You would think, given my current, um... abundance of availability... that for once, I'd be able to relax and enjoy the holiday season. Well, it turns out that life has a funny way of filling in idle time quite nicely, thank you, and once again, we in the Matthews household find ourselves spending far more time preparing for the holidays than we'll ever spend enjoying them!
Last week, I spent days climbing ladders and hanging rope lights outside... This week, we'll be rearranging the family room and living room to accomodate Christmas trees, then lugging in boxes from the garage to turn the inside of the house into a red-and-green holiday puke-tacular!
We have an editing problem in our house. Mrs. Matthews is loathe to give anything up from year-to-year. "Taking a break" from something is not in her vocabulary - which means that everything we have put up as decorations in past years must go up again. Every "i" must be dotted, and every "t" must be crossed. This must explain why we "graduated" a few years ago from having one real tree to having a real tree AND a smaller fake tree - to handle the ornament overflow.
Hanukkah is even worse - and more dangerous! Somehow, over the years, we have accumulated a half dozen menorahs, and Robin insists on lighting all of them... By the end of the holiday, we have a crew standing by from the Sandy Spring Fire Department outside - just in case!
I broached the idea last night that perhaps this would be a good year to skip sending out holiday cards... Let's face it - I don't have an abundance of good news to share this year, and we could probably save a bunch in postage... But Robin looked at me like I had blood hemorraging from my ears, so at some point this weekend, we'll force the boys to comb their hair and subject them to the torture of posing for a holiday snapshot, which will then be mailed out with the cards.
I will say that shopping is less of an issue this year. The boys will make out like bandits as usual (it pays to be born to a non-practicing Jew and a non-practicing WASP - you get to celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas), but Robin and I have happily scaled back presents for ourselves, and Robin has helpfully bought a couple of small items for herself that she says I can wrap for her. Usually, I balk at such fakery when it comes to gift-giving, but in lean times like these, it's better to end up with stuff you know your wife will like. No sense in buying stuff that never gets looked at again. There's a foot spa in the garage that is about to celebrate a 10th birthday - and the box has never been opened!
Adding to the time crunch this year is the fact that for the first time in at least 15 years, I will be working straight through the holidays. When you're a freelancer, you work the days that fulltimers want off, which means that during the weeks of Christmas and New Year's, I'll be writing at ABC News and anchoring the news at WMAL. I am thankful for the work, but it will be strange opening presents on Christmas morning dressed for the office instead of lounging in what passes for pajamas in my house!
Still - there is something about the holidays that prompts us - (or is it only me?) to reflect on our lives and realize just how blessed we are. At some point - no doubt after I've worn myself out putting the lights on the tree or after wrapping myriads of presents - I'll sit on the couch and look at the tree, and after noting that some ornament is facing the wrong direction, I'll relax long enough to enjoy the occasion. I'll thank the lord for giving me a beautiful wife and healthy kids. For giving me peace, if not wealth. For giving me friends and food for my table. For bringing peace and harmony to my world.
And I'll bask in the knowledge that I've still got a couple of weeks before I have to start tearing everything down and stuffing it back into the garage!