I guess, technically, it’s pre-holiday, too, considering that Christmas is coming up, but Thanksgiving and Christmas always sort of lump together in my mind and heart like one long slow hill up to the top of this rickety roller coaster that dumps me down a thrilling dive to Christmas, up another little dip and down again on New Year’s. I wonder when or if I will ever see these holidays as different. My image of them has been shaped by the school calendar, anticipating the break from routine just as much as the actual decorating and annual Nutcracker viewing and rip-and-tear on the morning of the 25th.
I had my annual physical today and was grateful for so many things. The doctor who comes in and doesn’t touch me for at least 20 minutes as she asks me how I’m doing and what’s going on in my life. The fact that she remembers the stories I told her of stress and my husband’s health history and my writing three months ago when I was there. The enormous, green vein nestled in the crook of my left elbow (antecubital fossa – that’s forever my favorite anatomy term) that is easily visible to any lab tech and gives up blood without rolling or closing down or even making a squeak. I was enormously grateful to Bubba for being in town to get the girls ready and off to school so I could schedule my physical first thing in the morning and not have to go without coffee or food for too long. Tremendously grateful for health insurance that allows me to make this annual pilgrimage to keep tabs on my health.
I am having so much fun shopping for the kids in the family this year. I always do, but forget about it throughout the year. Even if some of them won’t be with me when they open them, I delight in finding goofy little things that conjure up memories or that one special item I know they can’t get where they are. I used to start shopping in August because I thought I was supposed to get a jump on the holidays, but I always ended up with a closet full of gifts, too many to give each person, embarrassed by the amount of money I had spent. I shifted to making lists of possible ideas starting in August, but quickly realized that stressed me out more than anything – making sure the items would still be available when I was ready to buy them. When we shifted to drawing names for adults so that each of us only bought for one other person, I began to get back into the joy of finding that one special gift. We still buy gifts for all the kids, though, and that is my favorite part. Like most things, I’m much more sanguine about that these days, picking up things as I come across them in my daily errands or leafing through catalogs in the evenings.
A few years ago I started making anti-gift lists for Eve and Lola in an effort to avoid the things we either had too many of or simply didn’t want in the house. Barbie dolls, Polly Pocket, anything pink (in Lola’s case)….I may have added a few things to that list that weren’t preapproved by the girls but I figure that’s my prerogative as the mom. This year, I happened to mention to my sister-in-law that if she got Eve gift cards to either Hollister or Abercrombie (which she put high on her list of desires), she could get me a corresponding gift by offering to take her shopping there for me. I hate both of those stores for so many reasons. I have a girlfriend who calls them both “the naked boy store” because the shopping bags have black and white photos of half-naked boy-men on them with their jeans pulled down to show their hip bones. There are posters of these boys throughout the store – not that you can see them very well because the stores are so dimly lit that I have been known to mortify Eve by pulling out my phone to shine it on a price tag or two. There is an overwhelming stench of perfume, so much so that within five minutes of being inside, I can taste it in the back of my throat and begin hacking like a cat with a hairball. There is never anyone at the locked dressing rooms which means someone has to go hunting for help. At first, I offered to stand in line while Eve went, but that generally resulted in her becoming distracted by other items she wanted to try on and inevitably I stood there for 15 minutes before she finally came back and said she was too shy to ask anyone. There is only ever one person behind the checkout counter, with five or six other employees scattered throughout the store folding clothes and putting them back on racks. This means that I stand in line while Eve wanders to look for other things and then I have to step out of line while she goes to try “just one more thing” on. I may have spewed all of this frustration to my SIL. I may have been a little vehement about it. I may have just put the kibosh on any gift cards from either of those stores. Depends on how badly she wants to be the celebrity aunt. Or how much wine she has before shopping…