A Complicated Christmas

For the past week and a half, I have been on vacation. To some people, vacation means relaxation, an experience that may include sand between the toes or late nights laughing with friends. These people clearly do not have a List.

I took my vacation two weeks before Christmas for the express purpose of getting all that Christmas stuff done in a calm and easygoing manner. The first day of vacation, I sat with my coffee and crafted the List, a massive tome that blanketed two pages, tasks ranging from Clean Out Attic to Jan Present!!! Nothing on the list was quick or easy. Everything on the list practically required its own list to complete. The first day of vacation, and the List was already snapping the ball and chain around my ankle and testing the heft of its whip.

I see now I was far too proud. I took the List into the arena of daily life and wrestled it for six days and nights. I was like Jacob with his Angel, except unfortunately for me, I lost. Oh, I tried. I sent cards, went shopping, baked chocolate zucchini bread, ate chocolate zucchini bread in a pique of stress, added zucchini bread back on the list. I wrapped, ribboned, stamped, stood in line, scrubbed the orange ring out of the bathtub, bleached the diaper pail and sorted the neverending range of kids clothes, which constantly shift from Too Big to Just Right to That Was Right Last Month But Not Now. And I crossed, crossed, crossed off my list. I slashed at that list like Zorro.

Then our new cat, Sugar Ray Leonard, was discovered to our horror to be the host of a tapeworm. The speedy resolution of this matter required a trip to the vet. My poor beleagured husband made the mistake of asking if I could go.

Could I go? Could I go??? Had he seen my list? Didn't he realize I had been working on this list for a week and had gotten nowhere? This last bit was delivered with List in hand for emphasis, waving like a stock market ticket. I was wild-eyed, wild-haired, still in my pajamas at midday. He kindly asked if maybe he could help. No, he couldn't help! It was my list! Mine!

I was a little bit like poor Frodo, becoming entangled in the very thing he was trying to destroy. I was over the edge.

Last year I did a much better job of having a Simple Christmas. I didn't go completely nuts. This year, I don't know what the hell happened, but no Christmas is worth shouting at your husband and children because you're totally frazzled about where to buy discount ribbon. It just doesn't pay off.

To his credit, Scott ignored the ravings of a madwoman and located many things on the list he could do--then he did them. He also gently guided me to cross some totally irrelevant things off such as Take Camera to Shop (it's been broken for half a year) and Scrub Walls (no one's noticed for five years, why is this week any different?). Then I ran in circles for another day or two until I finally came down from my adrenaline high and saw how ridiculous all this is.

So here's the good word: if I forgot you, if you didn't get a hand-stamped card or a tasteful gift, well, I'm sorry. The List-Making Martha Stewart in me finally got trounced by the more practical Roseanne Arnold. Martha can tuck that list where the sun don't shine.

I did go back today, just to peek. Seems like I actually did get just about everything done, but without wreaking havoc or causing my family to plot against me. Then I put the list away, and went back to playing with my kids.

That's what Christmas is really about, right? Love and joy and family. Who cares about ribbons?

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