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First Chapters

Lifestyles: Getting Ready For Christmas

Holidays Without the Hassle
Margaret B. Davidson

survived last year’s holiday season -- barely. January 2nd found me frazzled, five pounds heavier, and no longer on speaking terms with Aunt Rita’s entire family. Exhausted, I’d slumped into a chair and listlessly thumbed through the November issue of Better Housekeeping.
Hmm, "Ten Ideas for Remaining Stress-Free Throughout the Holidays Season." A bit late for that.

Turning to the next page I found, "Fifty Ways to Slim Down Without Feeling Hungry." Yeah, right. Still, I tore the leaf from the magazine and attached it to the refrigerator door with a pink plastic magnet in the shape of a pig.

Many months later I admitted to myself that "Fifty Ways to Slim Down Without Feeling Hungry" was more annoying than inspiring. About to throw the offending article into the trash, I turned it over and once more encountered the instructions for remaining sane during the holidays. I read them.
As suggested in Phase I, I made lists: lists of cards; lists of gifts; lists of things to do; lists of when to do them. I made lists of when to make lists. Was this really I, being this organized? Was this really I, feeling so in control?

I proceeded to Phase II. Fortunately I’d plenty of unused Christmas cards. In past years I’d never been organized enough to know how many I’d need so had always overbought. I had cards that were printed in 1966, but who was going to turn one over and inspect the back? I spent September writing cards -- and stuffed none of the envelopes with those irritating brag sheets either. No, real individualized notes were written painstakingly inside each and every card. And I enjoyed the process. Sure I did. Well, it was better than having to finish up writing Christmas cards in January like usually happened. Wasn’t it?
Next the gift shopping -- all completed by the end of October. Wonderful. Bargains galore, and no crowds to contend with. Heck, not even any Christmas decorations in evidence yet. Just ghosts and goblins for Halloween. Great!

Holiday recipes selected, arranged in order of when needed. Schedule of when to cook what: fruitcakes in November; cookies beginning of December – to be stored in freezer. Party invitations all accepted and neatly written on calendar. Mustn’t miss any – that would show poor Christmas spirit. Allot one hour for each open house, and two hours, three max, for a dinner party.
Now it’s the middle of December and I’m done with it all, still with time to spare.

But what’s wrong?
I’m depressed is what’s wrong.
Everything organized, no last minute panic, no wondering what to cook, what to wear. Nothing. Nothing at all. The hassle isn’t here this year. Unfortunately neither is the Christmas spirit.

And I’ve just discovered I’ve gone and mailed Aunt Rita’s Christmas card. Trouble is, Aunt Rita died in November, and I forgot to remove her card from the ‘to be mailed’ pile. I’ll explain to her family about how I wrote all the cards in September, but I doubt they’ll understand. Especially the part where I inquire as to the state of Aunt Rita’s health.

© Margaret B. Davidson October 2003

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