Without ever looking at a calendar I would know when the holiday season (Thanksgiving through New Years Day) arrives. As I entered my local Stop & Shop this morning I made my way past a woman in her 50's arguing loudly with her mother in her 80's about batteries. Then, on the long checkout line, I thankfully managed not to be drawn into a 40ish woman's tirade about how she is sick of taxes, children, and especially school taxes. And as I straddled the crosswalk back to my car I was nearly run over by a 30ish father screeching his VOLVO, with young son in the rear, to grab one of a few remaining spots at the adjacent OLD NAVY. So, as I jumped to the curb, gestured my displeasure and vocalized to the careening driver a few words about his anatomy-I knew the opening bell had rung on the season of giving.
I suppose some of us are holiday people and others are what I call-glad to get it over with people. I lean toward being a glad to get it over with person myself. My lack of enchantment doesn't stem from the frustration level, anger, or hectic pace that I often encounter this time of year. Nor does the holiday season incite me to yell at my mother, rant about children or drive like a lunatic. My trouble, I suppose, is that just as I don't like to dress by the calendar; I don't like to behave by it either. I also tend to be someone who is more spiritual than commercial. But, for most of the last 49 years that I can recall, commercialism usually wins over spirituality. Across the seasons, all the way going back to my adolescence, I have often wondered how many lights are strung for cheer, how many for obligation and what percentage illuminate in denial.
This year due to the economic environment though, the spirituality and glad to get it over with wagons may bust the scales with excessive weight loads. On a daily basis I speak with people who have either lost their jobs, walked away from real estate they once owned, or lost huge sums of money. I spoke with a gentleman a few days ago who hadn't moved into his house yet and was already a month behind on the mortgage. The circumstances seem ripe to produce a mellowed and thrifty holiday season. Perhaps such a shift would seed an era steered away from the long standing material and commercial focus and usher in a more spiritually enlightened holiday age. After all, spiritual enlightenment is much easier on the bank account.
Notwithstanding all these thoughts encircling my head, I do enjoy participating in holiday parties, modest gift giving and mistletoe merriment. The signal to prepare for turkey, winter solstice and eggnog is here. I'll need to devise a plan to invade the garage, work with frozen ladders, hang wreaths, and trip on extension cords. I can look forward to hiding packages and later looking more so to remembering where I put them. I must find the right card, in the right quantity and at the right price. I need cookies and candies and time to deliver them. And I need a push.
If the weather cooperates, I can probably get a boost of energy on Thanksgiving morning. I plan on participating in an annual 5 mile run. The early morning endorphins produced by the race and the enticement of a four day weekend hopefully will serve as a nice catalyst. But to sustain a holiday worthy temperament I will need more. I suspect I will gather some extra cheer as I channel surf my way to my 21st viewing of Planes, Trains & Automobiles starring Steve Martin and John Candy. Their travel log of comedic gags and banter sends me straight for the punch bowl. Perhaps a few days later I can anticipate viewing Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo, as Clark and Ellen Griswold, blissfully winding their way through a thick mix of irrational Christmas exuberance and dysfunctional incidents. At this point I will be ready to hit the ground running.
I must ready myself to move furniture around, cram the porch and bring shopping lists to work. I will get set to circle the streets, then the crowds, then the tree at Rockefeller Center. I plan to prepare for a family stroll, with hot chocolate in hand and no bathroom in sight, through Central Park. And I expect to uncharacteristically fall victim to a well played out holiday hustle outside of St. Patrick's Cathedral.
Then as Christmas draws near and the merriment seems more in sync, I will ponder again the opposing forces of commercialism and spirituality. My spiritual tendencies will cause me to ponder prosperity over poverty, food over hunger, humility over greed, education over ignorance, harmony over ideology, diplomacy over arrogance and peace over war. Finally, as I eye my last shingle hook and scrape my last knuckle, I'll string my lights up for hope-an aware yet somehow optimistic cousin of denial.