I completed my last work task on Saturday, and I am currently on Christmas holidays. The entire weekend was a blur of parties, travel, restaurants and shopping centers, and it didn’t properly register that on Monday, there was a holiday waiting. Then I spent all of Monday morning wandering around the house in my pink bathrobe, looking terribly confused. The amount of available time lays before me like a vast ocean, seemingly endless and deliciously refreshing. But the question is, do you dive in, or just dip a toe?
I guess…I could go to a matinee? …Maybe a yoga class? I haven’t used my mat in so long it looks like it was mummified in ancient Egypt. …Maybe I’ll just sit down and crack on with a blog? Or maybe I’ll just kick back and relax.
Sitting in the office, staring out my window. Coffee and Baileys. Classical music on CBC 2. Watching all the cars on the highway, the packed parking lots down below. Nothing drains the Christmas spirit more than being in a cramped store, sweating in your puffy winter coat, weighed down with bags, feeling awfully light in the wallet. My personal version of hell is Walmart on the last weekend before Christmas. Any big box store really. The crush of people, the long lines, the incompetent staff. I recently had an experience with a basic clothing rack on wheels at an Ikea that made me feel like Dante descending into the seven circles of hell. In a modern world, hell would be a packed Costco, bureaucracy, Honey Boo Boo, last minute holiday shopping and Black Friday/Boxing Day sales. Listen, I like a good deal just as much as the next person, but my god, I can’t imagine anything worse than combining those stores with last minute gift shopping. The pressure of that finding perfect present forced against the insistently ticking clock. I mean listen, there are many, many nice things out there in the stores that would dazzle anyone. Who doesn’t love cashmere? But who can afford it?
Having had the pleasure of being called to Immigration Canada–which was a little too last minute for our tastes; we got the message on Friday to come to Vancouver the following Wednesday. We organized ourselves rapidly, and left early Tuesday morning. We thought we’d make it into a little holiday, get a hotel and do some Christmas shopping. I can’t remember why I used to enjoy shopping so much, it can be anxiety inducing at best. Standing in a packed Winners trying to get a handle on one inch of personal space to do some browsing, all I wanted to do was walk right out that door. I don’t want to buy someone’s present in a state of panic. And so we just walked around this city, holding hands and people watching…discussing what we’d like to give if we had the means.
We eventually made purchases and as we walked with shopping bags in hands, Benjamin and I decided that we weren’t going to buy Christmas presents for one another. Our birthdays fall in the same week as Christmas, and we had already made a purchase for the house and so decided that would be our present. With the totally unexpected expense of Permanent Resident fee/car rental/hotel/and every other pesky little cent that goes into going away…why fool ourselves and spend additional money on things we don’t really need?
I like to get presents, and I love to give them…but where do you draw the line? How can you get in the spirit of Christmas giving without sacrificing your savings and not having to pick up a glue gun? How can you give of yourself? For me, I like to be a hostess. I like to feed people, offer blankets and cups of tea.
We had a little birthday party, and days before I was going over the menu ideas. When I mention the cheese platter, Ben pipes up: “A cheese platter? What are we Rockerfellers?” I look up from my list. “I’m perfectly happy to trim fat, cut corners and make sacrifices, but things are not so bad that we can not afford cheese”. No cheese? Why not just cancel Christmas? Why not just kick Santa where is counts?
Maybe this picture isn’t accurately expressing my intention. This Santa is looking super into whatever is about to happen here. So, back to my list.
If all I can give this year is of myself, I’d like to throw a savory platter into the mix. I’d like to give comfort, hugs, good humor and time. I want to share my home. I wish I could lavish those I love with pet tigers, cash money, diamonds, trips to Cabo. I’d like to walk into a store and pay off people’s layaways. Put an actual bill in a Salvation Army box. One-up Beyonce’s recent Walmart appearance where she paid the first $50 of everyone’s purchase, and pay everyone’s Christmas shopping. (Though I’d just linger by customer service because as previously mentioned those big box stores are terrifying black holes).
I wish I could help more. To see someone struggling and be able to support them. To fly families to opposite ends of the world for the holidays. But it’s not really in the budget. What I can give you is this: my words, my care, the occasional cheese platter, and vintage Ann Margaret in a catsuit, holding an actual cat, surrounded by presents in front of a roaring fire. Meow.
Merry Christmas my friends, may 2014 be the year of the pet tiger.