It's a bittersweet moment for we older wives and moms as we watch our daughters and daughters-in-law take up the torch and carryout their first Christmas celebrations. The joy and wonder of childhood memories seems to dim a bit as they realize what we have all realized at some point--"Making a wonderful Christmas is a lot of work!"
I heard this uttered from the lips of a young mother who was overwhelmed by the daunting tasks involved in preparing Christmas for only three people. "Try making Christmas Magic for fifteen people, including extended family," I thought.
I'd never say it out loud. Such reality is too much for a newbie Christmas elf who will learn all too soon that being the Christmas "elf" is much like a being a window. If all goes well, the recipients of your planning and labor will see right past the bags under your eyes, seeing only the beautifully wrapped and carefully selected gifts stacked under a perfect tree, surrounded by festive decorations festooning a tidy home boasting an abundant array of cookies, fruits and assorted holiday treats. Ahhhhhhhh. . . . . But miss a beat . . . let one ball drop, and somebody will likely utter a lethal satisfaction-killing line like, "What, no pecan pie this year?" or "Last year's tree was prettier," or the killer comment of them all, "This isn't the one I asked for." Arghhhhh.
For a moment, let's suspend the perfect, uncomplicated spiritual aspects of the Christmas celebrations and focus on the traditional, Santa-based revelry. It's a killer. Consider that the primary "elf" in the family begins Christmas prep as early as December 26th, setting up the next Christmas club, sale-shopping for next year's gifts, and picking up the discounted decorations to make the next year's decor festive.
Now store that stuff, (and try to remember where), as you take down this year's tree. The real shopping blitz may be a year-round exercise for bargain-hunters, but for those of us who can only do one thing at a time, the stress of playing James Bond to secure the secret "want-lists" from each family member probably only happens after the kids are finally nestled in school and the patio furniture is secured away. And then the real mission begins.
We shop, wrap, and calculate everything to be sure the checkbook holds steady while also assuring that each pile is equal in value and quantity. Then there's the shipping of gifts to faraway people. (Try stuffing a Holiday Barbie and a Fisher Price Riding toy into an economy-sized box!)
We select our cards, write a cheery letter, sign, stuff, address the envelopes, then mail them out, and one little check mark is all we get to place on our to-do list!
Moving on, we set the tree up, trim it, (and there's something sinister about tree lights. You know it, and I know it. Nuff said,) drag out the gifts, decorate the house from inside to out, shop and bake enough food to feed the equivalent of the Tabernacle Choir, and we do all this between maintaining the flow of life--laundry, soccer practice, bathroom cleaning, normal meal prep and, did I mention, hosting Thanksgiving?
Feeling a little flat, we try to recapture the lagging Spirit of Christmas by reaching out to others in service, watching the traditional Christmas TV fare like "It's a Wonderful Life," "A Charlie Brown Christmas," or "The Nativity Story" and we plan for the reading of the Christmas Story from Luke 2. "
When Christmas Eve rolls around, (it feels like it comes about six days after Thanksgiving), we elves are generally so sleep-deprived we become an unstable entity who, like nitro, could go off at any time, melting into a puddle of tears, or feeling so giddy that they're likely to bust a move to a Nat King Cole carol, much to the horror of the entire family. It's not pretty, and we're not proud of it. We're just really, really, really tired.
So rescue an elf. You know where to find us. Give us a hug and a pat for this year's effort, and promise to don some gay elfen apparel and join us next year. And while you're at it, a foot rub and somer peppermint cocoa would be really nice!