Every year just before Christmas, I find myself among those who wonder where all the time went.
Can it be that this particular day is here already? Wasn’t it just yesterday that we were handing out candy to kids dressed in costumes? Didn’t we just now toss out the last of the leftover turkey from Thanksgiving?
But calendars don’t lie. No, those door-to-door treat beggars came and went nearly two months ago.
In regard to Thanksgiving, however, I did just recently toss out the rest of the turkey, mostly because I kept forgetting to do it earlier despite gentle reminders from my wife, such as the observation that the turkey — declucked, plucked and smoked — was unlikely to fly away of its own volition and neatly deposit itself into the garbage can.
My argument was that any turkey worth its wattle should, at the very least, have the capacity.
That opinion became stronger, primarily on days when I didn’t want to deal with turkey dispossession and despite my intimate familiarity with the particularly instructive episode of the sitcom WKRP in which it was made abundantly clear that even live turkeys couldn’t fly despite being given the substantial advantage of elevation by helicopter.
In any event, for a day that is awaited anxiously by children and adults alike, and despite the fact that on many calendars it is marked with bright red numerals indicating its significance, and despite the fact that stores begin pushing Christmas merchandise as soon as the back-to-school sales end, Christmas has a maddening proclivity for sneaking up on a person and arriving at a time that isn’t all that convenient.
Regardless of when Dec. 25 arrives, we could have used a few more days — a few more weeks, really — to get everything just so.
After all, we want the perfect Christmas every year. We want cold weather, warm hearts, fun festivities and bright lights to scare away the dark nights that come earlier and last longer. We want to find the perfect gifts, write the perfect sentiments on Christmas cards and have everything come together like a perfect scene from a Currier and Ives print, which, I must admit, I don’t know that I’ve ever actually seen, but have feverishly struggled to emulate all the same. On principle, I suppose.
By the way, for those who normally — and I use the term “normally” in its broadest and most generous sense, given my spotty record in this particular area — receive Christmas cards from us, this year’s cards have been repurposed for the 2014 Christmas season on account of I accidentally misplaced them and only came across them when I moved the turkey platter from the fridge. There’s a logical and justifiable reason for storing Christmas cards in a refrigerator beneath a turkey platter. I am sure of that. But since none come immediately to mind, we’d all, I think, do better to simply accept the fact and move on, so as to avoid undue stagnation of thought.
It might do us some good to accept some other things as well. We live in the South. It’s just not going to get that cold, much less snow at Christmas.
The act of exchanging presents is pleasant, but it’s also stressful. Finding the perfect gift may not be impossible, but it is certainly improbable. And as much as we want to be warmhearted and loving, somebody’s going to have a bad day sooner or later.
When you think about it, what do you really remember about the Christmases of the past that you cherish? The bicycle you got? The stereo? The video-game system? The electronic tablet? The remote-controlled cars and airplanes? The train set?
My guess is you remember being with loved ones. Most of us, if we’re honest, would admit that when we really want something, we go get it. If a gift has a special meaning, it’s not intrinsic to the gift itself. The real value, regardless of the monetary cost of the present, comes from the one who gave it to you.
Memories of the ones we love, the ones we shared our lives with, are what we remember about the holidays as the years pass. Diamonds can’t sparkle as brightly as the light that dances in the eyes of a spouse, mother, father, child, grandchild, sibling or someone else you love on Christmas Day.
Those Christmases we remember were not perfect, not by a long shot. There were disappointments, stress, anxiety and everything else that we feel today. But that part is wiped away, flooded from our minds by memories that we hold dear.
There was only one Christmas that ever could be argued to be perfect. The first one. None will ever hope to compete with it.
No matter how hard we work at it, we’re going to fall short. Way short.
Nobody will go into the Great Hereafter wishing that he or she spent more time shopping for the “perfect” gift. But we very may wish that we had spent some of those evenings instead with the ones we love.
And today of all days, just being with those you care about should be more than enough.
Email Jim Hendricks at firstname.lastname@example.org.