I got some lovely presents for Christmas—among them an i-Phone, the new P.D. James mystery, a totally over-the-top selection of lavender goodies from L’Occitane, a book mark with Jake’s artwork on it, two little balancing toys from Heidi, and a deck of “Go Fish” with art masterpieces on the cards. But the present I felt best about receiving was a trio of rabbits from my nephew Sam and his girlfriend Katie. That is, a trio of rabbits given to Heifer International in my name. I perked right up out of my holiday funk when I opened the envelope.
Rabbits! How excellent! They're so cute—and, as Heifer International so tastefully points out—“have so many offspring, the process of passing on the gift multiplies each gift quickly and helps many other impoverished families better their lives. In fact, thinking about my trio of rabbits somewhere in Africa doing what rabbits do is making me happy right now.
It also makes me happy to think about taking Heidi and Jake to see Jenny dance in “Yuletide” and, later to see “The Lion King,” which they loved. So does thinking about Jake making Darth Vader noises while wearing his Star Wars helmet and Heidi combing her Tini Puppini’s hair. Thinking about our annual Christmas morning brunch (which involves a goofy tradition of tossing leftover waffles and trying to get them into an open car window) always makes me smile.
Mostly, though, I don't like Christmas. I’m not a Christian, and I resent feeling obligated to celebrate the major event of a religion I don’t believe in. I resent even worse feeling obligated to participate in the materialistic frenzy this allegedly religious holiday has become. But the real problem is that Christmas never fails to make me painfully aware of what so many people don’t have—which spirals me into a tangle of guilt, sadness, and regret.
It’s stupid, really. There’s no rational reason for the intensity of this annual decline. Plus, it’s a drag for the people I love and who think Christmas is swell—which you’d think, alone, would make me snap out of it. But, no! It compounds the guilt and makes me even more annoying.
Every end-of-November, I swear I’m not going to let the Christmas season get me down…again. Sometimes I even get a week or so into December before being drawn onto what feels like a treadmill cranked by some malevolent cosmic hand. It gets faster and faster and faster and I get tireder and tireder and tireder and more and more and more depressed until finally…it’s over.
Which it is! Woo-hoo! I can breathe again!
On the day after the day after Christmas, I am happily ensconced in our cozy cabin in Michigan. There’s no shopping mall for miles. No social obligations. No sound but the crackle of the fire, pages turning, the click of my keyboard.
All the more pleasurable for the knowledge that Christmas is almost a whole year away.