea to whom I’ve mailed cards. Last Thursday, I sat down and sent Facebook messages to three people, asking them if they received a card from us, because their names were on a sheet of labels that I came across and there were signs that I never printed it out. So the S-through-Wh’s are either going to get one or two cards from us.
If they get two, they’ll wonder why one has a festive return address label that coordinates with the stamp, and the other one has our return address scrawled in a red pen that is running out of ink and a stamp of Althea Gibson playing tennis. Also blood on the envelope from a paper cut on my tongue from licking the envelopes too fast. That’s because the first card was processed at my dining room table when everything as all organized and I sat down to do the cards in a fashion that would make Martha Stewart proud, with holiday jazz on the radio, a red cashmere sweater across my shoulders, and the Christmas village all lit up on the buffet. I had a cup of peppermint tea and I was wearing lipgloss. I was a spokesmodel for how to do Christmas right.
The trouble started when I ran out of return address labels. I forged ahead, making a separate pile of cards that needed them, while I pondered whether I could get another batch sent to me in time. Then I ran out of stamps. I made another pile. Then I added my husband’s work people to our list and ran out of cards. Another new pile and a new card order, this time one where you could actually read our signature and the Christmas letter, explaining who we are, was not necessary for those cards.
When the new cards came in I was feeling ambitious and decided to stuff them into the envelopes while watching The Big Bang Theory reruns one night. But then I didn’t know which envelopes had the cards with a legible signature and which ones had our white name hidden in my white blouse in the photo. The piles were starting to get mixed up about now.
Then I added a couple of updated addresses and my address label sheets got messed up. I couldn’t remember which labels I had printed out, attached and mailed, because in yet another on-the-ball moment I had already made a couple trips to the post office to mail the cards I had done.
At this point, every time I glanced at the dining room table that contained the piles of cards, I was so confused about what I should do next, I walked straight to the kitchen and had a cocktail and four cookies.
Yesterday, my friend Toni answered my note that yes! – she had received a Christmas card from me, meaning that the mystery labels sheet had indeed been mailed out. Then I realized Toni was on my list twice. Another drink, four more cookies. Later that day, my mother-in-law mentioned she got her card and had two letters in her envelope “so if someone didn’t get one, I have theirs.”
Next year, I’m mailing her 200 Christmas letters, along with some label sheets, and suggesting that, hey, if you happened to get any extra letters, could you distribute the extras for me? There’s more than one way to share the love at Christmas.
If you don’t get a holiday card from me this year – and let’s be honest, you probably won’t – let me say now, I hope all of you have a very wonderful holiday, full of friends and people you love, laughs and jokes, cards that made it to their intended destinations, and all-round happiness. See ya next year.